Access Denied

Back in August, 2018, I began submitting targeted Access to Information Requests for e-gaming documents. I’ve yet to receive a single document!

The Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIPP) obliges the head of the department to which a request is submitted to respond within 30 days. As noted in the letters that are sent out – usually on the last possible day – the 30 day rule has exceptions. Here’s what appeared in the October 23, 2018 letter I received acknowledging my request:

limited circumstances

And with this Liberal government, especially with e-gaming documents, the “exception” has become the “rule”.

I’m about to submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner, Karen Rose, on two e-gaming access requests I submitted seeking three government contracts issued by the Ghiz government to Tracey Cutcliffe within weeks of her leaving government: two from Innovation PEI, and one from Intergovernmental & Public Affairs.

The Auditor General raised concerns about these contracts in her E-gaming Report, but never really said much else about what these three contracts were all about. Her concern was the potential “conflict of interest” with the contracts, and the obvious lack of any “cooling off” period for the departing Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Tourism – who had been taking the lead on the government’s Loyalty Card Program being developed for the Department by CMT/Simplex – which, curiously, the government’s lawyer with the CMT lawsuit, Jonathan Coady, claimed the PEI government “had no knowledge of” in the government’s Statement of Defence. So I wanted to know more about these contracts: here’s what the AG said about the contracts issued to Tracey Cutcliffe in her report:

Tracey Cutcliff AG Report

The Department of Economic Development and Tourism assured me in that October 23, 2018 letter that – despite the Department taking an extension – I would get a response by November 23, or likely sooner:

November 23 response

I got virtually the exact same letter from the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning on the very same day. So I waited patiently, and – as expected – heard nothing from anybody by November 23, 2018, so I called the FOIPP Coordinator working on the file.

I won’t go into all the details of that telephone conversation, except to say that she was pleasant, helpful, and seemed just as exasperated and surprised with the delays as I was. She had no idea what was taking so long , and indicated that I should have the documents within a day or two, adding that she would send them to me “electronically” via email to save me waiting any further. She explained that she just needed the department heads to “sign-off” on her recommendations, and then we were good to go.

But alas! It was not to be. Five days later, with no apology or reasonable explanation, I was officially informed by letter – with both of my requests for the Tracey Cutcliffe contracts – that each department had apparently failed to do what they had taken an extra month to do – “consult with a third party”. I coincidentally received two letters via email with the same date, with almost identical wording despite originating from two entirely separate departments…..how weird is tha! Here’s the one from Intergovernmental & Public Affairs:

November 28 Letter.JPG

The person behind this request to Intergovernmental & Public Affairs – Paul Ledwell, Clerk of Executive Council – is now saying he’ll respond by December 26th – after he consults with a third party!

Keep in mind there are a total of six (6) documents combined with these two requests- just the signed agreement for each contract, and the final reports. It’s a government contract that should be available to the public without even having to file an access request – and there are no “third parties” involved from what I understand, unless the person getting the contracts (Tracey Cutcliffe) is being regarded as a third party.

According to the legal time stipulated in the FOIPP ACT for production of records, both departments of MacLauchlan’s “open and transparent” government are now – according to what the FOIPP Coordinator told me in my November 23rd telephone conversation with her – “refusing to release the documents to me” – so my only recourse is to file an official complaint to the Information Commissioner. I wonder when I finally get those documents how much of them will be “redacted” or tampered with.

Will Neil Stewart be fired if he tampered with CMT’s E-gaming Access Requests?

On Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, Capital Markets Technology issued an update regarding its E-gaming lawsuit, making serious allegations that Neil Stewart – current Deputy Minister of Finance and former Deputy Minister of Innovation – tampered with FOIPP requests.

The update noted that CMT has filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner, Karen Rose, concerning a number of FOIPP requests submitted by a private investigator which CMT hired back in 2014. That complaint is currently under review. If CMT’s allegations are proven true, it could potentially cost Neil Stewart as much as $10,000 under provisions within the Act, as well as his job.

A copy of the complaint letter – and documents supporting the allegations – accompanied CMT’s week-end update, which you can read here.

How this Article Relates to my PC Leadership Campaign

I have filed countless FOIPP requests over the years – both federally and provincially – and understand exactly what is wrong with the system. More often than not, the legislation and system aren’t used to provide access to information, but are used to DENY access to information.

Following my PC Campaign launch this Wednesday evening at the Murchison Centre in Charlottetown starting at 7pm – which I hope you’ll be able to attend – [let me know so I’ll be sure we have enough food and beverage (kja321@gmail.com)] I’ll start posting short policy statements on various issues stating what I would do as PC leader – and eventually Premier – of Prince Edward Island.

My first policy statement will outline an entirely new approach to “Access to Information” that will make true transparency a reality within our provincial government. And it will put an end to the secretive sham of a system currently in place under the MacLauchlan Liberal government.