Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/5/2012 (3456 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE provincial government is backing down on a demand to charge nearly $1.9 million for copies of records that could shed light on issues surrounding flood compensation to First Nations.
A provincial official informed the Free Press on Tuesday the newspaper should receive documents it had sought through freedom-of-information legislation by the end of this week. A civil servant handling the original requests had said it would take more than 62,000 staff hours to provide the information requested.
The newspaper had sought copies of correspondence between Manitoba's Emergency Measures Organization and other key players that provide flood compensation to First Nations. The Free Press had hoped the correspondence would shed light, for instance, on why the number of evacuees receiving flood compensation from Lake St. Martin First Nation had soared since last summer.
Steve Ashton, the minister responsible for EMO, was the target of opposition questions on the handling of the information request on Tuesday.
Conservative EMO critic Stu Briese called the department's reaction "simply ridiculous" and repeated accusations the government has something to hide.
"Transparency and accountability are paramount when it comes to managing the province's finances and especially when it comes to managing disasters like the 2011 flood," Briese said.
Ashton refused to criticize his staff over its response, which has blown up in the government's face. He repeated that if anything, bureaucrats "wanted to provide absolutely everything" to the newspaper.
He said the government was committed to fulfilling the request.
"We've had further conversations with the Free Press today and we will, indeed, be providing any and all that information," Ashton said.
The Free Press had asked for copies of all correspondence, including emails, between Manitoba EMO and the Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters for a 13-month period ending March 26. It also requested correspondence for the same period between EMO and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
A government official said Tuesday staff interpreted the requests to mean the newspaper was looking for correspondence regarding each individual flood claim involving a First Nations person. They thought they would have to take the time to block out claimants' personal information.
The bureaucracy didn't attempt to clarify the Free Press's requests before responding.