Gas Buster Part 45: More Excerpts from Info and Privacy Commissioner’s Report

As mentioned in Part 44, one of my Freedom of Information requests, which focuses on gas plant documents from the Premier’s Office during a time period in 2012 and is now involved in formal Information and Privacy Commissioner’s (IPC) adjudication, is discussed several times in the report.

Although my FOI is not directly identified, the government’s failure to respond to the request is referenced as a key piece of evidence in supporting the conclusions of the IPC report.

One of those references is identified in Part 44. Here are three additional examples.

In discussing the origin and scope of her report, the Commissioner had this to say:

More importantly, at the same time that this information was being provided to my staff, adjudicators in my office were, and continue to be in the process of, conducting several inquiries into appeals filed by requesters who were seeking access to information from the former Premier’s office about the closure of the gas plants. In those appeals, the former Premier’s office has claimed that it has no records responsive to the access requests.

In my view, it was incumbent upon me to investigate all of these allegations to determine if
there was an attempt by anyone in the former Premier’s office to interfere with the freedom of information process and inappropriately delete records that may have been responsive to the freedom of information requests.

I must note that in these FIPPA appeals, the issue is whether a reasonable search was conducted for the records at issue. In this Report, I will not be commenting on the reasonableness of the searches conducted by the former Premier’s office staff, as the adequacy of the searches will be dealt with in the context of the inquiries related to those appeals.

In light of the information provided to me by the Secretary, I decided to expand the scope of my investigation in order to determine whether any staff in the former Premier’s office had engaged in inappropriate conduct in relation to the gas plant records in its possession.

In discussing whether the former Premier’s office complied with its obligations under the
Premier’s Records Retention Schedule and the ARA, the Commissioner noted:

As indicated earlier, my office is currently processing appeals under FIPPA relating to records in the former Premier’s office. Speaking broadly, in these appeals, the appellant seeks access to records in the former Premier’s office that relate to the gas plant decisions. In the context of those appeals, the Premier’s office has taken the position that there were no responsive records in its custody and control “¦ Having considered all of the evidence, I am satisfied that the Premier’s Office Records Retention Schedule and the ARA was not adhered to. The simple existence of a “delete all emails” policy is proof that no judgement was brought to bear on whether emails were business records subject to the retention policy, as compared to transitory records. Clearly, no system was put in place to ensure that the responsibilities laid out in the Premier’s Office Records Retention Schedule and the ARA were met.

In discussing whether there was a culture of avoiding the creation of written documentation on the gas plants issue, the Commissioner noted:

As to the reason why no written records were ever created ““ whether to increase efficiency or to prevent any of these materials from seeing the light of day and forming the subject of a freedom of information request, one thing is clear ““ the culture within the former Minister of Energy’s office and former Premier’s office was predominantly a verbal one. This practice causes us great concern. Without a written record of how key government decisions are made, the government can avoid disclosure and public scrutiny as to the basis and reasons for its actions.