Order 99-006: Summary
DATE: July 6, 1999
PUBLIC BODY: Alberta Treasury
FOIP REQUEST: A request was submitted for access to records about the reversal of $15.7 million of interest on a loan given to the Alberta Pacific Pulp Mill Joint Venture (Al-Pac). Alberta Treasury fully disclosed 11 of the 19 records that it deemed responsive to the request; 4 records were partially disclosed and 4 were withheld. The information was withheld under the exception for advice from officials (section 23). During the course of the inquiry Alberta Treasury reconsidered its position and submitted that one of the records, and parts of two others, were "non-responsive" to the request. The applicant asked the Commissioner to review Alberta Treasury's decisions.
ISSUES: The applicant submitted that the exception for advice from officials should only have been applied if the advice had a material effect on the value of the Al-Pac loan. Alberta Treasury argued that the exception can be used to withhold records that relate to a policy development process within a public body.
DECISION AND REASONS:
- The Information and Privacy Commissioner found that all of the information in the 19 records originally identified by Alberta Treasury was responsive to the applicant's request. The Commissioner noted that the applicant had requested "records" rather than "information." He further noted that a public body should interpret "responsiveness" to mean anything that is reasonably related to the applicant's request. Furthermore, when responding to a request a public body should not limit itself to a key-word search. Since no exceptions to disclosure had been applied by Alberta Treasury to the information it had deemed to be "non-responsive," the Commissioner ordered that that information be released.
- The Commissioner agreed with Alberta Treasury that one of the purposes behind section 23 is to give a public body the ability to develop policy in confidence and found that the remaining information had been properly severed. The Commissioner based his decision on the application of section 23(1)(a) on the test for "advice" set out in Order 96-006. He based his decision on the application of section 23(1)(b) on the same test and the definitions of "consultation" and "deliberation," which are also set out in Order 96-006. The Commissioner also found that Alberta Treasury had properly exercised its discretion not to disclose the records to which section 23 applied.
The Commissioner ordered Alberta Treasury to disclose the information that it had deemed to be "non-responsive" to the request and confirmed the decision to withhold the remainder.
SECTOR: Government - Departments