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Another Goverment Sellout?

January 24, 2014
By Liz Galenzoski

At 4:00 a.m. this morning, I opened the first of two articles (About Us and Rules of Legislative Conduct) which were scheduled to be posted on the BC Refed website today. In preparation for the update, I would do one last check on the links we had embedded in the articles.
The purpose for the links was to give the source from which we took and repeated our information, and to encourage our members and readers to visit the government website and experience government from the comfort of their own homes. All the links were from the BC government website, and they had been available on the government website as recently as last week.

When I clicked on the first link, I was shocked to find myself taken to a website which gave the title of the bill I wanted, but no other information. A quick glance around the home page told me that this was a new site, and it was missing all reference to the BC government such as a logo, etc. I instantaneously spotted the free 15-day trial. I was stunned (but not really surprised.)
After more than 30 years of research, much of it on various government websites, I have never been offered a free trial or overtly asked for payment. At that moment, I was keenly aware of the fact that from now on I, and everyone else, would be charged for what I always considered our material, that is belonging to the citizens of not only BC but the entire world to anyone with a computer and a question or just curiosity.
At the top of the page I found the company name, Quickscribe Services Ltd.,  and at the bottom of the page, I found contact information including a toll-free phone number. Also, I filled in the form to apply for my free trial, which included a check box option for getting pricing information. Oh, I realized: This is not a one-time membership fee. Then I waited for a reply to my email address. By 10:00 a.m., none had arrived; so I called the toll-free number.
The person who sets up the trial accounts is away until next Friday, I was told. I asked the person who answered the phone if she knew how much it would cost for access after the free trial. She did not know; I would have to wait until next Friday and talk to the person in charge of that department.The articles, now in limbo, will be delayed one week.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Many things.

Aside from the things I have already mentioned, I noticed a nice-looking, high-tech feature on the home page. The title is: Companies Using Quickscribe Services Ltd. The high-tech feature is a list that scrolls by with the names of companies that already subscribe to this service. Some are private companies, and then there are numerous government departments, the judiciary, Worksafe, BC Hydro, 95% of Local Government, the RCMP, and the list goes on.
Who will pay for all these requests, many of which were previously available for the price of the staff to prepare this material and post it on the government website?
The answer to that question is: YOU!
Previously, once a document was posted, anyone could see it, copy it or print it. Now, there will be numerous (sometimes many) government departments, groups, and individuals who will all pay separately for the right to the same document. Every department, group and company will charge their costs back to the consumer. Wow! That corporate bottom line should be moving up soon.
Among the many people who will have to pay for documents are those who are confronted with legal matters. Court transcripts, which were once free of extra charge, except for the salaries of those who prepared them, copied them, distributed them in some manner, will now pay a hefty price which will provide a windfall on the bottom line of the the private corporation, Quickscribe Services Ltd.
In a conversation earlier today with someone who was representing himself in a court matter and could have found the court transcript from a previous trial helpful in preparing his case, he told me he would have had to pay a relatively small amount per page which would have cost him about $3,000 for the entire transcript.
How has this happen?
At the moment, I don’t know the answer to that question. More important, I don’t know if I can find the answer without paying a fee for it through the Freedom of Information legislation, and then permission could be denied.
I do know with some certainty that this was done out of the view of public eyes. I can be described as a political junky and accused of being addicted to the news, but I have not heard a word about moving this government service to the private sector. Was it an Order-in-Council? I don’t know, but if I am able to get to the bottom of how this happened, I will post another update on our website and send out another bulletin.
When the legislature is not sitting and there can be no vigorous debate, and when a minority opposition which does not seem to know its job - I assume its members have access at taxpayers’ expense, and when the media which claims to hold politicians’ feet to the fire are silent on such devious actions by a government, we must protect ourselves from out-of-control politicians and despotic governments.
This deliberate action of hiding our documents behind a fee is a grievous injustice to British Columbians as well as others. It is one of the most serious actions any government can take against the people.
The only way to control provincial governments and politicians is through the use of a voter-ratified provincial constitution.
The BC Refederation Party has promoted direct democracy with a voter-ratified provincial constitution since 2001.

Right now is the best time to make this idea binding on every government.

Forcing government to reverse this decision should be easy and quick with a more effective and less onerous referendum process. Since this process is not yet available to British Columbians, a BC Refed government will return this service to the government where our documents are available to everyone without a charge for profit.

Join us in returning public records to the public domain in 2017!
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