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HomeLocal NewsFOI discussion outlines Government secrecy and Covid-19 information withholding

FOI discussion outlines Government secrecy and Covid-19 information withholding

There have been lots of concerns since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic with the way information has been reported to the public. Bill 22 that passed legislation last November couldn’t have come at a worse time. This came in a time when the Omicron variant of COVID-19 started making headlines and this is when the public “desperately needed more information on health issues, not less.” said Stanley Tromp. Adding “There are many examples of public fears and ire being needlessly raised by excessive COVID-19 secrecy.”

Stanley Tromp explained what kind of secrecy the public has been talking about and has gone ignored by the government “One, Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail noted that British Columbians have looked on with envy at the amount of pandemic-related data being shared with Canadians living elsewhere. “The fact is Dr. Henry and the government have been very paternalistic when it’s come to sharing more specific COVID-related data with the public.” Two, just how many British Columbians are actually in hospital with COVID is a tightly held secret, with few privy to the true number as health officials keep two sets of numbers, one public, the other internal. Three, two internal reports leaked from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control showed the government has been assembling far more information about the COVID outbreak than it has made public.”

Tromp was referring to numbers of the incidental COVID-19 cases being hidden inside the numbers of the real COVID-19 cases. This allowed Bonnie Henry to pad the numbers and make case counts, hospitalizations and deaths look worse than they really were.

Rick Glumac said he had a number of questions but would only ask one. “There’s plenty of information out there on COVID, for example, but people will find other information and create their own narratives around that. Is the issue deeper than just releasing the information?”

As all British Columbians have noticed by now the questions the media is asking Bonnie Henry are the exact same ones all the time so “its not a matter whether it’s better or worse now than it was before” said Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands

With the various positions Olsen has had in both on the government side, a partner and now on the opposition. “I’ve really seen how the political parties, as entities, have taken full control of this Legislative Assembly to twist it from being a democracy” said Olsen

It was pointed out with the “scriptedness within our caucus meetings” means the interest of the public is not being protected. “What’s being protected is the interests of the political institution, which is a party.”

In recent years since BC NDP were elected with a majority “they use that majority to proactively restrict.” said Olsen.

Sean Holman from the University of Victoria agreed “That desire for message control has infected our political system in a really profound way. It’s made our default tendency towards secrecy in Canada even worse.”

Adding “I mean, all of you have received public relations training — sticking within the message box, blocking and bridging. We’re not giving the public real answers to questions. We’re not giving journalists real answers to questions. We can say that this is because of media aggression. We can say that this is because of opposition aggression. We can say that this is because of partisanship. The casualty is the public’s right to know.”

Tim Shoults with the NewsMedia Association argues information is tightly controlled and guarded by the B.C government. “Our members find the complete government control of information and the narrative around the pandemic to be concerning.”

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