Information withheld to protect “economic interests” must be within scope

Complaint: Canada Post withheld under several exemptions large portions of records about its access to information coordinator.

Investigation: The OIC agreed that the institution correctly withheld the coordinator’s identification number and home address as personal information (section 19). However, Canada Post could not show that the coordinator’s salary range and benefits fell within the scope of either paragraph 18(b) or paragraph 18.1(1)(a).

Outcome: The Information Commissioner applied to the Federal Court to have matter reviewed after Canada Post refused to release the withheld information in response to her recommendation.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • Canada Post should have disclosed the coordinator’s salary range and benefits, because they fell under an exception to the definition of personal information in the Privacy Act.
  • To meet the requirements of paragraph 18(b), institutions must make a direct link between disclosing information and the harm that doing so would cause to their competitive position or contractual negotiations. Canada Post did not do so in this case.
  • The information Canada Post withheld under paragraph 18.1(1)(a) was not related to Canada Post’s business systems, operations, trade and commerce. Rather, it fit within the scope of “general administration” and should have been released under paragraph 18.1(2)(a).
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