Info Watchdog Raps Privy Council Office for Terminating Access Requests From Public

January 5, 2021 Updated: January 5, 2021

OTTAWA—The federal information watchdog has chastised the prime minister’s bureaucrats for shutting down several requests from the public without good cause.

In a series of decisions made public Tuesday, information commissioner Caroline Maynard reveals the Privy Council Office simply closed four Access to Information requests to avoid missing due dates.

In each case, the body that supports the prime minister was waiting for input from other federal agencies on whether Cold War-era intelligence records could be disclosed to requesters who filed formal applications under the access law.

Maynard ruled the access act does not allow the PCO to fail to respond to an access request on the grounds it has yet to receive recommendations from consulted institutions.

In the first of the four decisions, dated Oct. 14, Maynard expressed disappointment with the PCO, noting it is a central institution headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has signalled a commitment to transparency and openness.

Maynard notes in her three subsequent decisions, all dated Nov. 9, that the PCO has since ended the practice of closing request files while consultations are outstanding.