P.E.I. premier denies suggesting use of private email to circumvent freedom of information

·2 min read
Paul Maines has filed court documents indicating he plans legal action against P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and three other people.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Paul Maines has filed court documents indicating he plans legal action against P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and three other people. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

The person suing the P.E.I. government for $150 million in a breach-of-contract case has filed notice of another pending lawsuit — this one naming Premier Dennis King.

Documents submitted in P.E.I. Supreme Court Friday on behalf of Paul Maines and 765686 Canada Inc. allege King was involved in discussions and meetings in May 2021 around a proposal from an online gaming company.

Furthermore, the documents allege, King advised those involved to use his personal rather than government email address to communicate with him "in order to specifically ensure that Paul Maines, as well as other members of the public… could not obtain information about their correspondence and discussions about Gamesys through the [freedom of information] process."

The claims made in the documents are allegations that have not been tested in court.

But in an affidavit also filed in court Friday, King denied he had attended the meetings in question and said he had not sent or received emails as referenced in the initial court filing.

"I have never stated to any individual that a non-governmental email account ... should be used to ensure that Paul Maines and Kevin Arsenault could not obtain information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act," King states in the affidavit.

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

Arsenault ran against King for the leadership of the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative party in 2019, in the lead-up to the provincial election that made King premier.

In a ruling in June 2020, P.E.I.'s former privacy commissioner said the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture "deliberately withheld" information about missing government emails, in response to freedom-of-information requests from both Maines and Arsenault.

That ruling prompted the creation of a special committee of the legislature to investigate, and that committee in turn made several recommendations to improve government records retention.

Plaintiffs who intend to sue the P.E.I. government are required to provide 90 days' advance notice; that notice of intent was what Maines filed with the court Friday.

The document says Maines intends to file a statement of claim in the future seeking damages of $2 million plus "aggravated and punitive damages."

The notice names other defendants including former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Campbell, and Chris LeClair, the former chief of staff to then-premier Robert Ghiz. The fourth person is Jeffery Reynolds, described as someone who "attended a May 21, 2021 meeting with the other Defendants."

Another lawsuit from Maines filed in 2015 has twice been dismissed by the P.E.I. Supreme Court.

But Maines won a partial victory in the P.E.I. Court of Appeal in 2020, with the court ruling his case against the P.E.I. government could go to trial over breach of contract, while supporting the lower court's ruling to dismiss claims against various individual defendants, including Ghiz.

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