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Bill 204 defeat reveals PC fear of transparency and accountability: Barnes

EDMONTON, AB (May 6, 2014): With the defeat of Bill 204, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, the PC government once again confirmed its aversion to public disclosure and transparent government, Wildrose MLA Drew Barnessaid today.

Bill 204, which received the support of all opposition parties, was voted down by the PC majority, including the so-called Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation, yesterday. The bill would have allowed MLAs up to four cost-free FOIP requests per year to enable better local representation and more accountability of government.

“It’s unbelievable that in the 21st century, the PC government wants to bury information that taxpayers have a right to access. It was discouraging to hear so many PC MLAs disparage the FOIP process and its use in uncovering potential wrongdoing and for the Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation to obstruct such a common sense proposal,” Barnes said.

With government ministries keen to block the release of information, or charge outlandish and unaffordable fees, Albertans and MLAs face difficulties retrieving public information.

“MLAs need access to information in order to be the best representatives for their constituents,” Barnes said. “Bill 204 is about offering better representation to our constituents. Sadly, the PCs did not see a need to provide better service to Albertans.”

For instance, one PC MLA argued against using FOIP to uncover potential illegal activities and referred to lawful requests for disclosure derogatively as “witch hunts.” In another misrepresentation of Bill 204, a PC MLA cited the cost of fulfilling FOIP requests as a reason to deny enhancing disclosure of information.

See Alberta Hansard debate here.

“It is remarkable after so many cases of illegal donations to the PCs and sole-source contracting found through FOIP, the PCs do not see value in public disclosure,” Barnes said. “FOIP is useful not only in investigating potential wrongdoing, but also for retrieving basic government information that could be but isn’t always posted publicly. The era of PC culture of entitlement and secrecy is coming to a close and the PC government, as demonstrated in yesterday’s debate, doesn’t like it.”