Order F2006-007: Summary
DATE: October 12, 2007
PUBLIC BODY: Alberta International Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations
FOIP REQUEST: The applicant requested access to all records relating to the appointment of a senior official to the Province's office in Washington, D.C. Alberta International Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations (IIAR) provided a copy of the official's employment contract but severed information relating to salary, benefits, employment responsibilities, and the signatures of the parties. The applicant asked the Information and Privacy Commissioner to review IIAR's decision.
ISSUES: IIAR submitted that the disclosure of the severed information would be an unreasonable invasion of the privacy of third parties or would harm the department's economic interests. The applicant claimed that the severed information should be disclosed because it was information about discretionary benefits or employment responsibilities, or because the disclosure would subject the activities of the Government to public scrutiny.
DECISION AND REASONS:
- The Adjudicator found that actual salary of the official was not a "salary range," so section 17(2)(e) would not apply. The Adjudicator also found that the salary was not "employment history" for purposes of section 17(4). Referring to the definition of "employment history" in Orders F2004-026 and F2003-005, the Adjudicator reasoned that the salary is not an event and would not form part of a chronology of a person's working life.
- The Adjudicator determined that subjecting the activities of the Government to public scrutiny was a relevant consideration that weighed heavily in favour of disclosure of the official's salary. In discussing the public component required in section 17(5)(a), the Adjudicator referred to the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench decision in University of Alberta v. Pylypiuk, the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Dagg v. Canada (Minister of Finance) and Order F2005-016. The Adjudicator determined that public accountability and public interest were at the heart of the terms under which senior officials are hired by public bodies. This was particularly the case where the official was appointed to represent the interests of the Province in Washington, D.C.
- In addition, Treasury Board Directive 03/2004 requires the disclosure of salaries and benefits of senior officials in a ministry's annual report. This was evidence that the Government considers the disclosure of such information to the public to be an important part of accountability. The Directive was also evidence that the official did not have a reasonable expectation that his salary would be kept confidential (section 17(5)(f)).
- It was not an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy to disclose the contractual clauses spelling out the employment responsibilities of, and the discretionary benefits received by, the official (section 17(2)(e)). The Adjudicator found that the amount of vacation time and pay, termination notice and pay, disability insurance benefits and pension plan benefits were negotiated by IIAR and, therefore, were discretionary benefits flowing from the employment relationship. The Adjudicator noted, in particular, that IIAR exercised its discretion to negotiate vacation time and pay and termination notice and pay in excess of the statutory minimums required by the Employment Standards Code.
- Citing Order 2005-005, the Adjudicator stated that the signatures of individuals on the contract were personal information. The fact that certain parties signed as representatives of IIAR and the Government weighed in favour of their disclosure (section 17(5)). Although the official signed in his personal capacity, it was important to disclose his signature for public accountability purposes. The Adjudicator reasoned that the signature indicated that the contract was legally binding and that relevant legislative provisions and the Treasury Board Directive would be complied with. The Adjudicator indicated that it may not have been necessary to disclose the signatures had the contract specified the names of the signatories and the fact that the contract had been executed.
- The Adjudicator rejected the argument that IIAR's economic interests would be harmed by the disclosure of the severed information (section 25). Referring to Order 96-016, the Adjudicator stated that there was no evidence that harm would result from the disclosure of the specific information in question. Rather, IIAR's projected harm appeared to relate to the disclosure of contractual provisions in general. Disclosing the severed information would not, in itself, harm the Government's or IIAR's ability to negotiate future contracts since any job candidate could develop a negotiation strategy from the salary and benefits information available in ministry annual reports.
Alberta International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations was ordered to disclose the employment contract in its entirety.
SECTOR: Government - Departments