By Richard Bell
The FOIPOP Act was passed in 1993, and there have been calls ever since for strengthening it. The Act’s fundamental weakness if that the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) for Nova Scotia cannot order the government to do anything if the Commissioner (or Review Officer) finds that the government is violating the Act. Suppose you file a FOIPOP, and the government denies your request. You have the right to appeal to the Commissioner. But if the Commissioner finds in your favour, the government can simply ignore the Commissioner’s finding.
Critics of the weaknesses of the FOIPOP Act have long urged a number of measures to strengthen it, especially giving the Review Officer “order-making power,” so that the government would have to comply with OPIC’s findings.
When he was running for Premier in 2013, Stephen McNeil, in a letter dated October 4, 2013 to the Centre for Law & Democracy, McNeil promised that if elected, he would take three steps to strengthening the OIPC, starting with expanding “the power and mandate of the Review Officer, particularly through granting her order-making power.”
But McNeil never acted on his campaign promise, and on September 18, 2018, CBC News’ Jean Laroche reported that McNeil had abandoned his promise altogether as a “mistake.”
In fact, McNeil had the hubris to attempt to turn his refusal to honour his promise and run a more open government into another reason the voters should cherish him: “‘I think what most Nova Scotians are grateful for, I'm not stubborn in my ways and I realize I make a mistake, I acknowledge it,’ he said.”