Earlier this month, the Campbell administration introduced legislative amendments that will limit public access to information about so-called "joint solution projects" with the private sector. That legislation has been condemned by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. And last week, Liberal backbencher Blair Lekstrom also came out against those changes, telling reporters "The concern is that people want openness and accountability. I think we've done a good job of that so far. And I think the perception of the people certainly will be that this will be an opportunity to possibly avoid that." The Times Colonist and The Province both noted Mr. Lekstrom chaired a special committee in 2004 which recommended against similar amendments because "the case for strengthening protection of third-party business information lacks concrete examples of harm suffered." But that wasn't the only recommendation the committee made.
In its final 46-page report - entitled Enhancing the Province's Public Sector Access and Privacy Laws - the committee also encouraged government to:
* release information (such as "copies of successful requests for proposals and contracts") as "a matter of course" rather than requiring British Columbians to submit a formal request for those files;
* allow information to be released on CDs or DVDs rather than hard copies, thereby reducing the cost of freedom of information requests; and
* ensure those requesting information have the right to anonymity.
In an interview last night on Public Eye Radio, Mr. Lekstrom confirmed those three specific recommendations - out of the 28 included the report - have yet to be acted on by government. Although, he added the administrations new freedom of information amendments do allow for the routine disclosure of joint soliution project records - albiet in a limited fashion.