Service comes before photo-ops on new B.C. website

Government communications have traditionally been built around a stream of propaganda, with the emphasis on pictures and text arranged to show the ruling politicians of the day in a flattering light.

Environment Minister Terry Lake meets with mascots in Stanley Park Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of B.C. parks. Such items no longer take precedence on the B.C. government website.

VICTORIA – Government communications have traditionally been built around a stream of propaganda, with the emphasis on pictures and text arranged to show the ruling politicians of the day in a flattering light.

Mundane public services like permit application forms have been more difficult to find, requiring citizens to know which ministry is responsible for which service. And less flattering information has often been available only to those who demand it under freedom of information legislation.

Some of that changed for the B.C. government Tuesday, as it unveiled a reorganized set of official websites that chooses information priorities based on what citizens are most likely to be looking for.

The home page of the B.C. government website still features the smiling portrait of Premier Christy Clark. But it’s now as easy to find a cabinet minister’s travel expenses as it is to find a picture of his or her latest ribbon-cutting.

Services and application forms are now prominent on the main government website, based on the number of public requests for them and surveys conducted in recent months. Features such as DriveBC and emergency flood updates are included in a “carousel” of most popular sites at the centre of the home page.

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham issued a report last year that called on the provincial government to begin routine disclosure of information.

Denham said Tuesday the new policy requires ministries to routinely post responses to freedom of information requests, and designate categories of information for routine release at no charge. She is encouraged by the first step and plans to monitor the effort to see that it is maintained.

“This policy demonstrates intent by government to adopt a presumption favouring disclosure,” Denham said.

NDP citizens’ services critic Doug Routley said the changes make it easier to find routine information, but they don’t do anything about search fees, delays and obstacles used by government to keep politically sensitive information out of view. Critics have fought for years to get details such as sea lice data for salmon farms or the reasons for the B.C. Rail sale, he said.

“You roll a document through the cabinet room on a trolley and they call it advice to government,” and therefore secret, Routley said.

The project also includes a searchable public database of government statistics on more than 2,000 subjects such as birth rates, public sector salaries and school test scores. Clark said the intention of DataBC is to allow independent researchers to find new ways to use the data and contribute to public policy.

Just Posted

Saanich walks the walk on crosswalk after student lobbied for improvements

Elanor Teel approached first Saanich about the intersection in March 2017

Firefighters across the region swing into the giving season

Local firefighter says it’s about whole community

Canadians spent $1.7 billion dollars online in December 2016

Online retail sales accounted for 3.4 per cent of total retail sales

Pedestrian scrambles, underground tunnels and other downtown Victoria quirks

The area around the former Eaton’s Centre had some unique ideas

WATCH: Cyclist doored by pickup truck near Goldstream Avenue traffic circle

The incident was captured by a reader’s dashcam on Friday evening

Victoria axe thrower targets world championships

Former pitcher to compete at World Axe Throwing League Championships in Chicago

POLL: Are you giving to charities over the holiday season?

In the holiday rush, amidst the hustle and bustle to find that… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 4, 2018

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Boeser scores 3, Pettersson has 5 points as Canucks hammer Blues

Vancouver picks up impressive 6-1 win in St. Louis

Battle over Saanich’s Haro Woods not yet over, says report

Draft management plan calls on Saanich to spend $142,500 to improve area

In Canada, the term ‘nationalism’ doesn’t seem to have a bad rap. Here’s why

Data suggest that Canadians don’t see the concept of nationalism the way people do in the United States

Small quake recorded west of Vancouver Island

No injuries or tsunami warning after 5.4 rumble felt some 400 kilometres from Victoria

B.C. suspends Chinese portion of Asian forestry trade mission due to Huawei arrest

Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of U.S. in Vancouver

2-year investigations nets $900,000 in refunds for payday loan customers

Consumer Protection BC says selling practices were ‘aggressive and deceptive’

Most Read