Why Must We Pay For FOI’s From Government That Claims to be Open & Transparent
Posted by auroracitizen on June 3, 2010
Council Watch #10 – by Richard Johnson
I have a question that I would like to pose to the participants of Aurora Citizen and maybe Councillor Buck could assist me here, given that she is the only named Councillor that participates openly in our discussions.
Regular readers of this Blog will recall the following two postings:
Town Solicitor Demands Removal of Blog Comments, Posted by auroracitizen on April 25, 2010
A Monument to the Leadership of Mayor Phyllis Morris, Posted by auroracitizen on April 18, 2010
In an effort to follow-up on the underlying question raised in these postings, I asked the Town Clerk if the staff turnover we have witnessed recently is typical of past councils and after multiple e-mail attempts to get a response I was asked to pay $5 and file a Freedom Of Information request, which I promptly did. Putting aside that this is supposed to be a more open, responsive and transparent government, I am happy to receive a response near the end of the legal time limit permitted of thirty days, however I am now not sure how I should respond to the latest development.
Earlier this week I received a phone message stating that there I could pick up a response to my FOI at the Town Hall. Again, I set aside the suggestion that the cost of a postage stamp might be more than the town wants to pay in order to respond to me, so I phoned the town and ended up speaking with a very nice receptionist on the main switchboard (at this point I honestly think she should run for council, but I digress).
I am now faced with the question as to if I should pay the requested $25 in order to get an answer to my simple question. While I am thankful that this is hundreds of dollars lower than what I thought they would ask for given that the town is racking up legal charges and other costs these days, and it is thousands of dollars less than another FOI request that I once filed (and never got an answer to), at the same time I am wondering why I should be paying to receive an answer to a question that the Council itself should be asking ? Am I alone in asking myself this question ?
It occurred to me that an alternative option would be for a Councillor to ask Council to waive the charge given the importance of the question being asked and especially given that it is an election year and it is not just me that is asking if the natives are in fact wrestles. Maybe even the local media could pay the freight.
Your thoughts ?