Commissioner Completes Investigation of the Government of Alberta’s ‘Sunshine List’

November 19, 2015

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) has completed its investigation of the Government of Alberta’s use and disclosure of public service salary, benefit and severance information under the Public Service Compensation Disclosure Policy.

The investigation found that, in general, the collection, use and disclosure of personal information was not in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP Act) during the period of January 7 to 20, 2014, when activities were underway to prepare for the January 31, 2014 disclosure. On January 20, 2014, a Treasury Board directive was signed giving effect to the policy. Once signed, the directive – an “enactment” under the FOIP Act – authorized the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

“Even with legislative authority, there are still many factors that need to be taken into consideration,” said Commissioner Jill Clayton. “It’s important to give careful thought to the process that needs to be put in place to publicly disclose personal information.”

When the policy was announced, the government said, “Agencies, Boards and Commissions … will be expected to develop an equivalent policy for their organizations.” The government has since introduced Bill 5, the Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act, to mandate agencies, boards and commissions to disclose public sector salary information.

“I highly recommend that agencies, boards and commissions complete privacy and access impact assessments as they turn their minds to proactive disclosure schemes. My office would be pleased to consult with them on this topic,” said Clayton.

In her submission to the government’s review of the FOIP Act in 2013, the Commissioner recommended identifying categories of records that will be proactively made public. The Commissioner also recommended that public bodies be required to complete privacy and access impact assessments for proposed initiatives with potentially significant impacts.