BC privacy commissioner urging transparency for BC's $500M fund, InBC

Independent commissioner Michael McEvoy calls access to information "vitally important to achieving and keeping trust."

BC Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy is urging the provincial government to bring its proposed InBC Investment Corp. (InBC) under BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

On April 27, 2021 the BC government introduced legislation to create InBC, a crown corporation that will be charged with managing $500 million in public funds aimed at investing in BC’s business and innovation sectors.

The government has yet to decide whether InBC will be subject to FIPPA.

“My understanding is that InBC will manage some $500,000,000.00 of public funds for the purpose of investing in BC-based businesses with a triple bottom line mandate,” McEvoy wrote to Minister Ravi Kahlon (Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation) and Minister Lisa Beare (Citizens’ Services), in a letter dated May 19, 2021. “Because InBC will be making decisions about the allocation of significant public monies and discharging important public functions, it should be subject to transparency and accountability under FIPPA.”

In the letter, McEvoy points to various precedents for his reasoning, pointing to the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, which manages $171.3 billion in public funds, as well as crown agency Innovate BC, which allocates public funds to private parties to finance innovation and economic development. Both are subject to FIPPA.

He also points to other provinces, including Ontario, for precedent. “Ontario also offers up an example that is analogous to InBC,” McEvoy writes. “The Ontario Capital Growth Corporation, whose website describes it as the venture capital agency of the government of Ontario, has been subject to that province’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act since 2011 and I understand that this has not presented any challenges.”

McEvoy’s ultimate viewpoint is: “There can be no doubt that, despite its investment independence from government—an independence shared by other public bodies covered by FIPPA—the public’s trust of InBC will depend upon its ongoing transparency and accountability.”

“The public’s right of access to information under FIPPA, tempered by exceptions that can appropriately protect InBC’s and third-party interests, is vitally important to achieving and keeping that trust,” McEvoy concludes.