Newspapers Canada released its 8th annual National Freedom of Information (FOI) Audit report on June 4, 2014. The 2013/2014 audit reviews the performance of Canadian governments and various public institutions with respect to their access to information regimes. As such, it provides the public with the opportunity to see the degree to which our governments are in compliance with their own FOI legislation, as well as facilitating comparisons among jurisdictions.
“The audit represents an important tool for asserting the public’s right to access government information,” says John Hinds, CEO of Newspapers Canada. "The results of this audit show that we’ve still got a long way to go before we really have a culture of openness and accountability around government data.”
This year’s study put special emphasis on asking for electronic data, to test governments’ commitment to the concept of open data. "We found that governments may boast about being open with their data, but they don’t always live up to that talk,” says Newspapers Canada’s Senior Advisor, Policy and Public Affairs Jason Grier. “Open data doesn’t really mean much if it’s only carefully manicured data, with anything interesting or newsworthy stripped out before the public has access."
As in previous years, the 2013/2014 FOI audit was done in collaboration with Fred Vallance-Jones, associate professor of journalism at the University of King’s College, and his team. To obtain the data for the audit, a team of researchers requested the same information from the federal and provincial government, as well as a selection of municipalities across the country.
“I’ve been doing this study since 2008 and I keep hoping for the day when everyone gets an A and I can call it a day,” says Vallance-Jones. “Sadly, some are getting worse, and particularly troublesome is the worsening performance by the federal government.”
The 2013/2014 FOI Audit report is now available online at www.newspaperscanada.ca/FOI.