The legislature is inching toward transparency when it should be striding. After the scandal of Speaker Darryl Plecas’s report into alleged overspending by senior officers of the legislature, MLAs promised to make the legislature more open, as they have after previous outrages. But they are moving too slowly.
After the information and privacy commissioner, the ombudsperson and the merit commissioner called for urgent reforms this week, NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said the government supports the idea of opening the administrative functions of the legislative assembly to freedom-of-information requests. It would include the offices of the Speaker, the clerk of the legislative assembly and the sergeant-at-arms — the source of the current scandal.
FOI access would make the operation more open, but it means citizens have to go through a time-consuming process to get the information they want.
Don’t pretend. Don’t build walls. Put information out there without being asked.
The legislature can change the law so that such things as the expenses of the clerk and sergeant-at-arms, including their receipts, must be posted online.
Putting those receipts online, as MLAs’ own expenses finally are, would give British Columbians a look, but also remind employees that many eyes are watching them.
Including legislature operations in FOI is a needed step, but as much information as possible should be made public as a matter of course.