Saskatchewan

Justice minister asks officials to assist GTH in release of documents

Saskatchewan's minister of justice Don Morgan says the Global Transportation Hub will comply with access-to-information laws.

GTH and Brightenview opposed release of documents, citing potential 'negative media attention'

Minister of justice Don Morgan said the GTH will comply with access-to-information legislation. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's Minister of Justice Don Morgan says the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) will comply with access-to-information laws.

Morgan said officials were sent "over to the GTH make sure that they comply fully and deal with things in a proper expeditious manner."

This follows the provincial privacy commissioner's recent ruling recommending that the GTH comply with an access-to-information request from 2017.

The GTH has cited the potential for "negative media attention" as a reason for dragging its feet for almost a year on a series of CBC access-to-information requests about megamall developer Brightenview.

Privacy commissioner Ron Kruzeniski said that this is inappropriate, in response to a complaint by CBC.

"The purpose of FOIP (The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) would be defeated if information could be legitimately withheld simply because an applicant may publish information the applicant has received under FOIP," Kruzeniski wrote in his 23-page decision.

Saskatchewan's information and privacy commissioner Ron Kruzeniski says companies doing business with the government can't avoid public scrutiny. (Stefani Langenegger/CBC)

"Individuals' rights under FOIP cannot be taken away based on what the individual may or may not do with the information."

Government not involved with individual access requests, says Morgan

Morgan, who is also the minister responsible for the GTH, said it is a "balancing act" in the handling of information. He said the the government should ensure commercially sensitive information is protected while also ensuring there is "maximum amount of openness, transparency and accountability."

Morgan said the ministry has experts it can lean on to help ministries, crowns and agencies follow the legislation. He called access-to-information requests at the GTH an "ongoing issue."

"We don't as a government or as politicians get involved with what's in those requests or what the information is."

Morgan said the potential for negative publicity stemming from an access-to-information request is not a reason to withhold information.

NDP asks to expand powers of privacy commissioner

The NDP's justice critic Nicole Sarauer had been asking for the GTH to comply with the privacy commissioner's ruling.

"We need those documents released, the people of Saskatchewan need access to that information," Sarauer said.

NDP justice critic Nicole Sarauer, said the Information and Privacy Commissioner needs expanded powers. (CBC)

The NDP has also been advocating for expanding the powers of the privacy commissioner. Under Saskatchewan's current laws, the commissioner can only ask for regulations to be followed and make recommendations.

"We need the information and privacy commissioner to actually have some teeth to his regulations. The current process doesn't actually work," Sarauer said.

She said under the current legislation, the onus is on individuals requesting information, not the government.

"The individual has to make that appeal to Queen's Bench which is costly and time consuming."

"Government has been and continues to hide information from the public, we've seen that with the GTH and we've seen that with the Husky oil spill," Sarauer said.

Morgan said he has full confidence in the privacy commissioner and has "no immediate plans" to change the law to give him more power.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from Geoff Leo