By Mike Archer. After a Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOI) request, the Abbotsford News was able to publish a partial cost to the Standoff in Jubilee last fall which ended in the forced eviction of the Drug War Survivors (DWS) protesters from Jubilee Park on Christmas Eve.
According to the partial accounting given to the News, “… staff overtime costs to clear the site [were] $40,875, while contract services cost $15,049 and departmental supplies and miscellaneous expenses were $6,660.”
Then the kicker – “The city withheld the legal costs for the file, citing section 14 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, stating that the information is subject to solicitor-client privilege.”
Why would the costs of legal action be protected by solicitor-client privilege? Are we to have the cost of the City of Abbotsford’s miserable reputation for breaking the law, acting outside of the law and enacting illegal bylaws kept from us because they have hired lawyers to protect themselves against us?
The DWS made a point of arguing that the City of Abbotsford was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the poor instead of helping them. Was this partial response to an FOI request an attempt to minimize the amount people think is being spent fighting the homeless? Was it an attempt to make the homeless victims of the City of Abbotsford seem responsible for the costs of policing and lawyers being used against them?
Is the cost of the City’s seeming inability to act within the confines of Canadian jurisprudence being kept from us?
This is anything but a moot point. Both in this specific case, where the City’s desire to win a legal battle seems to have outweighed any attempt at discussion, negotiation or simply talking with the homeless men and women of the protest in order to find out what they wanted, or in a more general sense within terms of the mounting costs of a city council which has shown a propensity for passing ultra vires bylaws; signing illegal contracts; illegally subsidizing private business and who knows what other questionable actions during the last ten years.
Citizens have a right to know the costs of the widespread incompetence both at the council table and in the bureaucracy which may have led to unduly high legal costs. If our politicians and bureaucrats can’t stay within the lines when it comes to the law, how on earth can Abbotsford citizens trust them to enforce the law.
For a city which has its own private police force, these are critical questions.
Good on the News for asking. Now it should follow up with a challenge to the city’s argument that citizens have no right to know how much its mishandling of the homeless protests at Jubilee Park cost taxpayers by hiding behind lawyer–client privilege.
The citizens are the client in this case and their agents – the City – should stop hiding behind legal niceties and start down a path towards telling the truth, the whole truth, to the people who pay their salaries and must shoulder the burden of their mistakes and incompetence.