Response to NIMBY and FOIPP


Editor: Two letters in a recent Outlook cry out for response. One was dismissive of residents raising questions about the advisability of pursuing particular development in specific locations; “enough” is when questions are answered, concerns are addressed, options are exhausted, clarification is achieved, interests are identified, confrontation is avoided, responsibility is recognized and, above all, respect is maintained.

NIMBY (an acronym for the phrase Not In My Back Yard) is a pejorative characterization of opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development because it is planned for a location close to them, sometimes with the recognition that such residents believe that the developments may be needed in the community, but would be better placed in another location.

Depending on the context and range of impact of any proposal or matter under discussion, backyard is always a euphemism for a neighbourhood or a community. Plans for a nuclear reactor might raise ramifications over a greater area than – fill in the blank – and the objections would be specific to the different risks and impact on quality of life.

Where there is an interest and a concern, whatever its nature, surely everyone should feel free, even encouraged, to speak out on what they perceive to be the possible detrimental effects of proceeding with a plan in a designated location without those reservations and possible alternatives given a full hearing, with civility and without gratuitous and dismissive response, without being bullied into silence.

The other letter deals with FOIPP. The practice has been to make applicants under the Act identified to those processing the application as well has loosely defined second and third parties. I have two litigation bags full of correspondence accumulated over years from various civil servants to prove it.

Meetings with the commissioner to resolve aspects of the application as it proceeds, including fees, are public hearings and the press is invited. In my case, the commissioner was accompanied by nine other people, including three lawyers.

One of the lawyers had prepared the government’s brief detailing why the information has not been released as required under the Act. A finding by the commissioner that the information sought is “in the public interest” can reduce or eliminate the costs, as happened in my case.

Incidentally, mine was the last order Commissioner Clark signed and the first to which he added a postscript. The postscript mused that the process had become “too legalistic.”

Co-incidentally, the PP in FOIPP stands for Protection of Politicians. There was no “whisteblower protection”; in fact, releasing information that could embarrass a minister was grounds for dismissal. Whether a new broom can or chooses to sweep up the mess remains to be seen.

David Owen,



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