Saskatchewan ignoring requests from privacy commissioner to release documents: report

REGINA — Saskatchewan’s privacy commissioner says provincial ministries and agencies ignored dozens of his requests over the last year to release public information.

A report from Ron Kruzeniski, released Thursday, said there were 84 times from April 2023 to March 2024 when those bodies partially or fully brushed off his recommendations to have documents made public.

The report says information was fully yielded in 45 per cent of cases when requested by the commissioner.

The Opposition NDP said the figures reveal a secretive Saskatchewan Party government.

“I think it’s deliberate,” NDP democracy critic Meara Conway told reporters.

“I think they benefit by their decisions being in the dark. There’s less scrutiny and it weakens our democracy."

Premier Scott Moe’s office wrote in an emailed statement Thursday it has a long-standing commitment to transparency, saying information requests are granted whole or in part 94 per cent of the time, if records exist.

It also said it considers its compliance with the privacy commissioner "high," as some of his recommendations are partially acted on.

Kruzeniski was not available for an interview.

Conway said there have been multiple times the NDP did not get documents, even after the commissioner recommended it be done.

She said there were roadblocks in getting information about a motel owned by Saskatchewan Party MLA Gary Grewal. But the party did eventually get some details.

Grewal's business received more social services clients after he was elected in 2020, and it also charged higher rates to those patrons. The province, which has since pledged to change how it procures hotels, denied wrongdoing.

“Initially, (the government’s) position was nothing to see here,” Conway said.

She said the privacy commissioner’s office should be given power to compel government bodies to release information, a measure that's already in place in several other provinces and territories.

Kruzeniski’s report recommends his office be given that authority to promote transparency.

Conway said her party would make the change if it wins the provincial election this fall.

Moe's office said it would have to undertake significant consultations to give the commissioner those powers. It would also have to consider the financial, legal and human resources burdens on institutions that fall under access-to-information laws, it said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2024.

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press