On May 6, within hours of being served the legal Petition filed by the Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY), the City finally delivered a portion of the information that a CANY member had requested under the Freedom of Information (FOI) act.

Of the 8500+ pages covered by the request, the City delivered just 85 pages—less than one percent. City officials blanked out content totalling roughly 29 of those 85 pages.

The documents arrived more than 90 days past the initial due date set by the City itself. The City’s delays had triggered the BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) to fast-track its inquiry into the matter.

CANY is disappointed in the City’s continued withholding of information. We are further troubled by the City’s failure to deliver any of the required documents until after CANY filed legal action.

Read on for a chronology and to see the redacted documents:

Sample Redacted FOI Response Page

Initial FOI Request

On December 13, 2013, a CANY member submitted an FOI request to the City. On December 16, the City responded that the request was too broad. That same date, the applicant amended his request accordingly.

On January 9, 2014, the City finally acknowledged receipt of the request, and the CANY member paid the required deposit the next day. The FOI Request was for:

All email correspondence between Brian Jackson, Penny Ballem, Mike Magee, Michael Flannigan and Kent Munro with regards to the 508 Helmcken rezoning and the 1099 Richards rezoning from August 1, 2012 to December 13, 2013.”

The City set itself a due date of January 30—the maximum allowed by law—to deliver the requested documents.

City Delays

As of February 4, the City still had not provided the requested documents. The FOI applicant requested an update on the status.

That same day, the City replied:

due to the large number of documents to be searched, retrieved, and processed; and the time required for consultations, we are unable to meet this deadline.”

Citing the large number of documents, the City set itself a new due date of March 17, 2014, adding “We will, of course, try to respond as quickly as possible within this timeframe.”

On March 12, in further correspondence about its failure to meet its own deadline, the City explained “we would do our best to complete the request” by its own new March 17, 2014 due date, but

there are close to 9000 pages of responsive records that must be reviewed and approved for release prior to that date.”

City Delays Again

The City remained silent as its new March 17 deadline passed. The next day, the FOI applicant inquired about the additional delays.

That same day, the City replied:

the initial review of 8500+ pages for this file is complete. However, this is only one stage of the process.…

Under normal circumstances a file of this size would require a minimum of 200 days to process.…

An 8500+ page file is not an (sic) file that is easily expedited… the process must be handled by an experienced FOI reviewer…. the file will require Head review prior to release… I expect this process to be completed at or around April 30.…

I also need to emphasize that this extremely large number of responsive records cannot be processed in less time. In fact this file is being processed ahead of other files that were received prior to this one.”

This last statement was reassuring—until another CANY member subsequently received the following from the City in response to a separate FOI request for one single document:

We do not preferentially move one request to the head of the queue ahead of the others, that would be against all principles of fairness and equity.”

Review by BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner

On March 21, the FOI requester submitted a formal Request for Review to the BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, seeking an inquiry into for the multiple delays after the initial FOI request in December 2013.

On March 31, an OIPC officer called the FOI applicant with an update. The officer said that the City was now claiming that it would  take 400 business days to deliver the documents. The OIPC officer commented that he had never heard of a request for an extension past 230 days and even that length was highly unusual. Due to the unusual circumstances, the OIPC fast-tracked its inquiry.

Legal Petition Spurs City Response

On May 6, the Community Association of New Yaletown filed its Petition in BC Supreme Court. Within hours, the City notified the FOI applicant that the requested information was now available. The applicant collected the documents from City Hall the following day—144 days after the initial request and 96 days after the initial due date that the City had set.

Missing and Redacted Information

Of the “8500+ pages” described by the City, the applicant received just 85 pages. Of those 85 pages, the City officials have blanked out a total of roughly 29 pages. You can download the redacted FOI documents here.

Do City officials have something to hide?