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BC Politics

BC Government Criticized for Secrecy around $500-Million Investment Fund

Information commissioner, Liberals say FOI rules should apply to InBC to ensure ‘transparency and accountability.’

Andrew MacLeod 20 May 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at .

A British Columbia legislature watchdog is urging the government to make a new Crown corporation subject to the province’s freedom of information law to maintain the public’s trust.

The government announced in late April that it is creating the InBC Investment Corp. and giving it $500 million to spend on promising startup companies with a “triple bottom line” mandate to consider people, the planet and profits.

“Because InBC will be making decisions about the allocation of significant public monies and discharging important public functions, it should be subject to transparency and accountability under [the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act],” Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy wrote in a letter Wednesday.

McEvoy addressed the letter to Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Minister Ravi Kahlon, who is currently seeing the bill that would create InBC through the legislature, and Citizens’ Services Minister Lisa Beare who is responsible for FIPPA.

“Successive governments have recognized that FIPPA is of critical importance to ensuring the transparency and accountability of Crown or statutory corporations and agencies,” McEvoy wrote.

He pointed out that FIPPA has “robust access exceptions,” meaning that there are multiple reasons public bodies can refuse to disclose records or sever parts of them before they are released.

“The business interests of InBC and parties with whom it does business can be fully protected,” he wrote. “This is amply demonstrated by the almost 30 years of experience of public bodies such as BCIMC, ICBC and BC Hydro in protecting their own business information and that of their business partners.”

During question period Wednesday, interim BC Liberal Leader Shirley Bond cited McEvoy’s letter and accused Premier John Horgan’s NDP government of “attempting to shroud a half-billion-dollar investment fund in secrecy.”

Horgan said he was unfamiliar with the commissioner’s concerns but would look into it.

Minister Kahlon responded that InBC’s predecessor, the Immigrant Investment Fund created by the former BC Liberal government, had also been exempt from the FOI law and that the government is following that precedent.

“The possibility of sensitive information being made public could have a chilling effect,” he said.

The InBC Investment Corp. Act, first introduced April 27, is not yet law. On May 6, the province announced a board of directors for InBC to be chaired by Christine Bergeron, president and CEO of Vancity credit union.

Spokespeople for Beare’s Citizens’ Services Ministry didn’t immediately respond to questions late Wednesday afternoon.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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