MANITOBANS struggling in recent years to access government information will have to wait a little longer, Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.

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This article was published 25/6/2020 (522 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MANITOBANS struggling in recent years to access government information will have to wait a little longer, Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday.

"Post pandemic, we’ll take a serious look at action to respond more favourably, in a more timely way," he said in response to a damning pre-pandemic report by Manitoba’s ombudsman, showing his government has slowed the freedom-of-information system to a crawl as departments fret over the political implications of giving data to the public, with too few staff to handle records.

"I think it’s pretty understandable during a pandemic that there would some delays," said Pallister. The ombudsman’s report deals with FIPPA requests between December 2017 and May 2018, and was published this month. The audit was conducted after the provincial NDP two years ago asked the independent watchdog to look into multiple problems with 16 FIPPA requests.

In late 2018, the ombudsman decided there was enough of a problem to merit looking into "recurring patterns of delay (…) which may be affecting the rights of other applicants."

The ombudsman reviewed 120 requests received on behalf of four central departments from December 2017 to May 2018. It found those departments failed to meet the legislated deadline in 78 per cent of the files; half the audited files took longer than two months.

"It isn’t something that I’m happy to see," said Pallister, who accused the previous NDP government of having an even worse record for handling FIPPA requests.

"I understand that time frames are as good or better now than they were under the previous government," he said. "When I was in opposition I did have concerns and I continue to have those concerns now."

"It’s important for journalists and it’s also important for others who want information from government that they get that information in a timely manner."

— Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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