Nova Scotia

Halifax employees getting bonuses should be named, says privacy czar

A report by Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner recommends Halifax disclose the yearly bonuses paid to non-union employees.

'It's time to put this secrecy aside,' says man who filed access-to-information request that prompted report

The ruling is a victory for the Dartmouth, N.S., man who filed an access-to-information request to get the names of city planning department employees who received bonuses during a five-year stretch, as well as the bonus amounts. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner says the Halifax Regional Municipality should release the names of non-union employees who receive bonuses.

Colin May, a Dartmouth, N.S., resident, asked for a list of people in the planning department who received bonuses over a five-year period from 2010 to 2015.

He applied for the information in 2016, but the municipality would only provide a list of the bonus amounts.

The municipality argued the disclosure of the names would be an "unreasonable invasion of the third parties personal privacy."

May appealed the decision and commissioner Catherine Tully completed her review last week.

Catherine Tully, Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner, is shown in her Halifax office on June 5, 2019. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

"With respect to performance based payments to municipal employees, the law makes clear that the balance falls in favour of accountability and transparency," the report stated.

The report recommends Halifax disclose the yearly bonuses paid to non-union employees.

"It's time to put this secrecy aside and walk the talk," May said. "When it comes to how taxpayers' money is spent, openness is the greatest value that we can have."

He hopes the mayor and council will decide to release the information following Tully's decision.

"The law has spoken on this several times in other jurisdictions across Canada and there's no reason not to do this," May said.

City's response

But in an email, a municipal spokesperson said salary ranges for all non-union employees, along with total compensation amounts for anyone who earns more than $100,000 annually, are already provided and compensation breakdowns would disclose personal information.

Erin DiCarlo said the municipality will take the 30 days it is given to respond to the commissioner.

If the city ignores Tully's recommendation, May would have to appeal to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to get the information he requested.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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