The City of Victoria has applied to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia to cap the number of requests for information made by three individuals associated with Focus magazine, and anyone working on their behalf. If granted, the magazine’s team would collectively be limited to one active request at a time, including the time to resolve any appeal.
In total, the city has disclosed 2,000 pages of records to Focus. One recent request took city staff 34 hours to compile, city spokesperson Katie Josephson wrote in an email to the News. “It’s important that everyone have timely access to records and information, and currently, requests from the individuals affiliated with this publication are exhausting resources available,” she wrote.
However, Focus magazine publisher David Broadland points out that Focus has paid thousands of dollars in fees to acquire some of the city’s records. “Rather than adapting and adding resources, they are trying to stop (requests) from happening,” he said.
The conflict between the city and the magazine raises issues regarding the growing strain on government public information office resources as well as the high importance of maintaining transparency in government.
The City of Victoria’s application to the OIP raises many important questions. Is it acceptable for a Government entity to limit requests from a specific organization or individual? Should guidelines be put in place to limit unreasonable or numerous freedom of information requests from individuals? If the City of Victoria is successful in their application to cap requests made by Focus magazine, do you think more government organizations will seek to limit requests by individual requesters? How will this affect FOI law going forward?
Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
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