By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - Provincial freedom of information rules block Albertans from seeing “huge swaths” of information that Canadians in other provinces can view, a new report says.A comparison by the independent, non-partisan Centre for Law and Democracy says Alberta’s access to information law has more “loopholes” and “blanket exclusions” than other provincial laws, and ranks behind Angola, Colombia and Niger in terms of transparency.“Alberta’s law has these big loopholes that allow government to withhold information that should be disclosed,” said Michael Karanicolas, a lawyer who authored the report.For example, Karanicolas said that in Alberta, all records created by MLAs, the speaker and members of executive council are off-limits to the public.While there is a legitimate need to protect personal or sensitive information about security or economic interests, Karanicolas said other provinces simply black out the sensitive parts and release the records. In Alberta, the government won’t release anything.“You end up excluding huge swaths of data that should be available to the public to scrutinize,” Karanicolas said. “There is no legitimate reason to exclude that from the public view.”The damning report comes three months after Alberta’s access to information commissioner issued a scathing indictment of the government’s changes to the law since it was introduced in 1995. Days before his retirement, Frank Work warned the government was turning the province’s access to information law into “a piece of Swiss cheese” by passing dozens of loophole laws that trump access rules. He said the process “has the potential to result in a virtual and unintended repeal of the act.”Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar declined to comment Monday.Department spokesman Gerald Kastendieck said in an email that “a study of the FOIP Act alone will not give you a full picture of Albertans right to access information.”Specifically, he said Albertans can access health and motor vehicle information under other laws.
By Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journalkkleiss@edmontonjournal.com
twitter.com/ablegreporterThis article was published in the Edmonton Journal on April 30, 2012. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.Read more about the results on the Centre for Law and Democracy website.