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Bowman promises deluge of data

Candidate says city won't hold back info

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Candidate Brian Bowman says he would be open and accessible if elected mayor.

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Candidate Brian Bowman says he would be open and accessible if elected mayor. Photo Store

Mayoral candidate Brian Bowman promises to embarrass the City of Winnipeg -- if that's what it takes to ensure every possible byte of data is made public.

The privacy lawyer pledged Thursday to change the way the city collects and disseminates information to ensure the release of all data that legally can be released, regardless of the political consequences.

Bowman said if he becomes mayor he won't interfere with city public relations efforts and would end the practice of rejecting freedom-of-information requests on a discretionary basis.

"The default rule is, it's released. It's our information as Winnipeggers. That information should be out there, whether it's embarrassing or not," Bowman said at a campaign event held at an Exchange District web-design firm. "I know if elected, that's going to put a lot of pressure on me to be as open and accessible as possible and I welcome the opportunity to demonstrate that."

Bowman claimed freedom-of-information requests cost the city $815,000 to process in 2012. He pledged to reduce that tally by $200,000 within his first year as mayor by making more information available to the public and journalists without requiring them to issue such requests.

He also pledged to collect all data in a machine-readable format that would allow all data to be published readily. He could not say how much that would cost, claiming the city was unable to provide enough information about its processes to allow him to compute an estimate.

The City of Brandon, he said, purchased open-data software for $50,000.

Changing the way municipal employees collect data also involves labour costs. The City of Winnipeg has more than 9,000 full- and part-time employees, many of whom would be required to adopt new practices under Bowman's scheme.

The candidate conceded this will take some time to happen.

"What we're talking about is a culture change," Bowman said. "It's not going to happen overnight."

Bowman also committed to identifying the 20 most sought-after pieces of city information and make them public within his first year as mayor, publishing all released freedom-of-information requests -- as the province does now -- and allowing researchers and businesses easier access to city data that are subject to licensing agreements.

Fellow mayoral candidates Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Paula Havixbeck have also pledged to make the city more open and transparent.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2014 B4

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