Section 20 requires proof of commercial not personal harm

Complaint: Canada Post withheld under paragraph 20(1)(b) various details in contracts given to a consultant.

Investigation: During the investigation, Canada Post also applied paragraph 20(1)(c) to the information, claiming that releasing it could result in material financial loss for the consultant or prejudice his firm’s competitive position. For his part, the consultant was more concerned with possible damage to him in his personal capacity rather than possible damage to his business, which, as it turned out, had been dissolved.

Outcome: In response to a formal recommendation from the Information Commissioner, Canada Post disclosed the information in its entirety.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • When claiming paragraph 20(1)(c), institutions must demonstrate that disclosure would result in financial loss to a third party or would harm its competitive position.
  • In addition, the information contained in the contract in this case was not “supplied” by a third party, as paragraph 20(1)(b) requires. Rather, the terms of the contract had been arrived at through negotiations.
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