Archive for March 28th, 2012

Unlocking City Information

- March 28th, 2012

It seems the public is filing more and more access-to-information requests with City Hall, and apparently they’re chewing up resources.

It’s making the city say, hey, why don’t we just give the public more access to information generally?

That’s the partial gist of this report to the finance and economic development committee.

Says the report:

During the past four years, formal requests for access to information at the City through MFIPPA have steadily increased. Upon an internal review, it has been determined that various requests held no requirement to access confidential or proprietary information and therefore the records could have been provided directly from the responsive program area, to the requester.  It appears possible that some City staff are hesitant to release information due to a lack of understanding precisely what information is protected under MFIPPA and what is considered a routine disclosure or “business as usual”. 

MFIPPA, by the way, is short for Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The report says the city will find ways to make information more available to the public without having to file a formal access request, which costs people $5. For formal requests, the city is considering posting the results to its open data page 30 days after the requester receives the information.

This is all good news in the interest of transparency, but hopefully there will be a buy-in from staff. One of the reasons why the public — especially us in the press — frequently use formal requests is because there has been a roadblock somewhere, and staff are compelled to provide as much information as legally possible to the access-to-information department when a request comes in.