A report from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner released on Friday, Feb. 15 indicates the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment acted within the guidelines of the Access to Information and Privacy Act.
In the 10-page report it explained the department had received a request under the Access to Information and Privacy Act, “focused on the August 28, 2018 decision by Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Andrew Parsons to accept the environmental impact statement of Grieg NL for its Placentia Bay aquaculture project.”
The complainant requested access to all correspondence, information, analysis, and recommendations involving the minister or provided to the minister for consideration in making this decision.
According to information from in the report, records released to the complainant in the matter included a number of slides from a power point presentation, as well as the majority of a memorandum sent to Minister Andrew Parsons entitled, “Recommendation concerning the acceptability of the EIS for the Placentia Bay Atlantic Salmon Aquaculture Project.”
The report explained that the redacted slides contained contents from the memo.
Included in the 11 reasons given by the complainant for filing the request was the belief that, “the committee review of the Environmental Impact Statement is an integral part of the public environmental assessment process and does not constitute advice to the Minister, but rather is advice and analysis intended for the public.”
Other reasons given were that the complainant believed that the redactions were overly broad, and that withholding information “obscures the transparency of the process, denies citizens the opportunity to fully participate in public decision-making, and allows elected officials to remain unaccountable for their actions.”
In conclusion Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner found that the department worked in accordance with the ATIPPA in relation to the redacted information.
“I am satisfied that while the memorandum was prepared for the Minister, it also informed the content of the Cabinet submission. Based on the further explanations provided by the Department, I am satisfied that if the memorandum is disclosed it would reveal the substance of deliberations of Cabinet. I am satisfied that the Department has provided enough linkage to establish that the Memorandum fits within the exception claimed and must be withheld. As the information in the Power Point slides contains the same information as in the Memorandum, they too must be withheld,” read the report.
“I recommend that the Department continue to withhold the pages of the Memorandum and the PowerPoint slides already withheld. I also recommend the Department maintain the remaining redactions under section 29(1)(a) in Annex E.”