P.E.I. government takes privacy commissioner to court — again

1 / 2
P.E.I. government takes privacy commissioner to court — again

The P.E.I. government has launched another legal challenge against the province's freedom of information and privacy commissioner.

An application for a judicial review was filed in P.E.I. Supreme Court on Oct. 2 on behalf of Premier Wade MacLauchlan, acting in his capacity as minister of justice and public safety.

Government is asking the court to direct privacy commissioner Karen Rose to reconsider two recent rulings where she determined government had disclosed personal information of individuals contrary to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

In May, Health PEI made a separate application for a judicial review asking the court to strike down another order from the privacy commissioner.

In that case, Rose ordered Health PEI to share a report with her so she could confirm the agency's claim that the report constitutes a quality-improvement exercise, and thus does not have to be disclosed to the public. So far Health PEI has refused to provide the commissioner with the report.

That case is now waiting for a hearing date.

Legal budget already spent

A spokesperson for the privacy commissioner's office told CBC News that as of September the office had already overspent its legal budget of $16,000 for the fiscal year that ends March 31, 2018.

Most of that money was spent on a separate court challenge launched by a private company. So far the commissioner's office has spent $4,092 on the ongoing challenge from Health PEI.

According to documents filed in court, Health PEI is represented in its application by the firm of Cox & Palmer. No information was provided by Health PEI regarding how much it's spent on the case so far.

Regarding the most recent court application, the Department of Justice and Public Safety provided CBC News with a statement saying it was "optimistic" that application will not proceed through the full judicial review process.

In the statement, the department says it "takes all recommendations from the information and privacy commissioner very seriously.

"Government is committed to ensuring information received from the public is handled in compliance with both the Freedom of Information and Protection and Privacy Act and the Archives and Records Act. Government is also working to ensure employees have clear direction on how to adhere to these two important pieces of legislation."

'Unsolicited personal information'

The statement explains that two recent orders include recommendations on how to handle unsolicited personal information under the act.

"We need to reconcile these two orders from the commissioner with the process for handling public records, including unsolicited personal information, under the Archives and Records Act."

The statement adds that the judicial review will allow time for further discussion with the commissioner, and within government and that this case is being handled by internal government legal counsel, using existing resources.

- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | 'A way of speaking up for yourself': #MeToo campaign gains traction on P.E.I.

- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Finding the top 25 ways to pull carbon from the atmosphere