Governments at all levels have been told that the public’s access to information is paramount.
On Tuesday, Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham ruled that the Ministry of Environment failed to make every reasonable effort to assist the Environmental Law Centre with its request to access documents about Hullcar aquifer contamination.
“The duty to assist is an essential component of our access and privacy laws. Public bodies must make every reasonable effort to assist and respond without delay to applicants in a way that is open, accurate and complete,” wrote Denham.
Now of course the ministry insists it was simply unclear if a farm’s nutrient management plan could be released under federal copyright laws.
But given that such plans are generally required by government agencies and concerns about public health exist, it’s difficult to believe the ministry thought sitting on the report was necessary or wouldn’t raise anxiety among residents.
In light of Denham’s edict, the Ministry of Environment has vowed to take public transparency seriously.
And hopefully this promise isn’t just rhetoric but a legitimate attempt by the provincial government to provide information where the public interest is involved.