The head of a freedom of information advocacy group is complimenting one provincial minister and shaking his head at another.
Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks should be congratulated for ordering the release of studies around whether to build a new trade centre, said Darce Fardy, head of the Right to Know Coalition and former freedom of information review officer for the province.
Department staff had been heavily censoring the reports before Estabrooks’ decree.
But Fardy doesn’t understand why Education Minister Marilyn More is refusing to release a half-completed study on the social costs of problem gambling.
More said her department killed the study when it discovered serious errors in the methodology. More said she won’t release the latest draft of the report because it is rife with inaccuracies and would cause undo confusion to the public.
About $140,000 was spent on the study before it was cancelled.
Fardy says the freedom of information laws are clear, and not releasing something to the public because it’s potentially confusing is never mentioned.
“The act is there and it’s pretty explicit, and that isn’t one of the exemptions,” he said.
“There may be some legitimate exemption, but one of them can’t be that people wouldn’t understand it. I mean, they wouldn’t release the budget because half of that people don’t understand.”
Reached at the legislature yesterday, More said again that the methodology of the report was deeply flawed. She said concerns were brought to the contractor, but never addressed.
When asked whether her department could block freedom of information requests to release the studies, More said she wasn’t sure.
“I’m not an expert on the interpretation of the freedom of information act so this is something I’ll have to consult with my senior officials about,” she said.
One department staffer confirmed document requests have been filed, but said it will be up to the department’s freedom of information review officer to decide what is released.