"It's outrageous!" That's how one of the province's leading open government advocates described the Campbell administration recent refusal to disclose the salary for a top bureaucrat in an apparent violation of its own laws. Under the Public Sector Employers Act, the employment contracts for all senior employees are deemed "public documents" which must be made available for "public inspection" - no freedom of information request required. But when we asked the premier's office for a copy of the new deputy minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources's contract, we were given one that blanked out his salary.
The reason: like other top bureaucrats, 10 percent of Robin Junger's salary is held back until the end of the year. He'll only receive a full payout if he meets his performance goals.
So by comparing that salary to the amount he'll actually be paid by government - a number listed in the province's public accounts documents - someone could figure out whether he's done a good job or not.
And that, according to the premier's office, would violate a legal provision in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act prohibiting the province from releasing records that would compromise a third party's personal privacy.
But, five months ago, the office of the information and privacy commissioner ruled that provision - section 22 of that act - doesn't apply to information about the bonuses paid to public sector employees.
Public Eye forwarded that ruling to the premier's office. But the government is refusing to budge.
"They seem to be directly putting their views against those empowered to interpret the law - which is stunning," said BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association policy and communications director Vincent Gogolek. "Maybe they've just decide they are going to not release anything and anybody who wants any information out of this government is going to have to beat it out of them?"
In fact, that's exactly what children and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond had to do when the government erroneously claimed she didn't have a power to access cabinet documents - taking Premier Gordon Campbell and Children and Family Development Minister Mary Polak to court to enforce her legal rights.
"This is the office of the premier," Mr. Gogolek continued. "They are the ones who set the tone for not just the government but every public body in the province. If they are going to take the attitude that we will tell you what this law means regardless of what the commissioner says, what's next?"
The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned contract.