Oct. 28, 2008
FREDERICTON (CNB) - Ombudsman Bernard Richard is concerned that proposed changes to the Right to Information Act contained in Bill 82 may result in less access to information, rather than more, unless the proposed law is substantially altered.
Richard advised the legislature's law amendments committee that he is encouraged that the province is finally updating and reforming this area of law. In particular, he welcomes the expansion of the scope to include municipalities, police, universities, and other public agencies.
"One of the best things under our existing law is that currently every New Brunswicker can help make government accountable by filing an access request for just $5," said Richard. "Unfortunately, with the proposed bill it will get much more expensive to get access to government records. Worse yet, the exemption provisions are all much broader than ever before. That's a big concern."
As recommended by the ombudsman, the proposed bill would remove his office from this mandate, and establish an independent information and privacy commissioner.
But Richard cautioned that if the new commissioner is going to get any results for New Brunswickers, he or she needs order-making powers as is now the case in Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
"Giving people the option of going to court only works for those who can afford it," Richard said. "New Brunswickers need a more accessible, effective remedy when their right to information and privacy is at stake."
MEDIA CONTACT: Bernard Richard, Office of the Ombudsman, 506-453-2789, or 1-888-465-1100.