Enhancing transparency at the City of Lacombe

I believe that governments should be open and transparent, and I am proud to report that Council and staff at the City of Lacombe are committed to openness and accountability in the workings of the municipality. Together we’re striving to ensure the public trust by sharing municipal information – consistent with our bylaws and policies – with residents through local and regional mass media networks, and through the City’s website and social media channels.

However, as a public body, the City has to ensure that the measures we take to increase accountability and transparency are consistent with our laws and policies, and that we protect the personal information we collect through the course of normal operations under privacy legislation like the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act.

Personal information is something that most of us provide to organizations every day, and we often provide this information without a second thought to who might have access to it, or how it could be used or shared. Private businesses like banks, credit card companies, and social media sites store our names, where we live, where we went to school, who our friends are, and many other details which we don`t pay much attention to. These businesses usually promise to protect the private information we provide through their policies and procedures.

Public bodies like public libraries, school boards, and universities that collect, use, store and disclose our personal information have to comply with stringent privacy legislation. Local governments like the City of Lacombe also need to protect personal information. Resident names, home addresses, phone numbers, and property tax information are all protected information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act, and under the City of Lacombe’s Council Policy: Access to Information and Protection of Privacy.

The FOIP Act seeks to strike a balance between the public's right to know and an individual's right to privacy with regard to records held by the City of Lacombe.

The FOIP Act defines personal information as “any recorded information about an identifiable individual.” An individual’s name, home or business address or home or business telephone number, race, ethnic origin, religious or political association is all personal information. Even an opinion about an individual is personal information belonging to that individual.

The FOIP Act provides direction for the manner in which the City can collect, use, and disclose personal information. It also allows individuals – subject to exceptions – the right of access to personal information about themselves, and the right to request corrections to that personal information. It also provides for independent reviews of decisions made, and the resolution of complaints under the Act.

Another facet I would like to add to this discussion is the right of access to information. The FOIP Act allows any person a right of access to the records in the custody and control of a public body, again subject to the exceptions set out in the Act. These requests for non-personal information, known as general information requests, require an initial fee, and possible additional costs.

For more information regarding the City of Lacombe’s FOIP program, or to make a FOIP Request form, please go to www.lacombe.ca/doing-business/freedom-of-information-and-privacy or you can contact our FOIP Coordinator at 403-782-1281.

Remember, general requests, or requests for non-personal information, require an initial fee of $25 payable to the City of Lacombe. Requests for personal information do not require an initial fee. If the request is made on behalf of another individual, an Authorization of Representative form must be submitted.

                                                                                                                              - Mayor Steve Christie


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