Thursday, April 29, 2010

Campbell government demands $119.50 to process Western Economic Partnership records request; Premier Brad Wall set to betray Saskatchewan

The BC Liberal government is demanding a fee of $119.50 before it will process a freedom of information request for records concerning the Western Economic Partnership. The right wing government is also stalling on a separate request for a copy of the most recent draft of the secret trade deal between British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

A freedom of information request was submitted to the Office of the Premier last month for copies of any briefing notes since January 1, 2010, regarding the agreement. The Campbell government responded on April 6, 2010, stating that Section 75 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, a discretionary exemption, allows the provincial government to charge a fee for costs associated with provision of the requested records.

The Campbell government estimates that six hours are needed to locate and retrieve the requested records. The Act stipulates that the first three hours are at no charge. After that the cost is $7.50 per 1/4 hour. The government is seeking $90 for this work. It is asking for a further $22.50 for the 45 minutes it will take to prepare the records for disclosure. According to the government’s letter this may involve just 20 pages of information. There is no guarantee either that any records disclosed won’t be heavily censored rendering them useless.

The six hours needed to locate and retrieve the requested records seems excessive and ludicrous. Documents such as briefing notes are usually stored on computer hard drives. An email could be sent to the bureaucrats responsible for the records asking them to perform a simple search and forward the results. This would not take the number of hours that the government is demanding payment for. If six hours were required to do the job then the public should be concerned about the government’s records management system.

On March 15, 2010, Premier Gordon Campbell’s office received a separate freedom of information request for a complete copy of the most recent draft of the Western Economic Partnership Agreement being negotiated by the three westernmost provinces.

Under the Act the Campbell government had 30 business days, or until April 28, 2010, to respond. It failed to meet the deadline and is now guilty of breaking the law. A subsequent email sent to the senior analyst in the Ministry of Citizens’ Services handling the request, Sylvia Love, asking for a status update on the file has gone unanswered.

The Campbell government’s behaviour pales in comparison to the disgraceful conduct shown by the Saskatchewan Party government which has denied three requests for information on the trade deal:

March 2, 2010, access was denied to copies of any briefing notes regarding the economic partnership since October 1, 2009.

October 22, 2009, access was denied to copies of the two most recent draft versions of the Western Economic Partnership Agreement.

April 21, 2009, access was denied to copies of any agendas, minutes, reports, briefing notes, memorandums or letters, including attachments, regarding the trilateral provincial meeting that took place on March 13, 2009, in Vancouver. Access to any agreements or memorandums of understanding that were signed at the meeting was also turned down.

Coincidentally, on April 28, 2010, the media services unit in Executive Council issued a media advisory announcing that Premier Brad Wall along with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach and BC Premier Gordon Campbell will complete a half day of trilateral cabinet meetings with the signing of the New West Partnership Agreement on Friday, April 30, 2010, at Government House in Regina.

Like the deal it’s modeled on – the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) – the new agreement was negotiated behind closed doors and is being signed without any public or legislative oversight.

In the spring of 2007, the Opposition Saskatchewan Party demanded the NDP government hold public consultations on TILMA prior to making any decisions.

Then deputy leader of the Saskatchewan Party Ken Krawetz (the current Deputy Premier) stated in a letter to the editor, published in the Leader-Post on March 10, 2007:

“A future Saskatchewan Party government would not sign on to the agreement unless certain it was in the best interests of Saskatchewan people and removed barriers to growth without negatively impacting on the public ownership of the major Crowns, environmental standards in the province and well-being of workers. Given the impact of TILMA across the province, we also believe the provincial government has an obligation to consult with stakeholders and the public prior to accepting or rejecting Saskatchewan's participation in TILMA.”

Now, in a gross act of hypocrisy, Premier Brad Wall is rejecting calls for extensive public consultations on the new agreement saying there has “been a lot of debate on this issue,” including the legislative committee hearings on TILMA.

Wall can’t seem get his story straight on the relationship between the two agreements.

In an interview, the premier said the agreement in the works is “not TILMA.”

But Opposition NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter questioned how the new agreement can be “not TILMA,” but the consultation process around the older deal is adequate. [Sask. close to signing trade deal, Wall says (StarPhoenix, April 28, 2010)]

According to the StarPhoenix, Wall has been adamant the new deal is not TILMA redux, but acknowledged on April 28 TILMA is the starting point for the New West Partnership.

“There is much in that old agreement that would be manifest in a new agreement we would sign,” said Wall, who noted the agreement will not contain the provisions affecting Crown corporations and municipalities that caused the Saskatchewan Party’s problems with TILMA.

Wall wants to have his cake and eat it too.

Lingenfelter said his primary concern remains that the document has not been seen.

“I just find, to be signing any kind of agreement like this where we haven't seen it and (they) say, ‘Trust us.’ Well, I don’t, quite honestly,” he said. [Wall mum on details of trade deal (StarPhoenix, April 29, 2010)]

And neither should the people of Saskatchewan.

Wall has a disturbing history of saying one thing one day then doing the exact opposite the next. His wholesale betrayal on the equalization file in July 2008 is a prime example.

In January 2006, Wall promised to fight for Saskatchewan regardless of who was in power in Ottawa. In June 2007, Wall called on then-premier Lorne Calvert to release copies of any legal opinions regarding a possible court challenge. After winning the November 2007 provincial election, however, Wall turned his back on both. The man simply cannot be trusted to keep his word.


At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unable to give you a heart. so have a reply to push up your post. ........................................


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