After months of trying to obtain confidential government documents about projected revenues from parking fees in BC’s provincial parks, today Sierra Legal Defence Fund and the Wilderness Committee (WCWC) are asking BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to open an inquiry into the issue.
“We had hoped open cabinet meetings would provide us with this type of information, but in reality the government has stymied us every step of the way. The process has been the exact opposite of open and accountable government,” said Gwen Barlee, policy director with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
Earlier government documents obtained by WCWC show a considerable decrease in the number of people using provincial parks since the meters were introduced in 41 BC parks in 2003 and 2004. The same documents also show just $800,000 has been raised annually from the meters and public compliance with the meters has averaged less than 25%.
“We reject the notion that the public has no right to information on which government bases its decisions,” said Sierra Legal Staff Lawyer Randy Christensen. “At the end of the day the government should be managing these parks in the public interest and the public has a fundamental right to know why this decision was taken.”
If the Commissioner agrees with the groups, the government will be ordered to release the information. So far the provincial government has refused to hand over the information sighting cabinet privilege, and has only provided pages of documents with numerous sections blocked out.
“This matters because over the last few years we have seen a systemic erosion of BC’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. The Act was introduced to hold government accountable for its actions,” commented Barlee. “Revealing revenue projections for parking meters in BC parks may be embarrassing for the government, but it shouldn’t be a state secret.”
Sierra Legal and the Wilderness Committee are urging more open public consultation when deciding the future of BC’s parks. They are not only calling on the government to release the controversial information but are also asking for the removal of the parking meters altogether.