Liberals slash fees for information requests

By Marie-Danielle Smith
National Post
May 06, 2016

The government announced immediate changes Thursday to the way Canadians access government information.

Effective immediately, government institutions must waive all fees beyond the initial $5 required to open an access to information request.

Access to information officers must help reformulate requests so people get “more accurate, complete and timely access,” in formats that are more user-friendly — spreadsheets rather than photocopies of spreadsheets, for example.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison announced the new measures, which come in the form of a policy directive, Thursday morning.

“This is a significant first step as we move towards open- by- default government,” Brison said, though the move did not go without scrutiny from the opposition.

The changes will tide the government over until it can table legislation, which Brison said will form the first significant update since the law was drafted in 1983 — when “K-cars were hot,” Brison said in committee.

The directive shifts some of the language in the policy administering the Act, which was last updated in May 2014. New wording dictates access-to-information law should be administered with “core principles” in mind — that access “serves the important public interest of enabling public debate” and strengthens the “accountability of government to its citizens.”

Ken Rubin, an access-toinformation researcher, said having any fees at all is a deterrent to the public, and the government should do away with them altogether.