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Barnes introduces Bill 204 to enhance information access and MLA representation

MEDICINE HAT, AB (April 11, 2014): On Monday, Wildrose Infrastructure Critic Drew Barnes’ private member’s Bill 204, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (MLA Public Interest Fee Waiver) Amendment Act, will be debated in the Alberta Legislature with the goal of enhancing information access and MLA representation. Currently, the provincial government can charge hundreds or thousands of dollars for finding, reviewing and printing documents requested through FOIP. FOIP applicants can request a fee waiver based on the public interest, but the government can deny it and extend the appeal process out for years. These barriers can prevent MLAs from accessing the information they need to represent their constituents and should be waived, Barnes said. “MLAs need the tools to represent their constituents to the best of their abilities. That means breaking down some of the barriers that bar MLAs from accessing information,” Barnes said. “FOIP requests are one of the best means we have as opposition MLAs to hold public bodies accountable.” Bill 204 would allow each MLA four public interest fee waivers per year. MLAs would first request a fee waiver through the current process. If turned down, an MLA could invoke the Bill 204 waiver right through the Privacy Commissioner. “I encourage all MLAs to vote in favour of Bill 204 in a free vote,” Barnes said. “Bill 204 will ultimately make better MLAs and give constituents better representation through enhanced access to information. That’s something I believe all MLAs should support.”