FOI and whistleblower protection should apply to the legislature: BC’s top watchdogs

FOI and whistleblower protection should apply to the legislature: BC's top watchdogs

WATCH:  The province is moving to make the B.C. legislature more transparent in the wake of a spending scandal involving two top officials.  The changes include making the administrative side of the legislature subject to Freedom of Information requests.  Mary Griffin reports.

It is a show of unity by BC’s three independent commissioners.

BC’s Ombudsperson, Jay Chalke, said he, the information and privacy commissioner and the merit commissioner are calling for changes to increase transparency and accountability of the administration of the legislative assembly.

“Yesterday our three offices wrote to the officers of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee urging u changes in three areas to enhance the transparency and accountability of the legislative assembly,” Chalke said.

In a letter sent to the legislature’s all-party committee, Chalke, B.C.’s Merit Commissioner Fiona Spencer and Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, made three key recommendations.

They are proposing that the legislature be open to B.C.’s Freedom of Information Law, increased protection for whistleblowers and allowing the merit commissioner to conduct independent audits of staff appointments and dismissals.

McEvoy said the offices have been calling for openness at the legislature for two decades, but now is the time to make changes.

“Clearly, the issue is very much in the public spotlight now.  And so, our view was that there couldn’t be a better time to raise some of these issues,” McEvoy said.

In January, Speaker Darryl Plecas released a report alleging the suspended clerk of the legislature, Craig James, and suspended sergeant-at-arms, Gary Lenz, misspent on expenses to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

NDP House Leader Mike Farnworth said changes are coming.

“I think they are very thoughtful. Very positive recommendations that can significantly improve the transparency and openness of how the legislature functions. And it’s my intention to see that all three of their recommendations are implemented,” Farnworth said.

BC Liberal House leader, Mary Polak, said making the legislature more accountable is a step in the right direction.

“It’s good, I’m glad to hear that they are going to go for that legislation as soon as they can,” Polak said.

Those changes may come this spring, or as late as the fall session.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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