TORONTO, June 5, 2013 /CNW/ - Ontario's Information and Privacy
Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, has released the findings of her
investigation into a complaint by Member of Provincial Parliament Peter
Tabuns, who alleged the Chief of Staff to the former Minister of Energy
had improperly deleted all emails concerning the cancellation of the
Mississauga and Oakville gas plants. Over the course of the
investigation, the Commissioner learned that in early 2013, staff in
the former Premier's office had approached the Secretary of Cabinet
about how to permanently delete emails and other electronic documents.
As a result, the scope of the investigation was expanded.
At the root of the problems uncovered over the course of our
wide-reaching investigation was the practice of indiscriminate deletion
of all emails sent and received by the former Chief of Staff to the
Minister of Energy. This practice violates the Archives and Recordkeeping Act (ARA) and the records retention schedule developed for ministers' offices by
the Archives of Ontario. This practice also undermines the transparency
and accountability purposes of the ARA and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act (FIPPA).
Although the Commissioner cannot state with certainty that there was
inappropriate deletion of emails by the former Premier's staff as part
of the transition to the new Premier in an effort to avoid transparency
and accountability, she concluded that the email management practices
of the former Premier's office were in violation of the obligations set
out in the ARA.
The Commissioner has recommended that the government take concrete steps
in three specific areas to ensure that records that may be subject to
an access request under FIPPA and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act (MFIPPA) are retained:
Office of the Premier and Ministers' Offices - Require that a directive be issued that a senior official in each
minister's office and the Premier's office be designated as the person
who is accountable for records retention policies and practices, and
for ensuring that ministers' staff receive training on their records
management obligations. The Premier should clearly communicate that
these obligations must be taken very seriously, along with her
expectation that all staff must comply.
Legislative Changes - Amend both FIPPA and MFIPPA to address institutions' responsibilities to ensure that all key
decisions are documented and records securely retained - making it a
serious offence to wilfully or inappropriately destroy records.
Records Retention Policies - Conduct a review of the Archives of Ontario records retention
policies and practices that apply to the records management processes
in ministers' offices and the Premier's office, ensuring that
responsibility for retaining official or business records is clearly
"Without access to information held by government institutions, citizens
cannot participate meaningfully in the democratic process and hold
politicians and bureaucrats accountable to the people they serve. I am
deeply concerned about the apparent lack of responsibility and
accountability over records management within the offices of senior
political leaders in Ontario."
"I am very disturbed that the former Minister of Energy's office
produced absolutely no records in response to the Speaker's Ruling on the gas plants issue,
and that the former Premier's office had so few records that were
responsive to two freedom of information requests relating to these
Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D.
Information and Privacy Commissioner
The full report is available at: http://bit.ly/18LYRiU.
About the Information and Privacy Commissioner
The Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and reports to
the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government
of the day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access
and privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as the Personal Health Information Protection Act, which applies to both public and private sector health information
custodians. A vital component of the Commissioner's mandate is to help
educate the public about access and privacy issues.
SOURCE: Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario
For further information:
Media Relations Specialist