Earlier today our fine premier said a bunch of stuff about changes she plans to implement regarding who will enforce existing real estate regulations. Ms. Clark also stated that the penalties for flouting those regulations will be increased.
All of which has a lot of proMedia club members all excited despite the fact that, at least according to the news reports and/or PR puff pieces so far, Ms. Clark did not propose to actually change said regulations and/or alter the tax regime around real estate transactions in Lotusland in an effort to deal with the underlying systemic problem.
But, regardless what she ultimately does or does not do about a matter of great import to the public, Ms. Clark's big announcement today appears to have deflector spike-spun another announcement from an officer of the legislature right off of the local proMedia radar.
Interestingly, this second announcement will likely really (and truly) do something to help a North Okanagan community deal with a problem that must be fixed as quickly as possible, if not yesterday. The announcement will also help other British Columbians get to the bottom of things when they are stonewalled by the provincial government for no good reason at all.
The following is from Info/Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham's 'message' that fronts her group's report titled 'Clearly In The Public Interest: The Disclosure Of Information Related To Water Quality In Spallumcheen' that was announced/released earlier today...
This report raises some very important public policy issues - issues that get to the heart of determining what is in the public interest.
The relevant facts of the situation are clear. The Steele Springs Waterworks District in the Township of Spallumcheen advised its water users in March 2014 that nitrate levels in the Hullcar aquifer had exceeded Health Canada‘s guidelines for drinking water quality. As a result the water was no longer safe to drink for infants and those with compromised immune systems.
The Ministry of Environment had reasonable grounds to believe that the spreading of liquid manure on agricultural fields was causing pollution to groundwater. The liquid manure was being applied to fields as a source of nitrate fertilizer for crops.
In the two years since the issuance of the water advisory, nitrate levels in the water supply have continued to increase, while at the same time the Ministry has continued to authorize applications of manure on farms over the aquifer. The board of the Waterworks, the Mayor and Council of Spallumcheen, members of the Legislative Assembly, and water users have repeatedly requested that the Ministry disclose the soil test results and analysis that justify the continued application of liquid manure despite rising nitrate levels. The Ministry has not provided this information; neither in response to formal access to information requests nor in response to verbal requests and requests through the media.
The Ministry stated in one response that it had released all of the information it was legally able to and that the federal Copyright Act did not permit the release of information such as soil testing results and nutrient management plans. While part of this report concerns the Ministry‘s duty to properly assist an applicant with their access request, the key focus was on whether the Ministry was obligated to disclose information that is clearly in the public interest. This obligation flows from s. 25(1)(b) of FIPPA – a section that, until very recently was seldom utilized because its threshold for application was inordinately high. Safe drinking water is a basic human need, and many of the residents of Spallumcheen lack confidence in the regulatory actions undertaken by the Ministry. While this is understandable given the lack of information available to the public, I do not wish to suggest that the Ministry has been anything but diligent in taking actions to address the water contamination. However, the reasoning behind those actions, particularly regarding the authorization of the application of liquid manure to fields after the compliance order, has not always been apparent to the public. Public confidence can certainly be enhanced through the publication of the soil test data and the Ministry‘s interpretation of that data.
In this investigation report I have determined that the disclosure of this information by the Ministry is clearly in the public interest in that it will enable the public to assure itself that the Ministry is appropriately discharging its duty in relation to environmental and human health. The disclosure of this information therefore meets the threshold for disclosure under s. 25(1)(b) of FIPPA...
Copyright issues (see bolded passage, done by me, above)?
Reminds me of the time GordCo Inc. refused to divulge information relating to the BC Rail Sale/Not Sale deal by claiming of bankers' privilege.
Or some such thing.
Interestingly, Bob Mackin has noted a past connection that may make some wonder about how independent Ms. Denham's replacement will ultimately be.