Ambulance New Brunswick is the 2018 recipient of the Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy in the provincial category.
The award is given annually by The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University (CFE), News Media Canada and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) to call public attention to government departments and agencies that put extra effort into denying public access to government information to which the public has a right under access to information legislation.
The awards jury, which comprised representatives of the four press-freedom advocacy groups, was convinced by the nomination submitted for Ambulance New Brunswick that outlined a litany of complaints against the taxpayer-funded service that for several months refused to disclose records related to “the frequency of ambulances taken off the road due to lack of staff.”
The agency attempted unsuccessfully to deny subsequent requests for information, appealed a provincial department’s decision to release the agency’s monthly report cards, decided to release selective performance data deemed “favourable” to the agency, and reportedly asked the provincial paramedic union not to speak publicly about agency staffing issues.
After months of media coverage, the provincial government eventually forced Ambulance New Brunswick to report performance statistics on out-of-service vehicles. “Ambulance New Brunswick has a duty to be transparent with the people it serves so the company can be held accountable for the quality of care it provides”, said James L. Turk, director of the Centre for Free Expression. “The Company’s attempts to keep New Brunswickers in the dark make it a deserving recipient of this year’s Code of Silence Award for the most secretive provincial government agency in Canada.
The coalition of press-freedom groups previously announced Bill Morneau’s Department of Finance as the federal winner of this year’s Code of Silence award, and earlier announced Niagara Region as the municipal winner.