Capital Markets Technologies (CMT’s) Statement of Claim against the PEI Government contained the following allegations:
126. In July 2011, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Melissa MacEachern (“MacEachern”), through Internetwork, an approved vendor to the Government of Prince Edward Island, engaged Simplex to begin development of a financial transaction platform to support a Loyalty/VIP payment program. The program was designed to promote the tourism and hospitality sector of the province.
127. In October of 2011 the Loyalty/VIP payment program was given approval by the Department of Tourism and Culture and representatives of CMT created a survey to determine what local business operators would be looking for in such a program.
CMT said a lot more about the Loyalty/VIP payment program in paragraphs 131, 138, 146 and 147 of the Statement of Claim; however, the government insisted it had “no knowledge” of those allegations in its Statement of Defence:
Sometimes when people “make stuff up” in a bid to convince other people something happened that actually never happened they add lots of details to make their claims seem more credible. Was this CMT’s strategy with the detailed pleadings about the company’s involvement with an alleged PEI government Loyalty/VIP program? That seems pretty unlikely; however, Jonathan Coady confidently stated back when he filed the government’s Statement of Defence in the CMT lawsuit that:
“Any legal document that I file on behalf of the government will be accurate, detailed, and provable. Now that’s what I demand.” [Journal-Pioneer, April 8, 2015].
– Jonathan Coady [left], Legal Counsel for the PEI Government in the CMT lawsuit
I decided to find out the truth for myself, so I filed an Access to Information Request. It took 3 1/2 months – which is a story in itself – but I finally received an answer yesterday (January 3, 2019) at 4:00pm, on my way to the first PC Leadership debate.
Here’s how that happened.
FOIPP: EDT 2018-226: Loyalty Card/VIP Records
On September 19, 2018, I submitted a number of Access Requests for e-gaming documents, including the following one asking for…
“All documents related to the Loyalty Card Program – also referred to as the Loyalty Program – (both hard-copy and electronic) that were either “sent” or “received” by Tara Jackson, from October 1, 2011 to January 31, 2012.”
CMT had mentioned that Tara Jackson had worked on the Loyalty Card Program, so I thought asking for records from her would be a good way to figure out who was telling the truth about whether government had knowledge of the program – CMT or the provincial government.
These requests were taking so long that yesterday I decided I was either going to get records or make some public noise about being blocked in my efforts to get e-gaming records. I sent the following email to a FOIP coordinator managing two of my requests:
“Can you kindly confirm who the two individuals are who are charged with the responsibility/duty of making a decision on these requests, and provide me with their contact information (phone & email)?
I want to contact them directly asap…..I intend to publish an article on their delay/refusal to finish processing these requests and release these documents to me if I don’t have the documents in hand by tomorrow end of day.
Government is supposed to work with Island citizens to provide timely access to information and documents, but that certainly hasn’t been my experience on many previous requests and most definitely not on this one. Given that we are only talking about 6 or so documents – and given the amount of time that has already transpired – no reasonable person would conclude anything other than that this is a case of obstructing fair and timely access.
Kevin J. Arsenault, Ph.D”
I sent that email at 12:35pm. Exactly 11 minutes later, I received the following response:
With regard to file 2018-229 EDT, I have just received the signed decision letter and will prepare the package for release.”
Great! But that wasn’t my request for Loyalty Card/VIP program documents.
I was just about to send a similar “ultimatum” letter to the FOIPP Coordinator handling my Loyalty/VIP Card Access Request when – lo and behold – within the hour, I received an email saying, “The file [FOIPP: EDT 2018-226] is ready to pick up.” So at 4pm yesterday, I picked up two envelopes of records.
Who was telling the truth about the Loyalty Card/VIP program? I’ve uploaded them all as one PDF, so you can see for yourself. The package signed off on by David Keedwell, Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, contained 207 pages, all offering glowing praise for the Loyalty Card/VIP project design; great excitement about how many PEI tourist operators were expected to”buy in” to the project (100) when it was rolled out; and confirmation that the “contractor” for the project was indeed CMT/Simplex. Wow!
Why has the government denied knowledge of the Loyalty Card/VIP program since 2015 against such overwhelming evidence? Ask Jonathan Coady.
The Access to Information Act was assented to in 1985. It was enacted to provide Canadian citizens with access to government held information with exemptions being identified in the Act. The most difficult information to access seems to be information relative to the activities and policies of the government of the day. Your experience with this request is not unusual but it is abhorrent. Government’s attempts to withhold or suppress information of public interest illustrates so much disrespect.
Great investigating, Kevin.