News / Calgary

Calgary spent $320K to process 197 FOIP requests over six months: report

Calgary spent more than $320,000 handling 197 freedom-of-information requests in the last six months of 2014, according to a new city report, prompting one councillor to renew his call to raise the fees of such requests.

The city has seen “continual increases in the number of FOIP requests, which is reflected in a concurrent increase in the cost of responding to them,” the report reads.

Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act requires most public bodies, including municipalities, to respond to requests from the public for internal documents and other information.

But Coun. Ray Jones said the city – in particular the mayor and councillors’ offices – receive a lot of “frivolous” requests.

The report breaks down the costs of running the FOIP program ($275,726) and the costs, by city department, of responding to requests ($49,376) as well as the amount recovered in fees ($4,164) from July 1 to Dec. 31 last year.

Jones noted that doesn’t include the work done in the offices of the city councillors and the mayor, as these political staffers are salaried and don'tt receive extra pay for such overtime work.

“Our assistants have to go through our files, they have to go through emails … and it takes a lot of time,” he said.

Jones said a FOIP request several years ago for itemized details of expenses claimed by four members of council that amounted to less than $30,000 in total cost more than $40,000 to process.

But the idea of increasing FOIP fees has its critics.

When Jones raised the idea at council September, Derek Fildebrandt, who was then Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation – and a routine filer of FOIP requests, himself – described such a move as “a transparent attempt to stifle transparency” in government.

“It’s an idea about as dumb as a bag of hammers,” he told Metro at the time.

Fildebrandt is now running for the Wildrose party in the Strathmore-Brooks constituency and, if elected on May 5, would be subject to requests from others under provincial FOIP law.

The FOIP cost breakdown from the city report:

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