---City set on simplifying access to information for the public
In an effort to become more transparent to the public and better manage data, city of Gatineau officials announced plans to establish an access to information unit.
Approved by Municipal council during its regular May meeting, the city stated that the decision will also result in an administrative reshuffle that should allow the Service du Greffe and the Police (SPVG) to augment the efficiency of their services. A press release issued by the city on May 11, explained that Gatineau saw a 47 per cent increase in access to information requests in 2020 compared to 2016, with 2,776 and 1,882 respectively. It added that, in virtue of the Freedom of Information and Protection and Privacy Act, the city has 20 days to respond to access to information requests – noting that requests are received and processed by the city Clerk’s office or the police, depending on the subject.
Coordinating the new access to information unit’s activities from the city Clerk’s office means a transition of responsibilities from the police department to the registry department, a workload reorganization, and the creation of two new jobs. The new way of operating will also ensure that documents are made available directly on the city’s website to let people access them without making a formal access to information request. The decision to create the new unit came as a response to a report focused on optimizing the city’s allocation of resources regarding access to information, conducted by the Bureau de la vérificatrice générale in 2019. Stating that access to information is a fundamental right for everyone, Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said implementing the new access to information unit is a great step towards becoming more transparent and improving services. “Whether it is to find out about a project or to verify facts, the city must be able to provide adequate services in compliance with the Act,” Pedneaud-Jobin indicated in the press release. “Through this change in organizational structure, Gatineau is reiterating and strengthening its commitment to transparency towards its residents.”