Many of you are aware of the City of Victoria’s Section 43 action against the muckrakers at Focus magazine. The petition to limit the number of Freedom of Information requests the magazine’s staff can make to one at a time — the first ever filed against a media outlet in B.C. — has already inspired condemnation from Integrity BC, Open Victoria and pols across The Capital.
Some of you will also be aware that the city filed its petition a scant four days after David Broadland, publisher of Focus, filed his most recent FOI in search of proof that city staff failed to inform council and the public about cost increases for the ill-fated Johnson Street Bridge replacement project prior to last year’s referendum.
While outside critics have focused on the implications this case could have for access to information, the timing of the city’s application has Broadland calling it a stall tactic.
“The last thing they need right now is not just embarrassing facts, but facts that question the management of the project.”
Broadland’s suspicion boils down to this: the city lied about their mismanagement of the JSB replacement, and have been doing so ever since — a fact that they are now trying to bury with their Section 43 filing.
While this is still speculation until more information is released from city hall, it draws attention to a pattern that has persisted throughout the JSB replacement process.
From day one there have been reasoned, practical questions and alternatives laid at the feet of the city, and one after another these have been met with stonewalling and belligerence from politicians and officials alike.
These are not small accusations.
If Broadland is correct, the city will have lied to the public to convince us to vote for a fantasy, and then deepend that lie ever since to avoid public backlash.
Nonetheless, Broadland says, “I don’t think that it has anything to do with corruption. What’s happened here is that the community has gotten itself into a fight, and neither side wants to end up being the loser.”
The Johnson Street Bridge replacement has been fraught with problems since its inception, and the coming weeks will reveal if each problem’s common source is nothing more than simple pride. M