BC really doesn’t want you to know how much the government has spent since 2009 fighting against patients suffering on waitlists who want their Charter right to timely treatment. Since 2009, the BC Government has been litigating against patient plaintiffs who have suffered as a result of rationed healthcare and who have benefited from services offered by private clinics, like the Cambie Surgery Centre, which have operated in BC for more than two decades.
Last year, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), which is supporting the plaintiffs’ Charter challenge, filed a request under BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), asking the BC Government to come clean on just how much public money it has spent so far fighting to deny patients their right to timely healthcare treatment.
At first BC stonewalled. They acknowledged that they knew the number, but they refused to provide it. They alleged that somehow we were seeking to gain an advantage in the litigation, which they argued could be gleaned from knowing how much they had spent on the case since it started eight years earlier. This was preposterous. As we made clear over and over again, the CCF was not looking for any solicitor-client privileged communication. We sought only disclosure of “the total sum spent by the BC Government on the Cambie case from 2009 to 2017” and “[did] not seek to have that total global figure broken down by service provider, by year, by hourly rates, or in any other way.”
So we persisted.
And on August 14, 2018, the BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner sided with us and ordered that, “pursuant to s. 58 of FIPPA I require the Ministry [of the Attorney General] to give the applicant access to the total cost of litigation contained in the record by September 26, 2018.”
For more than a month we heard nothing from the Government. Finally, on September 25, 2018, the day before they would have to disclose how much taxpayer money that had spent on the case, the BC Government filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court to have the Information Commissioner’s order quashed.
Last week, we filed our response, clarifying once more that all we are seeking is one number – one single number, representing the amount of taxpayer dollars the BC Government has spent so far litigating against patients who just want to exercise their constitutional right to access timely healthcare – a number the BC Government admits it has, but refuses to make public.
CCF Staff Lawyer Derek From said:
A central stated purpose of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is to “make public bodies more accountable to the public … by … giving the public a right of access to records”. Patients suffering on waiting lists are taxpayers, and the Government is using their money to fight to limit their healthcare choices. So why aren’t they allowed to know how much? Why is the Government fighting so hard – and expending even more tax dollars doing so – to keep the public in the dark about the millions of dollars it is spending to fight patient choice?