Prince Edward Island was among the fastest provinces to respond to access requests during an audit that tests the openness of governments across the country.
The National Freedom of Information Audit is the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind in Canada and the only annual, live test of the freedom-of-information system in this country.
From January to May 2011, 354 requests were sent to 11 federal departments and agencies; five provincial departments, 39 municipalities and 10 major hospitals, and the responses tracked. Requests were for information on such things as social media policies, communications budgets, details of contracts and credit card expenses.
Governments were tested both for the speed and completeness of disclosure.
Once again, one of the worst performances was by federal institutions, although they completed 61 per cent of requests within 30 days compared to 50 per cent the year before.
Of the provinces/territories, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Yukon were the fastest responders, while B.C. was the slowest. Unlike most provinces, B.C. allows 30 business days to respond to access requests instead of 30 calendar days.
The City of Charlottetown was praised for responding to requests even though the municipality is not formally covered by access information in P.E.I.
While Charlottetown received praise or ‘laurels', the audit included plenty of bricks. Some of those bricks were tossed at the following jurisdictions:
-- The government of B.C. for the way it handed four requests for communications budgets and staffing numbers first by effectively giving itself two and a half extra weeks to respond by asking the auditor to withdraw and "redirect" her requests, then urging staff to "expedite" the restarted request.
-- The City of Winnipeg for refusing access to a contract, stating that contracts are considered confidential.
-- The City of Saint John, New Brunswick for refusing to respond to requests because the section of the new Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that applies to municipalities had not been proclaimed.
-- Federal departments and crown corporations for making a mockery of the federal government's open data initiative by continuing to respond to requests for routine data by supplying paper printouts of the data tables or converting the data to an unreadable image format before release.