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Innisfail Stepping Up Search For New CAO

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By Sheldon Spackman

Innisfail Town Council has given the green light for efforts to be stepped up in a search for a new CAO. During their regular meeting this week, a professional search firm was hired to conduct the process. Ravenhill Group Inc. was approved by Council to carry out the task. The $21,000 cost will be funded from the Town’s 2017 Operating Contingency account. Current CAO Helen Dietz announced her retirement last December, and will work her final day with the Town on Friday, June 30th.

Elsewhere, Council approved a new waste collection contract that will see service provided by Waste Management Canada until 2018. The current contract was set to expire in April. Waste Management Canada, which has provided the Town’s curbside garbage and commercial pickup since 2002, was approved for the new one-year contract. Automation of Innisfail’s waste collection will also be considered towards the end of the new contract, with the public consulted about the cost and different options before it expires.

Also, a new three-year service agreement was been signed with Parkland Community Planning Services (PCPS) for continued current-day and long-range planning, subdivision processing and technical advice, among other services. Through the contract, the Town’s minimum annual obligation will decrease by more than half, dropping to $40,000 from over $85,000 due to a new business model being implemented by PCPS. PCPS provides shared planning services to its municipal members on a non-profit basis.

Innisfail’s current agreement with PCPS is set to expire at the end of March, with the new agreement coming into effect on April 1st.

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ZZ Top: Bearded bassist Dusty Hill dies in his sleep at 72

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HOUSTON (AP) — ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill, one of the Texas blues trio’s bearded figures, died at his Houston home, the band announced Wednesday on Facebook. He was 72.

In their post, guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard said Hill died in his sleep. They didn’t give a cause of death, but a July 21 post on the band’s website said Hill was “on a short detour back to Texas, to address a hip issue.”

At that time, the band said its longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, would fill in on bass, slide guitar and harmonica.

Born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, he, Gibbons and Beard formed ZZ Top in Houston in the late 1970s.

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Access requester told to wait five years for public health agency head’s email, texts

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OTTAWA — A requester seeking access to a week’s worth of emails and messages from the head of a federal agency embroiled in controversy has been told to wait five years or more for a response under Canada’s information law.

The applicant recently asked the Public Health Agency of Canada for emails, texts and messages that president Iain Stewart had sent or received from June 14 to 21.

The Access to Information request was prompted by curiosity about Stewart’s refusal to provide a House of Commons committee with unredacted documents about the firing of two scientists, which touched off a battle with Speaker Anthony Rota.

The Canadian Press granted the requester anonymity because they are concerned about the possible implications of publicity for their employment as an Ontario public servant.

Under federal access law, agencies are supposed to answer requests within 30 days or provide reasons why more time is needed.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recently informed the applicant that an extension of up to 1,950 days — over five years and four months — would be required. It said the request involves a large number of records, the original time limit would unduly interfere with agency operations and another government institution must be consulted.

The Public Health Agency had no immediate further comment.

The requester and experts in freedom of information said the lengthy extension defeats the purpose of the access law.

“Transparency is only a lame catchphrase,” said the applicant, accusing the agency of obstructing access to the records.

“Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The requester has complained to the federal information commissioner — an ombudsman for users of the law — in the hope she will remedy the delay.

“She has the chance to take bold action and finally hold federal bureaucrats to account — especially on such a pressing issue of public interest.”

Fred Vallance-Jones, an asssociate professor of journalism at University of King’s College in Halifax, said the extension amounts to “something like eight months of additional time for each single day of messages, which seems absurd on its surface.”

“It’s important to note that Stewart is a very senior official, and there is every expectation that his communications would be preserved and accessible,” Vallance-Jones said.

“Access to information loses any meaning if information cannot be retrieved in a reasonable amount of time and I think that is doubly true for people at this level who should be able to anticipate such requests.”

When Sean Holman, who studies the history of freedom of information, first saw the extension notice, he thought: “This must be a joke.”

“This is nothing but delaying access to effectively deny access and another example of how the Trudeau government has broken the Liberals’ election promise to be open by default,” said Holman, a journalism professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

The latest extension comes shortly after New Democrat MP Charlie Angus learned it could take the Justice Department more than six years to process his request for documents related to a new regulator that will handle child pornography and exploitative material.

The federal government is currently reviewing the Access to Information Act and how it is administered.

In a submission to the review, the group World Press Freedom Canada said federal institutions have little incentive to abide by reasonable time-frames.

“There is no clear limit to the length of extensions they can unilaterally invoke, and blowing past deadlines has no material consequences. The playing field is tilted in their favour.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2021.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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july, 2021

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