Man suing P.E.I. government for millions seeks contempt ruling over fight for documents
After government misses freedom-of-information deadline, applicant says there should be consequences
A fight over access to more than 1,000 pages of government documents moved from the office of P.E.I.'s information and privacy commissioner into P.E.I. Supreme Court in Charlottetown Thursday.
Paul Maines, president of a company suing the P.E.I. government for $150 million, has asked the court to find the province in contempt for failing to meet its own deadline.
Maines filed a freedom-of-information request for the documents in May 2019. In October the province's deputy minister of economic growth and tourism signed a written agreement to provide the documents by Jan. 7, 2020.
Maines received 1,255 pages of documents Monday, but said the multiple delays in getting the documents are unacceptable and he will continue his court battle to have the province found in contempt.
'Important there are consequences'
"I think we're on a very slippery slope," Maines said in an interview Thursday following a brief court appearance.
"This will become their game plan for documents they don't want to release. So it's very important there are consequences, because not everybody can fight this fight. Not everybody can challenge, file motions, hire lawyers."
A brief hearing Thursday was adjourned after Maines, representing himself, told the court he has filed a second, similar motion and plans to file two more in the coming weeks. The judge said he would hear arguments related to all four motions at the same time, but no date for a future hearing was set.
Maines is seeking documents he believes will shed light on issues related to his company's lawsuit against the P.E.I. government. That suit by Capital Markets Technologies was dismissed in September, but an appeal is scheduled to be heard in May.
2nd e-gaming lawsuit
CMT alleges government was in breach of contract with regards to a plan to set up a financial service centre to process online transactions.
The allegations stemmed from a memorandum of understanding signed between government and a subsidiary of CMT in July of 2012. Efforts to set up a financial services centre in the province came in the wake of the province's and Mi'kmaq Confederacy's failed attempt to establish P.E.I. as a regulator for online gambling — the province's e-gaming affair.
In dismissing the suit for the second time in September 2019, Justice Gordon Campbell wrote in his decision the "allegations were without any factual basis."
The motion, which was scheduled to be argued in court Thursday, relates to one of several freedom-of-information requests Maines filed with the province last May.
Because the province took months to respond to that request and others, Maines asked the privacy commissioner to review the file. Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, failure by government to respond within a set time period is deemed to be the same as a decision to refuse access.
'No ill intent'
However rather than conduct a review, the privacy commissioner instead produced four consent orders — documents in which she ordered the province to respond to Maines' requests, according to deadlines agreed upon by both parties.
Maines filed the consent orders in P.E.I. Supreme Court, which, according to P.E.I.'s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, makes them enforceable in the same way as a judgment of the court.
The privacy commissioner said while consent orders are commonly used in other jurisdictions, it's the first time they've been used on P.E.I.
As part of government's court submission, the province's lawyer Mitchell O'Shea argued "there was no ill intent" on government's part in missing the deadline, and thus the province cannot be found in contempt.
"The province submits that they did not intentionally breach the consent order," O'Shea wrote in the submission, attributing the missed deadlines "to unforeseen and unexpected absences and staffing issues."