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by Leslie-Ann Kroeker

 

A new national audit reported that the City of Saskatoon is above average when it comes to providing citizens information.

           

Newspapers Canada conducted an audit comparing access to information requests within local, provincial and federal governments across Canada. During the process, 354 requests were sent to Canadian agencies and the responses were tracked.

      

According to the results, the City of Saskatoon is among the top contenders in being an “open municipality.”

           

City clerk Janice Mann said the results of the audit prove that the city is working properly.

 

“We never really knew that (we were) a part of (the audit),” Mann said.. “You are just treating them the same way you treat anybody.”

 

Many documents, like council meetings and bylaws, are made public on the city’s website, Mann said. If the information can’t be found publicly, there is a $20  charge to request information through  the city clerk’s office.

           

“Things aren’t always simple but we always try to make them simple and give out as much information as we can,” said Mann. “We don’t want our citizens to jump through a bunch of hoops to get information.”

 

“In general, the city is good at handling freedom on information requests,” said David Hutton, a veteran reporter for the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. “The city clerk does requests quickly. All my requests are never over the 30-day timeline.”

           

The spirit of openness extends to interview requests, said Daryl Hofmann, a reporter for The Sheaf.

           

“The city councilors pretty much handle all the media. They are easy to get ahold of and really helpful,” said  Hofmann.

         

The media is just one outlet that needs open access to information to function properly. Rick Olmstead, president of Interlink Research Inc, often finds that he must contact the city for specific information about building codes. The city always maintains an open relationship with his company, he said.

          

 “Over the years we have had the opportunity to work closely with the city,” said Olmstead. “I find the city to be very open, very willing to talk, very accommodating. When you need to get a hold of somebody, I hear back from people.”

           

Saskatchewan municipalities scored an A in response time, along with Alberta and Manitoba. Nova Scotia municipalities were ranked lowest, with an F, followed by B.C. with a D. However, Nova Scotia’s provincial government scored an A, while the Province of Saskatchewan garnered a B .

 

The audit reports stated  Saskatoon’s “continued willingness to release information even though no act obligates it to do so, show there is reason for hope.”