Last summer, I published a bulletin entitled “A Conclusion to the Expense Accounts Saga?” following the Court of Québec decision Société des alcools du Québec v. Pacquet,1 and the Commission d’accès à l’information ruling V.D. v. Loto-Québec.2 These decisions led us to believe that the state of law regarding the treatment of requests for access to the expense accounts of members, the Board of Directors or the management personnel of a public body has finally been settled after several years of uncertainty.
It would appear that the Court of Québec agrees with us!
On October 8, 2008, Justice Henri Richard, the same judge who ruled in Société des alcools du Québec v. Pacquet, rendered a decision after Loto-Québec filed a motion to appeal the Commission d’accès à l’information ruling mentioned above.3
It bears mentioning that the two cases had been initially heard by the same decision maker of the Commission d’accès à l’information – Commissioner Guylaine Henri.
We remind you that in this matter, Commissioner Henri had ordered the communication of the expense forms, where Loto-Québec argued that personal information would be better protected by providing a chart instead. However, Commissioner Henri had set strict guidelines regarding the type of personal information that could be communicated. For more details on the facts, please refer to our previous bulletin.
The issues raised in the appeal were the following:
a) Had the Commission d’accès à l’information erred in its interpretation and definition of the term “duty” found in the first subsection of the first paragraph of section 57 of the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information (R.S.Q., c. A-2.1) (hereinafter the “Act”);
b) Had the Commission d’accès à l’information erred in its definition of the term “personal information” within the meaning of section 57 of the Act.
Upon presentation of the motion to dismiss the appeal, Justice Richard had to determine whether the Loto-Québec appeal stood a reasonnable chance of success, according to the law. Justice Richard dismissed the appeal in a short 5-page decision :
[TRANSLATION]  – With all due respect for the position of Loto-Québec and its counsel, the Court notes that all of these issues have already been dealt with in the recent Court of Québec judgment in the aforementioned Société des alcools du Québec v. Paquet.
It now seems clear from the two decisions that expense forms would have to be communicated when faced with requests for access to these accounts of members, for the Board of Directors or the management personnel of a public body. However, it is also clear that some personal information has to be redacted prior to communication.
The only remaining issue will be to see whether this case law will be followed by other commissioners and judges apprised of such issues. Chances are, they will.