Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

BC has spent $125,000 fighting to keep IBM contract secrets

The British Columbia government has wasted nearly $125,000 on legal bills to keep a contract with IBM secret, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"I was disappointed," said Jordan Bateman, the CTF's B.C. director. "It's not about the IBM contract, it's about proactively disclosing these contracts."

The Freedom of Information and Privacy Association requested the contract seven years ago. The Information and Privacy Commissioner's office has said it should be released and the government lost a 2009 court decision that affirmed that order.

FIPA recently held a birthday party marking the seventh year the organization has been seeking the IBM contract. Bateman said that while he was at that event he wondered how much the government has spent on the case, so he filed a freedom of information request.

The $124,522.48 the documents show doesn't include the commissioner's court expenses, nor government staff time working on the file, he said. If they were, the amount would likely double, he said.

"What a waste of money," said Bateman. "We're calling for the government to abandon this silliness."

The contract with IBM is worth $300 million and ends in two years.

Bateman said that all contracts signed on behalf of taxpayers should automatically released, preferably on a website where they are accessible to the public.

In a joint press release with the CTF, FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek said fighting the release of the contract is outrageous coming from a government led by Premier Christy Clark who claims to be a champion of open government.

Update, 5:15 p.m.: Over 90 percent of the contract has been released and portions of only a few pages were redacted, said Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government Minister Margaret MacDiarmid. "It is for security reasons," she said.

The records include the names and locations of government computer servers, she said. "The concern is if that was made publicly available our government servers could be vulnerable to hackers . . . There is a concern about people's personal privacy."

She acknowledged that the government has a difference of opinion with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, but said she didn't know why.

The government recently posted a contract with Telus and as time goes on will publish more such agreements as a matter of course, she said. "We are absolutely committed to opening government up and providing people with this kind of information."

FIPA's Gogolek said the commissioner's office considered the government's security argument, but found it speculative and not persuasive. The decision found the disclosure would not reasonably lead to the kind of risk the government fears, he said.

"We're not buying it and the commissioner's office didn't buy it either," said Gogolek. "I hope they see reason before the court makes them see reason again."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus