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Abstract

Freedom of information legislation is designed to promote access to governmental information. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of British Columbia (“BC Act”) is no different. The BC Act views access to governmental information as promoting democracy, transparency, and citizenry, thereby making “public bodies more accountable to the public and…protect[ing] personal privacy by…giving the public a right of access to records” inter alia. The right to access governmental information, however, is not unfettered. There are certain protected instances where the public good may actually be harmed by undue access to governmental information such as policy recommendations developed by or for a Minister, legal advice, or disclosures harmful to law enforcement or individual safety. Therefore, an applicant requesting a record may receive a redacted copy of the contract that only exposes the information that is not exempt under the BC Act. The focus of the article is section 21(1) of the BC Act, entitled “Disclosure harmful to business interests of a third party” which outlines the kinds of disclosures prohibited by public bodies. The author explains that principles of equity and justice demand that third party business interests should be better protected. The author notes that as of now, the only real information that is exempted from disclosure is the government’s own information. Even now, pricing information is not immune from disclosure. According to the author, the release of pricing information completely ignores the realities of modern business and competitive bidding. The author further explains that only if a government body deems some (or most) of the third party’s business interests to also represent confidential governmental information will it be protected. The author proposes a revised version of the BC Act to better protect third party business interests.

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