Suspended B.C. legislature Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz (left) and Clerk of the House Craig James make their first public statement from their lawyers’ office in Vancouver, January 2019. (CTV) Suspended B.C. legislature Sergeant at Arms Gary Lenz (left) and Clerk of the House Craig James make their first public statement from their lawyers’ office in Vancouver, January 2019. (CTV)

Extend freedom of information law to B.C. legislature, watchdogs say

Changes will be implemented as soon as possible, Mike Farnworth says

The B.C. legislature will open up its secret operations as suggested by the top independent watchdogs of the provincial government, NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said Tuesday.

B.C.’s ombudsperson, privacy commissioner and merit commissioner have recommended changes to require public disclosure of B.C. legislature expenses, in the wake of the suspension of the top two managers for financial irregularities.

On top of the audit being commenced this year by Auditor General Carole Bellringer, and a police investigation supervised by two special prosecutors, the changes will help in the long term, the independent officers say in a letter to Speaker Darryl Plecas released Tuesday.

Farnworth, who is also public safety minister in the NDP government, said Bellringer’s audit will likely recommend further changes as she examines practices from previous years, but making the legislature’s administration subject to freedom of information disclosure is a good first step.

Farnworth said the legislative changes may have to wait for the fall session to present to MLAs for a vote. The NDP government is preparing its budget and priority legislation, with a Speech from the Throne set for Feb. 12 and a budget a week later.

“We wish to emphasize that we are making these suggestions regardless of the resolution of the status of the suspended permanent officers,” Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, Merit Commissioner Fiona Spencer and Ombudsperson Jay Chalk say in the letter.

RELATED: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expenses

RELATED: B.C. legislature officers get another week to answer allegations

Their changes are for the “corporate Legislative Assembly,” historically controlled only by the Speaker, the letter adds.

Recommendations include extending the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to the legislature, which has a $70 million budget to run MLA constituency offices and the parliament buildings, including everything from a restaurant to security to the chamber itself.

“There is no reason why the Legislative Assembly should not, in respect of its institutional, administrative functions, be subject to the same transparency and accountability rules as the more than 2,900 public bodies across the provinces are,” the letter states.

“The executive branch of government, all local governments, universities, schools and many other institutions have complied with the access to information rules in place for more than 25 years in British Columbia. It is time for the Legislative Assembly to meet the same standards.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Kimberley Community Band in concert

The recent concert by Kimberley Community Band featured a number of soloists.… Continue reading

Upcoming Chamber events in Kimberley

The Kimberley Chamber of Commerce is celebrating Chamber Week (Feb. 20-24) with… Continue reading

Council discusses renewing MOU with BC Timber Sales

Kimberley City Council has voted to table a discussion about a Memorandum… Continue reading

Kimberley Youth Action Network asks for City’s help in becoming legal entity

The Kimberley Youth Action Network (KYAN) is requesting that the City of… Continue reading

Friends of the Kimberley Public Library celebrate another successful year

2018 saw over 10,000 books sold to about 3000 customers.

Regional news recap

A quick recap of the top news stories this week in Cranbrook, Creston, Fernie and Kimberley.

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Most Read