B.C.’s $500 million strategic investment fund should fall under the province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy says.
It’s a matter of transparency and accountability in managing public funds, he said.
Announced April 27, the provincial government said the InBC Investment Corp. (InBC) will use the funds to provide B.C.-based businesses with capital to compete in the post-pandemic economy.
InBC is charged with managing that $500 million in public funds aimed at investing in BC’s business and innovation sectors.
But, said McEvoy, the government has yet to decide whether InBC will be subject to FIPPA.
“There can be no doubt that, despite its investment independence from government—an independence shared by other public bodies covered by FIPPA—the public’s trust of InBC will depend upon its ongoing transparency and accountability,” McEvoy said.
“The public’s right of access to information under FIPPA, tempered by exceptions that can appropriately protect InBC’s and third-party interests, is vitally important to achieving and keeping that trust,” he said.
To that end, McEvoy has written to Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Ravi Kahlon and Minister of Citizens’ Services Lisa Beare requesting that InBC be covered by FIPPA.
McEvoy wrote that agencies such as ICBC, BC Hydro, the B.C. Investment Management Corporation and InnovateBC falling under FIPPA sets a precedent for InBC to also be covered by the legislation.
Further, he wrote, it is not an answer that coverage is unneeded as InBC will be required to release annual reports and will be subject to external reviews.
“Its annual reports are to be in a form and manner specified by the minister and external reviews will occur only every five years,” McEvoy said. “These accountability mechanisms fall far short of what is needed and lack the ongoing transparency afforded through the access to information regime.”
And, he said, business interests of InBC and parties with whom it does business “can be fully protected by FIPPA’s robust access exceptions.”
The ministries had not commented by deadline.