Stephen McNeil's use of phone to ensure secrecy worries privacy czar
Catherine Tully says the province's freedom of information law needs an overhaul
Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner said Premier Stephen McNeil's use of his phone to keep conversations with staff private undermines the province's freedom of information law.
Stephen McNeil admitted the practice to reporters Thursday.
"It's certainly well recognized across Canada and in other Commonwealth countries that a failure to document undermines the freedom of information system by leaving little or no record of government decision-making, so I certainly recognize that that does raise a concern," said commissioner Catherine Tully.
McNeil said he wanted some conversations, particularly those about policies only being considered, kept private.
Some information should be private
"I need to be able to communicate to my staff, and there are certain things I want to be able to tell them that I don't believe should be out in the public domain," McNeil said.
Tully said the current law protects those conversations by exempting advice to cabinet from the law.
She said she would continue to lobby the government to overhaul the current law, including a provision to document decisions.
"That's completely fine, have the discussions," she said. "What I'm recommending is that once the decision is made to not do something, as much as to do something, that that decision be documented," said Tully.
'A duty to document'
"The reasons for the decision be documented, who made it, when it was made. That's a duty to document."
Tully said other provinces such as B.C. and Newfoundland are moving toward that.
She said, based on what's happening here and in other provinces, Nova Scotia needs a law.
Despite McNeil's suggestion the law is fine as is, Tully is already compiling a list of amendments she'd like to see.
"This process always takes years and I'm ready for that."
On Monday, Tully called for a ban on use of personal cellphones and tablets for government business, unless those tools can be set up to retain and store records automatically.