Role of Act is not to overrule disclosure allowed by other laws or policies

Complaint: The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board excluded from its response to a request information provided by a company, stating that it was publicly available (as per paragraph 68(a)). The complainant, whose firm it was, was of the view the information should be protected under section 20.

Investigation: The OIC learned that parties seeking licences related to petroleum exploration provide the Board with technical information, with the understanding that the Board may make it public. The OIC did not accept the complainant’s argument that the Board should not release the information as a matter of course but should, instead, consider it proprietary third-party information to be released only after consideration under section 20.

Outcome: It is not within the Information Commissioner’s mandate to determine whether the Board appropriately made the information public under its enabling legislation and policies. However, the OIC determined that the Board had properly identified the requested records as publicly available and had discharged its duty to assist in an exemplary manner.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • The complainant’s arguments were tantamount to asserting that the Access to Information Act is intended to limit access to information that is normally available to the public.
  • Such arguments are contrary to the purpose of the Act and to subsection 2(2), which clarifies that the Information Commissioner’s function is not to police other bodies that may legally provide access to information under their governing legislation.
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