Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Privacy Commissioner Order Contract Disclosure - Stelmach Balks

I don’t understand the stance of the Stelmach government around the disclosure of details of the service contracts of Rod Love the former Chief of Staff for Premier Klein and Murray Smith, the province’s former envoy to Washington D.C.

The well reasoned and thorough analysis of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in Order F2006-007 answers all the questions and concerns over privacy issues insofar as Mr Smith is concerned. The Rod Love Chief of Staff contract is not dealt with in this decision and may be an entirely different matter.

The reasons Premier Stelmach’s reluctance to comply with the Order is based on a fear to comply with this Order to disclose they may have to do it for all public sector employees. So what and why not? We disclose this information on MLA, Deputy Ministers and other senior officials. In fact we can even tell who Minister’s bought lunch for, when and how much they paid because the Ministerial expense accounts are not on departmental websites.

The public is entitled to know this stuff and more. I believe there needs to be disclosure of compensation levels in all government third-party contracts too. A few years ago my firm was contracted by the Minister of Justice and the Speaker’s Office to review the risk management policies of the GOA due to the defamation actions around certain allegations by former Alberta Cabinet Minister Stockwell Day.

Getting the government to publicly release of our report was a saga unto itself but it eventually happened. However since this was a sole sourced contract with us we took the extra step of attaching our contract as a schedule to our report because we believed citizens had a right to know this information. That report document is still posted on our Website if you are interested.

This alleged policy concern of the Premier makes no sense. The presumption should be disclosure and if there is a possibility for rebuttal due to circumstances, then that can be taken to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for a decision.

Premier Stelmach is keen on transparency and that is a good thing. That is why his position on these contracts is so confusing, especially in light of the recent Order of the Privacy Commissioner. His default position cannot be opaqueness – that is not transparency and confuses the issues rather than clarify them.