Coffin calls on government to keep its promise to be transparent

Updated: Oct 3, 2019



For immediate release

August 29, 2019

Coffin calls on government to keep its promise to be transparent


Today NDP Leader Alison Coffin is reacting to a story by CBC’s Rob Antle revealing that government is shielding documents from review by the Information and Privacy Commissioner citing solicitor-client privilege, a restriction that was clearly overturned by the 2014 Wells review of Bill 29.


An amendment to the former Access to Information Act, known as Bill 29, severely limited the public’s access to government information and diminished the Privacy Commissioner’s authority and the public’s right to know.


Government claims that a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision, related to a matter in Alberta, has concluded that “clear and unambiguous legislative intent” is required in order for a privacy commissioner to have access to records covered by solicitor-client privilege. As a result, government is saying that our legislation does not clearly allow our province’s Commissioner to view many internal government documents. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner disagrees with this claim.


“After everything we have learned by watching the Muskrat Falls Inquiry unfold, and the utter lack of openness and transparency that plagued the project from the outset, we cannot afford to go back to the secrecy of Bill 29,” Coffin said.


Coffin says the review of Bill 29 clearly found that solicitor-client privilege was being used inappropriately to exempt documents from proper review.


“What we are seeing is a quiet erosion of access to information in the province once again,” Coffin said. “This is alarming considering the Justice Minister’s and Liberals’ outspoken opposition to Bill 29 at the time.”


“Government should accept and respect the letter and intent of Wells’ recommendations, which included reinstating the power of the Privacy Commissioner to review all records including those claimed to be matters of solicitor-client privilege,” Coffin said.


“If government still feels it needs the language in the ATIPPA legislation to be even more precise, then we call on government to introduce an amendment to the legislation in the Fall sitting of the House of Assembly.”


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For further information, contact Zaren Healey White, Director of Communications, NDP Caucus at 729-2137 (o), 693-9172 (c), or zarenhealeywhite@gov.nl.ca.


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