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 B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Hells Angels prospect from Sooke to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

Rebecca Lang of Any Thyme Gardening installed a seed exchange library in front of her home on Beechwood Avenue. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Victoria gardeners scramble to create local seed exchanges

Fairfield resident’s seed exchange an instant hit

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Comox Valley-raised Shay Sandiford has earned a spot on the Canada skateboard team. Facebook
Vancouver Islander selected to Canada’s first-ever national skateboard team

Courtenay’s Shay Sandiford has his eye on qualifying for this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Most Read