Access to Information

Vancouver is awash with climate change news today (and may soon be awash in sewage). The Vancouver Sun published details from a Federal Engineers Report (link to report) detailing the vulnerability of infrastructure in seven communities across the country. The most consistent finding is that more concentrated periods of heavy rainfall threaten to overwhelm old combined storm water/sewage systems and flush raw sewage into local waters. (see why here)I've written about the problems and opportunities of aging infrastructure before and will again. The real story here though seems to be about access to information.

The Sun reports having "unearthed" the report - assuming this is not an exaggeration this makes it the third important climate related report to be swept into a dark corner by the federal government. Last week the Globe & Mail reported that a major report on the health impacts of climate change (Human Health in a Changing Climate: A Canadian Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacity - not available on-line) is scheduled for the same treatment as a Natural Resources Canada report (From Impacts to Adaptation) that was first delayed and then covered over last year. All this while in May the Tories shut-down the access to information database that streamlined public requests for information from government agencies. Some are comparing this to similar treatment of climate research south of the border.

The ridiculousness of all this is pretty plain to see. The main challenge to planning for climate change is the lack of good research done at a regional or local level. Hiding work that has been done gets us nowhere - or worse.

UPDATE: While the federal government announced the beginning of the infrastructure research in early 2007, it chose not to publicize the reports once they were completed (at a cost of $1 million in public funds, good research is expensive.) Take a quick look at the rest of the NRCAN press release archives if you are interested.

UPDATE 2: Scott Simpson, author of the original piece in the Sun, wrote: "I'm probably the only reporter in Canada who had even an incling of their existence.
That's not vanity. . . . I spoke with PIEVC folks last year before the project got started. . . And promptly forgot about it until my memory was jogged last week at a conference where a PIEVC representative spoke." --Thanks Scott!


1 Response to "Access to Information"

Chrystal Ocean said... 15 September 2008 at 15:04

Great and informative post, Alex. (And thanks for stopping by my place.)

Are you on the Progressive Bloggers aggregator? If not, you should be.


This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

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