Question Period: Right to Information – Thursday, March 12, 2015

Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act



Mr. Coon: My question is for the Minister of Government Services. The minister launched a public consultation on January 21 as part of the required four-year review of the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The Act is seriously flawed, so I would expect that thousands of New Brunswickers who have been frustrated by the shortcomings of the Act would have some suggestions for its improvement.

My question is this: Did the minister notify those New Brunswickers who have filed requests for information under the Act over the last four years that the review is under way and that they have an opportunity to comment before the end of March?

Hon. Mr. Doherty: As you know, the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act is an Act that examines how personal information is managed and government information is accessed. According to the Act, it must be reviewed every four years. As a result of this review, which commenced on January 1, public consultations have taken place, interested bodies have been consulted, and a report will be issued at the end of August, with recommendations moving forward.

Mr. Coon: I have had considerable experience over the years with using the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and have been turned down frequently, leaving me to appeal to the commissioner for an investigation or to a judge in an effort to have the information released. It is not unusual to be sent stacks of paper where the information is blacked out.

The deadline for comment on this Act is now just 19 days away. Can the minister tell the House how many submissions his department has received to date?

Hon. Mr. Doherty: The Act is based on the principles of transparency, accountability, and openness. It strives to develop a balance between the public’s right to know and the individual’s right to privacy. We have created a Web site for civic engagement and public consultation, and we have created a discussion paper. I encourage everyone to submit their suggestions to the Web site and to review the discussion paper. We will submit a report at the end of August, looking at your recommendations.

Mr. Coon: There has been no advertising in the media about the public consultation to alert people to the fact that the minister is seeking input. We do not know the number of submissions that have been received to date.

This review goes to the core of how government can increase transparency and be truly open. It is critical that New Brunswickers are engaged in improving this Act to achieve just that. Will the minister commit to referring the legislated review to the law amendments committee so that it can hold public hearings and hear, face to face, the views of New Brunswickers on how this Act can be transformed to ensure that we have open government?

Hon. Mr. Doherty: As I stated previously, this review was started in August and a report will be submitted to the Legislature by August 31, 2015.

This is one of the many accomplishments of our government, and I must say that it has been 200 days of absolute accomplishment. Not only have we reviewed this Act, but we have developed a strategy for literacy, we have developed a strategy for dealing with violence against Aboriginal women, we have developed a Youth Employment Strategy, and, yes, we have improved relationships with our First Nations community.

On top of that, we have created 2 600 jobs, we have developed a moratorium on shale gas, we have made it easier for small businesses to govern in New Brunswick, and, yes, I am very proud that we have increased the minimum wage.