“If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.” ― George Orwell

Filed under: “Things that make you go hmmm…”

In response to my last post, I’ve received many emails asking about the removal of penalties from Bill 5- the Information Management Act. It’s clearly an issue people are concerned about but an obstacle for many is simply the language contained in reading the act or even going through Hansard to find the info.

While it’s heartening to see that average citizens really are interested in this, the focus on the ‘duty to document’ portion of the legislation( or lack  there-of ) has puzzled many. The issue lies to the assumption in this legislation, that government documents exist at all. It has long been a concern that the use of non-government cell phones and emails to conduct government business is one way of avoiding potentially messy stories in the press.  (Hillary Clinton has recently been in the news for issues relating to this)

Of course, partaking of such activities to get around freedom of information laws certainly would be a purely accidental action in this government, I’m sure. ( insert an eyeroll here)  So yes, it is a big issue that the legislation governing how government documents decisions and actions has teeth. But what also must have teeth is portions of the legislation that govern what happens if you break those laws. And this where the questions about Bill 5 are arising.

This is the link to the third reading and report of Bill 5 in the legislature – it starts at little more than half-way down the page: http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th4th/20150526pm-House-Blues.htm

Here is a shot from where NDP MLA Doug Routley addresses this section specifically,and the answer the chair (Liberal  MLA  Douglas Horne ) gives him. And it goes nowhere.And that’s the end of it! Click on the image for a closer look.

thevote

The Chair says defeating the section would cause substantially the same thing,the amendment is ruled out of order and that section goes onto be approved!

What is Section 5 of the Offence Act, found here? http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96338_01#section5

It is the section that defines a General offence under the law.

“General offence

5  A person who contravenes an enactment by doing an act that it forbids, or omitting to do an act that it requires to be done, commits an offence against the enactment. ” 

Section 18 of the Information Management Act states this will not apply to the new act. Meaning no penalties for failing to comply with the policies within the act.

That has many, including myself, furrowing their brows.

While it’s understandable that no public servant who, with no malice or premeditation destroys or otherwise fails to comply with the policies under this new legislation should face an unfair punishment, I expect the spirit of the law would be mindful of that.

But to remove all penalties completely, is to enable and protect those that may in fact purposefully, with intent but perhaps with or without premeditation, break the law and policy.

For example, any person who willfully deleted emails to circumvent or foil an FOI process. Or anyone who knowingly fails to document key actions of government, or willfully destroys any records or documents.

Having removed the offence act from applying to information management is such a questionable step backwards when it comes to transparency and accountability in government, that alarm bells should be ringing.

And I question why they aren’t.

*This is a link to the progress of the bill-note no embedded links on  Bill 5: http://www.leg.bc.ca/40th4th/votes/progress-of-bills.htm

progress of bills

* This is the link to the final vote on Bill 5: http://www.leg.bc.ca/40th4th/votes/v150526.htm

bill5

18 thoughts on ““If you kept the small rules, you could break the big ones.” ― George Orwell

  1. misallocationofcapital

    It’s a bit naïve to believe that more or better-worded legislation – or government action, or centrl planning at all, for that matter – can make the world a free-er place.

    But it’s not individual liberty that motivates Canadians, is it…? It’s “SECURITY”.

    Like

    1. Laila

      This isn’t about making the world a free-er place. This is about right and wrong and holding government to account when they clearly seem to not be able to do it themselves.

      Where does this end? Now it’s the removal of the application of section five for information management, what’s next? That’s the point.Every single one of these politicians were elected by people to represent the best interests of the province- how does this do that?

      The allegations made by Tim Duncan are serious.

      Like

  2. misallocationofcapital

    And I agree. The legislation is next-to-useless worded as it is. Likely intentionally so.

    But what’s the larger question? Why is abuse even possible? If you or I delete an email no one would care or know…what makes it such an egregious act if a politician does so?

    The central problem here is a system which grants these politicians and governments such power, such opportunity for enriching themselves and their corporate/union/lobbyist/interest group friends. They have vast taxing powers. They have the police and the courts on their side. They dole out favours and grant timber, mining, and fishing resource access to favoured large bidders solely for government profit. They have a free four-year window in which to glom onto as much money as they dare and to restrict competition and opposition to there activities as much as possible…

    ALL governments are at best a necessary evil…the proverbial “bands of thieves”. But I don’t see any tax revolts. I don’t see any advocacy of removing any of their powers, programs, funding. Or of downsizing government, restricting its activities. Calls for the rescinding of legislation. Or even merely for more frequent elections.

    There is a naïve faith and trust here – in legislation, in checks and balances and in government as a supposed force for good. I hope people begin to be a bit more demanding, critical and realistic…but won’t count on it.

    Like

  3. Les

    Lack of concern for corruption is alarming to the people who are long time residents of this country but for many of the immigrants it is the norm. A Government that can’t be bought makes B.C. and Canada an unfriendly place to do business, so after all the trade missions to Asia by every level of Government are we really surprised at the dishonesty now present in our political leaders. After all What’s good for Business is good for you” and hiding short cuts. Or gouging are good for business. It saddens me when I see how far from the country I grew up in we have strayed. ?

    Like

    1. Laila

      http://bcndpcaucus.ca/news/bc-liberals-rule-change-protects-staffers-who-destroy-records/

      Issued today. The NDP has done excellent work on the Highway of Tears file, and in other arenas this last session-props where props are due.

      But this should have been brought to the publics attention as soon as anyone was aware the offence act would not apply to this bill. I understand that sometimes parties want to let a bit out at a time for impact but that the current government could simply remove the application of a law, that protects their staffers in particular, is of tremendous importance to the public.

      This is something Horgan should have brought up in the legislature when he was hammering Clark on the Tim Duncan allegations.

      ” Madame Premier, in light of the disturbing allegations by Tim Duncan on the highway of tears email deletions, in light of all the other scandals that have come to light regarding the oral government that exists, can you explain the reasoning for removing the offence act in application to Bill 5? ”

      Like

  4. fred regan

    Can you imagine how these crooks sit back and make decisions and now that they will not be challenged in the media. So now the Libs have got Sean Leslie in 3-6 or whatever time sot. they can be reassured the message will get out.. So Bill God is being replaced..
    These bastards have got the media where they want them

    Like

  5. Jay Jones

    It’s not the BC Liberals fault that they’re the best party (by………far) that BC has been able to produce since the 21st century began just over 15 years ago.

    Certainly the best whereas it pertains to provincial election winning anyway.

    Over to you BC’s general population, and all of BC’s other provincial political parties.

    Like

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