The BC Liberals are maybe the least open government in Canada. Which makes their “Open Government” moniker an Orwellian exercise in obscuring the truth; and the FOI process a Kafkaesque journey through an obfuscating bureaucracy.
Here’s my latest story about that journey.
Fifteen months ago I filed a Freedom of Information application for all records provided to the defence in the BC Rail trial – they don’t call it the BC Rail trial over on the government side.
The BC Liberal government applied for and was given four time extensions. I only received notice of the first. That process took till this January – a year thus far. In January I received notice from the Office of the Information Commissioner of another eight month time extension request that had been denied and then appealed.
I wouldn’t have known of the request for the additional eight month extension without the appeal. And it was the Commissioner, not the Ministry as required by law, who notified me of this, the Ministry’s fifth request for extension.
I can’t hire a lawyer for this kind of thing and I was in and out of medical clinics at the time so couldn’t devote much effort to fighting the appeal. Just over a month ago the Commissioner granted the time extension on appeal. It will now take almost two years for the government to provide the materials already provided to a court case that is finished.
But the adjudicator attached a few conditions to the order granting the time extension. One is a duty to provide documents as they make their way through the vetting mill.
Last week I got another group of records. 1752 pages of them.
The first page was an innocuous email exchange between Yvette Wells and Jessica Guitard of CN Rail’s legal department entitled “Re: Public Release of Partnership Documents” dated August 3, 2004.
And here for your reading pleasure are the next 1751 pages: “Pages 2 through 1751 redacted for the following reasons: – S.14”
That’s right, one thousand seven hundred and fifty one blank, empty, white pages.
Not a word or punctuation mark left so I can’t even figure out what it is the BC Liberals have kept hidden. It’s like a dark and depressing punch line at the end of Kafka’s Trial. And it means I’ll have to go back to the Commissioner and file more complaints.
And if I’m successful they’ll appeal and I’ll have to fight that. By which time I’ll probably be dead.
But also, maybe by that time we’ll have a new government that will just by-pass the whole lousy lot of government censors and release all these documents and more to a public inquiry so we can get to the bottom of this crooked deal and all the crooked side deals once and for all.
And in the process, maybe they’ll take a look at all the folks involved in delaying and severing documents.