A redacted freedom of information request received from the City of Nanaimo earlier this year. NEWS BULLETIN photo

A redacted freedom of information request received from the City of Nanaimo earlier this year. NEWS BULLETIN photo

City of Nanaimo staff busy with flurry of FOI requests

City clerk says municipality on track to receive 600 freedom of information requests in 2018

Citizens have more questions than ever about things that are happening in the City of Nanaimo.

Freedom of information requests are spiking in 2018, according to Sheila Gurrie, city clerk, who presented a report on the topic at a city council meeting Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

With 182 FOI requests already in 2018, the city is on pace to receive 624 for the calendar year, nearly three times the 229 received in 2017. Gurrie’s report projected that the City of Nanaimo’s FOI request totals are on track to exceed 2017 totals for the City of Vancouver, 536 requests, and the City of Surrey, 530 requests, both much larger municipalities.

Gurrie said she has two and a half staff members spending 15-20 hours a day on FOI requests which is a strain on resources, especially in a municipal election year.

story continues below

Coun. Ian Thorpe thanked Gurrie and her staff for dealing with the current volume of requests “that have obviously spiked” in recent years.

“We can only guess at the reason for that and I won’t go into that,” he said.

Gurrie’s report shows that 41 per cent of requests have come from individuals so far in 2018 and 26 per cent have come from the media.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said 36 requests from one media outlet “seems to me to be excessive” and asked why media FOI requests have risen.

“I would only be able to speculate that it would be because Nanaimo’s newsworthy these days…” Gurrie replied. “From seeing the types of requests we are receiving, I think leaks are attributing a lot to the requests. I think the public and/or the media get tidbits of information and then they want to corroborate or verify.”

Coun. Bill Yoachim said he thinks a reason for all the FOI requests is that too much city business happens in closed meetings.

“We have to do less in camera and when we have to be in camera, we should have a snapshot and share what’s discussed…” Yoachim said. “The reality today is there’s no trust [from] the people and this process is fundamental in regaining trust.”

Gurrie said that fees for FOI requests are prescribed through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It’s been unwritten city policy not to charge when the fee would be $50 or less, but Coun. Jerry Hong suggested that the city should charge for all requests, where applicable, to try to limit the FOIs being processed by city staff.

Coun. Gord Fuller said the $50 fees could help offset some of the city’s expenses on FOIs. He said the topic was very interesting.

“The other way of looking at this is that people are getting a hell of a lot more interest in the city than we used to,” he said. “That’s a good thing in a lot of ways.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations with RV hook-ups

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help them find a 16-year-old who has been missing since Sunday. (Photo submitted)
UPDATE: 16-year-old Nanaimo boy located safe

Teen had been reported missing last week and it was thought he may have left town

The Regional District of Nanaimo plans to make its operations more efficient as it works on long-term goals around carbon-neutrality. (PQB News file photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo works to become carbon neutral by 2032

RDN committee of the whole members endorse plan developed by consultant

The Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
Out-of-region B.C. vacation bookings, RV ferry reservations to be refused

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Most Read