BURLINGTON - The Halton Catholic District School Board is again prepared to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars in fighting a Freedom of Information request asking who they gave tax receipts to for over $1 million dollars.
The HCDSB is a registered as a charity as are all Ontario school boards. This is done in order to avoid paying taxes on moneys transferred to school boards (and other government institutions) by the Ontario government.
Even though information regarding identifiable individuals was not requested the HCDSB claims they can't say how many tax receipts they issued, to what companies or organizations, or the respective amounts stating the following reasons;
It's a trade secret
It's scientific, commercial, financial or labour relations information
The information has monetary or potential monetary value
Most people have asked questions to which they have received an answer that makes them think the other person giving it must be smoking crack. How could a donation to a school board be considered a trade secret? scientific? or labour relations?
The person that denies FOI requests at the Board is the FOI head and by Board policy the FOI Head is the Director Paula Dawson.
As in most cases it's a matter of interpreting the FOI law as to whether or not an information request is or is not granted. Which means the Director can spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting an FOI request (as she has done previously) or she could simply release the information depending on her interpretation of the law. It's her call and she could release the information in a New York minute if she wanted to. Just so she knows, no FOI head has ever been fined or jailed for releasing information.
The cost to release the information $5.00, the cost to fight it $10,000.00 + Taking that kind of money away from student programs just doesn't make sense considering all the financial pressures the Board claims to be under. Maybe they have more money than they know what to do with or they like to spend whatever it takes to keep information out of taxpayers hands. Either way this Board can never claim it is transparent and mindful of taxpayers money. The Board's motto, Achieving, Believing and Belonging should be Deceiving, Ignoring and Conniving - DIC for short.
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