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.

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The RCMP arrest one of the suspects on Highway 97 courtesy of cell phone footage shot by a bystander. (April Thomas photo)
WATCH: Two suspects arrested after multi-jurisdictional chase

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

Commercial tenants at the Williams Lake Regional Airport have been granted an additional six-month rent reprieve. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Continuing rent relief for Williams Lake Airport tenants considered

City council discussed the option during a committee of the whole meeting

The Grade 2 class of 150 Mile House Elementary attended Cariboo Memorial Hospital with teacher Kirsty Bowers to deliver “kindness” bags full of small gifts to housekeeping staff. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
150 Mile House students deliver gift bags showing appreciation for hospital staff

Students begin Monday morning with a bus trip to Cariboo Memorial Hospital

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read