By Rob Shaw
VICTORIA — B.C.’s finance minister is set to unveil changes to freedom of information rules on Wednesday in response to concerns from journalists.
Mike de Jong will announce he’s allowing more time for people to review documents they get from government under an FOI request before those records are posted online for the public to see.
A person gets 72 hours before their completed FOI package is uploaded to a government website for anyone to download. That’s expected to change to five business days under a ministerial directive signed by de Jong.
Some journalists had complained the 72-hour period — which has been the policy for several years — was unfair to freelancers and weekly publications because they weren’t able to publish stories about government records they had specifically asked for before that information was shared publicly.
As well, the new ministerial order will alter a proposal by government to post summaries of all active FOI requests online before they are complete. Some journalists had argued that if government shared details of what they had requested, it would tip-off other media outlets.
De Jong is expected to introduce a 30-day delay between when a person submits an FOI request and when a summary of their application is posted online.
The changes are part of reforms de Jong announced last month to the FOI system, including faster disclosure, reduced political interference and $3 million in extra money to clear backlogs and improve response times. B.C.’s privacy commissioner has criticized the government for its improper destruction of email records and culture of avoidance of creating paper records of decisions.