Every year, the Canadian Newspaper Association coordinates a “freedom of information audit” by getting its members to anonymously issue standard freedom-of-information requests to local government agencies and report the results.
Journalists employ FOI requests on a regular basis (and usually slap an “EXCLUSIVE” label on whatever juicy stuff the government agency has helpfully compiled for them). The difference here is that the audit’s test pretend to be from average citizens, who may be less (or more) likely to get information from the government in line with the law.
The fourth annual audit, which was featured in an article in The Gazette on Saturday and the Journal on Sunday, focuses, naturally, on all the ones that caused problems instead of the ones that were answered quickly and painlessly. Among the main highlights is the CBC’s refusal to give information on the salaries of its top employees.
The audit ranks individual cities, provinces and federal institutions. The City of Saskatoon and the Province of Saskatchewan had the highest marks, while the lowest, an F, went to Quebec City. Montreal and Quebec were in the middle.
The Gazette describes Montreal’s performance as mediocre, with none of the requests being released in full without fee. Two of them the City said there were no records to offer. One of them was denied in full. The remaining two cases (one for the city and the other Montreal Police) requested fees for the information. The police wanted $662.50 to compile reports of incidents involving Tasers.