Delays, delays

Residents’ request for information goes unanswered from Qualicum Beach

Residents of Qualicum Beach have taken their complaint over a lack of responsiveness by the town to the provincial privacy and information commissioner.

Janet Raines, a representative of the Qualicum Beach Residents Association, says since they filed a freedom of information request to the town in March this year, they have yet to hear anything from the town apart from a note saying the town received the request. Under freedom on information legislation, the town had 30 days to respond directly to the request. They did not do so, Raines said.

Raines stated in a media release that the QBRA gave the town another 15 days, then met with Mark Brown, the chief administrative officer. Despite promises to look into their request, the QBRA stated there has been no further communication from the town — so they turned to the provincial information commissioner.

They did that an additional 45 days after their initial request.

“Last Monday (May 28), their office contacted us,” Raines told The News. “They wanted our original copy of our request for information.”

She said the QBRA asked the town for it but didn’t receive a response to that request, either. Now, she said the privacy commissioner’s office has contacted the town directly this week for that document, and has apparently received a response.

The town reported to The News that they wanted an extension of 30 days, due to staff availability issues, but agreed they did not respond with that information to the applicant. Workload and staff health issues led to the delay, they said.

“We regret that we didn’t complete the application in a timely fashion and we’ve spoken with the Commissioner’s office and explained the situation,” stated Brown in a quote supplied to The News through the town’s new communications officer. The News did not speak with Brown directly, despite a call to do just that.

“We are working with them on this. We did err in not documenting and sending a letter for the extension, and we are working to ensure that this does not occur again.”

The town reported that staff workload in April and May led to the delay — adding that they have told the privacy commissioner’s officer the town has not refused to respond, and will be able to release the information early next week.

Raines said the QBRA is after information out of the town council’s January 19, 2012 strategic planning retreat, at which their direction on the town’s official community plan was discussed. Raines added members of the QBRA are disappointed the town council eliminated three public commissions — environment, parks and recreation and the airport body. Members of the QBRA were also members of those defunct commissions, she added.

“We are not on a fishing expedition,” Raines said, “nor are we trying to be a pain for the town. We do attend all the (council) meetings and we’ve never really asked anything of the town before.”

She added QBRA members are also concerned that the loss of the public commissions means the loss of volunteers to the town.

“The QBRA board is disappointed by the failure of the town council to communicate effectively with its residents,” Raines stated. “For residents to be seemingly ignored after following the letter of the provincial freedom of information regulations should be a red flag for the entire community.”

Raines said she hoped going public with their effort to get information from the town will spark some action, but isn’t sure it will. It has been more than 50 days since the QBRA made their original request.

The QBRA has approximately 100 members.