After reading the item on access to information — relating to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) — in your paper a few days ago, I am writing this letter to share with your readers the experience I had with the town council of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s when I made an ATIPPA request that should have been straightforward.
In November 2012, I made an ATIPPA request regarding an accounts payable. I wanted to confirm something I had been told which disturbed me. It seems a claim filed against the town more than seven years ago was paid by the current council despite the fact that, based on legal advice provided, two previous councils had dismissed the claim as having no validity. It was information that any resident is entitled to see by going into the town office and asking to see it. For personal reasons, it was more feasible for me to ask for the information via ATIPPA. Hence the response I got was totally unexpected and illogical — “the town could not confirm or deny the existence of the information” I had requested.
I was, to say the least, disgusted with such a response. I consulted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and subsequently reported the matter to that office. It took several months and two letters from the privacy commissioner to the town, the last one telling them to reconsider and provide the information, pointing out that if they still refused to do so, I had the right to take the matter to the Supreme Court.
That letter, some months later, finally led to my receiving the information I had requested — the confirmation that this council had gone against two previous legal opinions and paid a town resident several thousand dollars.
For a council to refuse its town’s residents access to information to which they are entitled is a flagrant abuse of ATIPPA legislation. And, no, you cannot blame the town staff as they have more experience with ATIPPA than perhaps any other town in the province.
Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s