When Are Councillors’ Records Subject to Access?

Apr 22 2016

Freedom of information legislation provides Ontarians with rights of access to records held by government institutions. Government transparency and access to information are vital for a free and functioning democracy because they allow for meaningful participation in the democratic process and accountability of public officials.

Our office is sometimes required to decide access to information appeals relating to requests for records held by municipal councillors. Unfortunately, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) does not expressly refer to records of municipal councillors. Our office has been calling for amendments to MFIPPA to bring clarity to when it applies to councillors’ records. In August 2015 we wrote to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing advocating for amendments.

In the absence of the changes to the law, we have issued a new fact sheet, The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Councillors’ Records, which explains when and how councillors’ records are subject to MFIPPA.

The determination of whether councillors’ records are subject to MFIPPA depends largely on the context. It involves a consideration of a number of factors and circumstances. The fact sheet outlines the relevant factors and our findings in a number of cases. We hope it will assist municipalities in educating councillors about their responsibilities and in developing comprehensive policies and procedures regarding the appropriate management of records.

This Freedom of Information Fact Sheet is the first in a new series to inform institutions, individuals and organizations about access to information laws. Each fact sheet in the series will help parties navigate the access to information process and understand how the IPC views the exemptions and exclusions in the acts, and highlight key decisions, findings and updates.