BCB Will Not Be Responding to Your Questions

I really didn’t think I’d be able to FOIPOP Business Cape Breton (BCB).

Although the organization runs entirely on public money, I’d already been told by the office of the Privacy Commissioner that it doesn’t fit the definition of a public body under Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information/Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) Act.

Why, then, did I try? Well, because in February of this year, CBRM Municipal Clerk Deborah Campbell wrote to Sydney lawyer Guy LaFosse in response to a FOIPOP he’d submitted on behalf of a client (the famous $42,804.50 FOIPOP). Campbell told LaFosse the CBRM was not in possession of all the records his client sought and suggested he also FOIPOP the Port of Sydney Development Corporation and…Business Cape Breton.

The implication is clear: the municipality believes BCB is FOIPOPable.

Moreover, in June of 2016, CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke announced that BCB would henceforth serve as the municipality’s economic development arm. I thought this perhaps meant some change in BCB’s status — how could an organization serve as a municipality’s economic development arm and yet remain unaccountable to the citizens of the municipality?

So I tried FOIPOPing it.

Here’s the response I received. (A response that took 10 days to craft):

 

“A recently rendered legal opinion cited BCBA does not meet the definition of a ‘Public Body,’ as defined with regard to FOIPOP.”

I think “cited” in this sentence should actually be “found that.” I would like to know more about this “legal opinion;” the reference is rather ambiguous — it could refer to a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada or an email from BCBA’s lawyer.

 

Foregone conclusion

As I said at the outset, I knew BCB would not be subject to FOIPOP. I’d heard it from the Privacy Commissioner but I’d also recently read it in a 2013 report for┬áthe Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), which recommended:

The FOIPOP should also be extended to cover private bodies that perform public functions or receive public funding, to the extent of that funding or function. Non-governmental organisations, for example, that have accepted a grant to produce a report should be required to be open about how that public money was spent.

That recommendation, like most of those in the report, was never implemented.

 

Ask and you shall be…turned down

The first rule of FOIPOPs is, “Try asking for the information.”

That’s because “public bodies” can always just tell you what you want to know without forcing you to jump through the FOIPOP hoops. The same is true of non-public bodies — BCB could just tell me what I want to know. (I asked about the history of the Glace Bay & Area Revitalization Study. Whose idea was it? How did it go from idea to reality?)

Instead, BCB “will not be responding” to my “request for information.”

Which immediately makes me wonder, “Why not?”

 

 

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