Mainstream and alternative media have given a fair degree of coverage to Clark Government efforts to ensure few papers document its activities. Rather too little attention has been paid to the motivation for this blank public record.
For almost three years, the Information and Privacy Commissioner has been providing advice to improve information handling. Even today, caught in a maelstrom of controversy, the BC government avoids Elizabeth Denham’s recommendations. Instead, they recruited David Loukidelis from their roster of loyalists, aiming to push the issue down the road and ultimately gather suggestions that will serve Liberal needs and protect them from further embarrassment. Loukidelis is a lawyer who has collected almost $3 million from BC’s treasury during Liberal years and, as written elsewhere, “The fundamental duty of any lawyer is to zealously represent his client’s interests.”
Let’s consider the current government strategy for record keeping. Every program of professional training teaches the importance of documentation when business is conducted. There’s an adage that says, “If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” In medicine and fields of human care, the need for accurate records is self-evident. Without them, unnecessary disaster, even death, is inevitable. In large business and service organizations, a written record is vital because situations recur and consistent responses are desirable, even if the parties involved change from one instance to another, as they do. A thorough record allows actions to be understood and reconstructed and these goals are important, particularly when massive values or important policies are at stake.
In the private sector, when it comes to employing people, producing goods and collecting tax, government insists citizens keep detailed evidence of activities. Almost all enterprises and efforts oblige people to create and maintain records for years into the future and tax authorities even require that we seek permission to discard old documents.
Clearly, the purpose of any record is to ensure that people not directly involved can later understand accurate details of events. The only people who do not maintain records are those who aim to avoid acting in an orderly, efficient and accountable manner. Generally, those are people who fear disclosure of their activities.
Sometimes the fear is that a political foe or competitor will gain advantage. Other times, it is fear that subterfuge or malfeasance will be discovered. Criminals, don’t want records of their crimes. Improper gifts, inducements and bribes are never intended to be disclosed to the public.
In British Columbia, much routine government business occurs with complete documentation. But, under Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark, transactions involving billions of dollars have been taken from public view. Public-private partnerships have been at the centre of this activity and the values involved exceed $75 billion. As citizens, we are not privy to fine details of the contracts, even with tens of billions of dollars at stake.
Liberals ensure that we cannot look at specific contracts but their documentation policies ensure that we cannot even examine the justifications and judgements underlying policies they choose. We rely on members of government to ensure the arrangement are honest and honourable.
I can think of no reason for this situation to exist.
— Norm Farrell (@Norm_Farrell) November 2, 2015