The information and privacy commissioner of Newfoundland and Labrador has filed lawsuits against two provincial government departments for not following his office's recommendations.
Commissioner Ed Ring told CBC News Wednesday that he started legal action against the Public Service Secretariat in May, and the Department of Transportation and Works in June, for not releasing requested information his office deemed they should.
"It's not something that we want to be doing on a regular basis," Ring said. "But the issues that are involved here are fundamental issues."
Ring's office deals every year with hundreds of appeals for information requests through the province's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and it's rare for a case to end up in court.
The government has has followed his office's recommendations most of the time and only three cases have gone as far as the courts since 2005, Ring said.
The first of those lawsuits was filed against the premier's office for refusing to release public opinion polls to the Telegram newspaper. Now, the lawsuits against the Public Service Secretariat, headed by Finance Minister Tom Marshall, and the Department of Transportation and Works, headed by Minister Diane Whelan, are going to court.
Ring said he wants the judicial system to set a strong precedent for any future disagreements between his office and a government department and to determine just which office gets to make the final decision on whether to release information requested under the act.
"Rather than just my interpretation of what the act says, and precedents set by commissioners in other jurisdictions, I'd prefer to have it settled once and for all," Ring said.
Ring's office oversees the application of Newfoundland and Labrador's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which allows the public to request information from government and public agencies. The commissioner can recommend the information be released in whole, in part or not at all as privacy concerns warrant.