VICTORIA — The NDP is trying to block the B.C. Liberals from obtaining information about government emails, claiming the civil service is being overloaded by opposition requests for records.

Government lawyers have asked B.C.’s independent information and privacy commissioner for the power to selectively ignore requests from the Liberals for public records related to 30 private email addresses of provincial officials, MLAs and cabinet ministers.

The Liberals want to know if any politicians or staff used personal Gmail accounts to conduct government business, which would violate the law.

The minister responsible for FOI, Jinny Sims, had to apologize in May for using personal email to do government work. Premier John Horgan also apologized and launched a review after seven of his staff were caught improperly mass-deleting their emails during several months.

“It’s incumbent on the Opposition to demand answers on behalf of the public,” said Liberal MLA Jas Johal. “Stifling the opposition’s FOI request essentially says minister Sims and the NDP government aren’t answerable to the public.”

Politically, the NDP distanced itself Tuesday from the appearance of using taxpayer-paid lawyers to prevent the official Opposition from obtaining public records, saying the legal challenge was launched by civil servants without the knowledge of Sims.

Deputy minister Jill Kot said in a statement it was her call to involve lawyers because the Liberals filed 1,750 FOI requests in the first three months of 2018, accounting for three-quarters of all general requests received by government and marking a 429 per cent increase from the same period a year earlier.

“The estimated cost of processing these requests is $4.7 million,” said Kot. “This significant increase in requests has understandably had operational impacts on the system’s ability to provide timely FOI service to British Columbians.”

In its letter to the privacy commissioner, government wrote the spike in …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Politics


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