Environment Minister Mary Polak issued the following statement today in response to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s report on the disclosure of information related to water quality in Spallumcheen.
“At all times, the Ministry of Environment’s goal is to provide the public with as much information as we can and in as timely a manner as possible. The ministry accepts the commissioner’s order to release all soil test results and nutrient management plans going forward. This includes disclosure of the Jansen Farm nutrient management plan we believed we could not release due to federal copyright laws.
“I previously stated all information concerning sampling and testing, permitting, compliance and enforcement that can be legally shared has been made available. I also stated we would wait for the commissioner’s ruling with respect to the documents we believed we could not release, and if it was found we could legally release them we would do so. We have now received the commissioner’s ruling, and based on her findings will be releasing those documents immediately.
“The ministry also accepts the recommendation to ensure all staff are properly trained to respond to access for information requests under the Freedom of Information and Personal Privacy Act (FIPPA), and will take action on this as soon as possible.
“The commissioner’s decision gives us clarity and will guide government in future instances where information must be released in the public interest. We will seek input from the Ministries of Finance and Justice as well as the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner that would enable the ministry to proactively disclose more information and records in the future.
It is important to note the commissioner’s ruling that the ministry release the nutrient management plan and soil samples is because it’s considered in the public interest with respect to ministry decisions related to the management of ongoing water quality issues. The commissioner found the ministry, Steele Springs Water District and the Interior Health Authority had in fact met the requirements under s.25(1)(a) of FIPPA to disclose information advising the public of risk to environment, health or public safety when the water-quality issues were first identified.
The commissioner did not suggest the ministry was not doing its job as a regulator and concluded that by releasing this information, public confidence may be restored in the ministry’s approach to this issue.
Government continues to work with the local community and we are taking all necessary actions to ensure the residents of Spallumcheen have safe drinking water, while preserving the region's agriculture economy.”