Alberta privacy watchdog wants legislature to overhaul province’s privacy law
Alberta’s information commissioner says her office can’t do its job properly unless the government overhauls the province’s privacy law.
Jill Clayton says her office has been having trouble getting information from the government that it needs to determine if it can grant information requests.
She says some requests from opposition parties, the media and the public have been stymied going back to 2012.
The problems include the government blacking out big sections of reports and government lawyers speaking for witnesses her investigators want to interview.
Clayton says the delays were the subject of a recent Supreme Court ruling that found the problem is with the wording of Alberta’s Freedom Of Information and Protection of Privacy law.
Clayton’s office tabled two reports in the legislature Tuesday outlining the problems, including a request to change the law to make it effective.
“I am deeply disappointed in how this matter has unfolded,” Clayton said Tuesday.
“What should have been a relatively straightforward investigation has concluded under a shadow that brings the very notion of independent oversight of the executive branch of government into question and has the potential to erode public confidence in an open and accountable government.”
Clayton says her office should have the power to require the government to give it the records it needs, and to determine if they are protected by legal privilege.
She says the law needs to be updated so that people can get information in an affordable, timely way to hold the government to account.
Clayton says when the NDP was in opposition it asked for an investigation into why the Progressive Conservative government was taking so long to grant its request for information.
“My main concern is this affects my ability to do my job,” Clayton said in an interview.
“Access to information is of fundamental importance to democracy and citizens participating in democracy. Citizens have a right to know what information the government has about them.”
The Wildrose party said it is deeply troubled by Clayton’s reports.
House leader Nathan Cooper said chronic delays and political interference are rampant under the NDP government.
“Not only has the NDP government not eliminated the unethical practices it used to oppose — it’s actually embraced them,” he said.
Alberta Justice Department officials were not immediately available for comment.