Do you agree with the province charging $10 for Freedom of Information requests?

Poll: Fee for FOI requests?

B.C.’s NDP government is eroding democracy with its new $10 fee for freedom-of-information requests and the speed at which it rammed through the legislation creating that fee, critics say.

On Nov. 24, the government passed Bill 22 into law, also known as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act.

Third reading in the legislature, followed by Royal Assent, took five minutes. The legislature was then adjourned.

“There’s a bit of an erosion of democracy,” said Jason Woywada, the executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA). “It is not a good practice to see what we saw at the end of the legislative session.”

He said it’s either bad intent or management incompetence.

“Either way, it’s not good.”

Bill 22 passed in the wake of earlier protests from freedom-of-information advocates and journalist groups, who called on Premier John Horgan and Minister of Citizens' Services Lisa Beare not to pass the bill. The government was also sent letters of concern from B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy.

The bill, tabled on Oct. 18, included a possible $25 fee for freedom-of-information requests and other measures.

Beare has said Bill 22 will help people access services faster while strengthening privacy protections. Critics, meanwhile, have said it won't increase government transparency; rather, it will add roadblocks for those wanting to discover the inner workings of the legislature. The changes, they say, could thwart the uncovering of government scandals or impede a citizen’s right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.

Rather than $25 per FOI request, anyone submitting an FOI will have to pay $10 under the new law. The system is used by members of the general public, journalists, lawyers, business groups and others.

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