Question: The Alberta Teachers’ Association launched a major FOIP request shortly after the release of the report of the Task Force for Teaching Excellence. What is the status of the FOIP request?
Answer: The Association initiated a FOIP request on May 5, 2014, a few hours after the minister released the report of the Task Force for Teaching Excellence. The Association’s request was extensive, including correspondence between Minister Jeff Johnson and task force chair and NAIT president Glenn Feltham, meetings held involving Johnson and Feltham, research undertaken, correspondence between task force members and department officials, meeting agendas, expenses claimed, contracts with external providers, etc. Johnson and Feltham have repeatedly stated that the task force was “fiercely independent” of government.
In August, the information and privacy commissioner extended the response time for the Department of Education to Nov. 4, 2014. I have yet to receive a single document in response to this request. The department has now advised that there are so many responsive documents (something like 20,000 documents) that it will take one staff member four years to complete the task or 18 staff to complete the task in a four-month period. We have been asked to identify priorities. We have done so, identifying correspondence between Johnson and Feltham as a priority, along with several others. We have still not received any materials in response to this request.
The Association also launched a FOIP request after the Metro newspaper printed hearing decisions of teachers in which Johnson did not accept the recommendation of the hearing committee and substituted a greater penalty. Metro reported that it had initiated a FOIP request to obtain these materials and so the Association initiated a FOIP request to obtain the FOIP request and materials related to the release.
We have received the responsive documents, and there was no FOIP request from Metro to trigger the release of the materials. Johnson and chief of staff Thomas Bradley directed department staff to prepare the materials for release in response to an email from Metro, and given a purported FOIP request from Metro, released the materials to other media as well. From the Association’s perspective, the release was a deliberate effort by Minister Johnson to undermine the Association’s professional conduct process and was not initiated by a FOIP request.
We await the release of responsive materials relating to the Task Force for Teaching Excellence. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).