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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Timber Sales’ operations on the North Island and Central Coast to be audited

The Forest Practices Board randomly chose the region to check for compliance to legislation

BC Ferries Sailing Cancellations

Prince Rupert - Haida Gwaii - Northern Adventure

Month-long water quality advisory still in effect for Rupert residents

The City of Prince Rupert recommends those with weakened immune systems boil water prior to use

Jennifer Rice North Coast MLA seeks re-election

Northwest politicians announce intent on elections

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Most Read