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Friday, October 10, 2008

How to keep the public out of the public's business

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2008 at 12:46 PM

I noted Wednesday that Nova Scotia's access to information laws are basically a joke. Today, I have a demonstration of the fact.

You'll recall that Rodney MacDonald recently approved a "long combination vehicle pilot program"---basically, the provincial government legalized "truck trains," those two-trailer rigs, on Highways 102 and 104 and various connecting roads. The public policy issues involved are enormous-- how will this affect highway safety, insurance rates for other vehicles, the competitiveness of smaller trucking firms, the province's legally mandated goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, etc. In other words, it's exactly the sort of issue that the press ought be sinking its teeth into.

And so, back in the summer I filed a Freedom of Information request with the government, asking for all documents related to the program. There were, no doubt, plenty of cabinet-level discussions about it, department of transportation analyses, RCMP input, and so forth. In all likelihood, there was also considerable lobbying to government agencies by both the trucking and the insurance industry. I wanted to dig through this information, see if I could come up with an objective assessment of the implementation of a new government policy that will effect thousands of Nova Scotians.

Today, I received the province's response to my Freedom of Information request. They'll be happy to turn over the information.... for $1,630.00. Of course, The Coast is in no position to shell out that sort of dough for an uncertain return, and so my investigation simply won't happen.

That, folks, is how you keep the public out of the public's business.

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