Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay says the Yukon government needs to have a clearer process for its new open data portal. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

YG’s information portal needs work, says Information and Privacy Commissioner

No timelines for publishing information is one concern

There are holes in the Yukon government’s newfangled open data portal, according to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“There are no timelines or process or anything, unfortunately,” Diane McLeod-McKay told the News, adding that it’s unclear whom Yukoners can speak with if they need help with their requests.

Unveiled on June 25, the portal is a means to make information more readily available, officials say, while reducing the number of access to information requests.

It appears to be a work in progress, a medium that sources new information from residents — if something isn’t there, Yukoners can ask for it, then, over the course of an undetermined time, it will appear on the portal.

When someone makes a formal information request using the access to information legislation, the government has 30 days to respond. It can, however, call for an extension, bumping that up to 90.

Last week a reporter with the News asked how long it would take for a request to add information to the portal to be completed. Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn essentially said then that there are no timeframes to follow.

McLeod-McKay sees a problem with this.

“I think one of our recommendations would be to develop a process so that certain things occur, describe the process so people know what to expect, identify some timeframes, even if they’re estimates,” she said, adding that formal comments are going to be sent to the department eventually.

“The purpose of it is to make information accessible to the public so that they can make decisions and hold government to account on certain issues that may be occurring, and if you’re having to wait a significant amount of time to do that, then that’s sort of undermining the whole right of access to information and the reasons that timelines exist, because part of your suite of rights is to get information in a timely manner.”

There should be a policy put in place that standardizes how long it will take to have information posted online, McLeod-McKay said. If the department can’t meet a tentative deadline, that should be communicated clearly, she added.

A spokesperson with the department said residents wanting a time-limited response should file an ATIPP.

“We will make our best efforts to publish new datasets that meet the criteria for online posting as soon as possible, as long as those datasets are part of the existing data holdings of the Yukon government,” said Brittany Cross in a written statement, noting a tool available for Yukoners to submit feedback. “Our default position is ‘if this data exists, make it available to the public.’”

Parameters are in not sharing data that would harm someone or a resource, she continued.

“Dataset requests are collected from the portal and routed to departments for processing. In some cases, the requested dataset may not be available because it does not exist, or meet the guidelines for release.”

There’s another matter that needs tending to, according to McLeod-McKay. Complicating user experience further is that residents appear to be unassisted when navigating the portal and filling out requests, she said.

“I think that needs to be really clear so individuals can pickup the phone and get some information.”

Cross said there’s an email address for residents to access if they need help with the service: eservices@gov.yk.ca.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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