An advisory committee has presented 47 recommendations to JusticeMinister Michael Baker for improvements to the Freedom ofInformation and Protection of Privacy Act in Nova Scotia. In its final report, the advisory committee recommends that theapplication fee remain at $25, but says that applicants shouldget two hours of free processing time (a saving of $60). It alsorecommends elimination of the review fee (a saving of $25). The committee, chaired by Peter O’Brien, submitted its report toJustice Minister Michael Baker five months ahead of schedule. “I want to thank the advisory committee members for theirthorough exploration of information and privacy issues,” said Mr.Baker. “As a general comment, I find the recommendations to bebalanced and reasonable. We will have a more detailed responsewithin two to three months. I also want to thank those NovaScotians who shared their views during the public consultation.” “We have sought to make recommendations that will make thefreedom of information process more accessible and affordable,”said Mr. O’Brien. “I’m very happy with the thoughtfulrepresentations that came forward from the public.” Mr. Baker added that one of the recommendations is already beingimplemented. “Departments, agencies, boards and commissions are now finalizingpolicies to help people get routine information without goingthrough the more formal freedom of information process,” he said.”Departments have either started or will soon be posting theirroutine access policies on their Web sites, so the public willknow what kind of information is available.” Among the committee’s other recommendations: Other members of the advisory committee included public affairsconsultant Jim Meek, journalist Keith Corcoran of the BridgewaterBulletin, Susan Potts, senior Crown attorney with the PublicProsecution Service and Bill Wilson, executive director of legalservices, Department of Justice. The committee held two days of public hearings and received 25written or verbal submissions from organizations and individuals. The complete report is available on the Web site at www.gov.ns.ca/just/foi/advcm.htm . government administrators be allowed to refrain from processing an application if it is repetitious or incomprehensible; the review officer’s role be strengthened and clarified; appointment of an independent arbitrator to review privacy complaints and of a special committee to review privacy issues; more rights for third parties whose interests are affected by a freedom of information application; more protection for the rights of parents, guardians, and families of deceased individuals; a legislated requirement for the Minister of Justice to report annually on the act to the legislature.
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