As the 2015 Newspapers Canada FOI audit notes, the Ontario government is once again the king of the mountain when it comes to fees.
The Ministry of Transportation quoted a fee of $580 to provide a machine-readable file of contracts of $10,000 or more. This is the same information that every federal department proactively discloses, at no charge, on its website.
Quoting from the audit report, “This included 9 hours of programming time at $60 an hour. The ministry estimated it would take 5 hours alone to write the necessary SQL scripts; SQL is a simple language that allows for quick querying of databases. How five hours of writing SQL queries could be required was not explained. Why this was seen as qualifying as computer programming was also not explained (SQL is not a programming language, but a command language for querying databases).”
Fees can be an insurmountable barrier to access, simply because many requesters can’t afford to pay them. The 2011 special Ontario audit found that more than half of requests with fees greater than or equal to $500 were abandoned or withdrawn. The higher the fee, the greater the chance of this happening. The 2015 audit report, which you can read here, discusses fees in a special section.