Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Free Fido!

  • Print

In the last few months, I've been dealing with some laughably outrageous fees levied by the city for access to information requests.

One is for $5,440 for some rec centre data my excellent former colleague Jen Skerrit originally asked for in January. You know what else the Free Press could get for $5,440? Almost an entire summer intern.

Anyway, Jen seriously scaled back her request, asking for data from just one year instead of three. The new fee came in at $1,960. Jen asked for a fee waiver. No dice. We finally, nine months later, got some data, but it was a fraction of our original request.

Then, as part of this project, I asked for the database of inspection orders issued against rooming houses since 2008. The city said it would cost $6,480. I tried negotiating but could only get it down to $2,210.40. Remember, this doesn't involve rifling through boxes of old papers and spending hours photocopying. This is a database, so it's clicks and maybe some coding. By this time, the stories on rooming houses had already run, and I gave up.

Things got downright weird this week, though. We asked for the city's dog licensing database so we could replicate fun stories done in Vancouver, Toronto and beyond. Cost for that? $910.

I could live with $910 if the city was actually giving us what we wanted - the names of each dog and the first three digits of its owner's postal code. (Given recent experience with FOI requests, we didn't overreach. Other cities with nearly word-for-word the same FOI legislation as Manitoba's, have released the full postal code associated with each licence. We asked for just half the postal code, hoping for a fulsome and quick response from the city. We are so naive.)

Instead, the city is refusing to release the information, essentially arguing that dogs come with privacy rights. We could pay $910 for information that is essentially meaningless. Or, we can add it to the pile of appeals we've got on the go with the Manitoba Ombudsman.

This, at a time when the city has a committee ostensibly studying the concept of open data, and after some councillors have called for proper, modern open data policies.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first covering city hall and then the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter. Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school. She has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category.

She was a Southam journalism fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College in 2012-13, where she studied indigenous issues, urban planning and political science. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists and has served on several boards.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

Twitter

Ads by Google