Supreme Court refuses to hear N.S. FOI appeal

The Supreme Court of Canada’s has refused to hear a Nova Scotia government appeal of a ruling ordering the release of background information on cabinet decisions, a move many journalist associations are hailing as a welcome victory for access to information in Canada.

“The court has clearly signalled to the Nova Scotia Conservatives that the concept of cabinet confidentiality is not a blank cheque,” said Paul Schneidereit, vice president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, in a release. “Once decisions are made, citizens have the right to see the information provided for cabinet ministers on issues of interest to the public.”

The Nova Scotia New Democratic Party files a Freedom of Information request last year to view the advice and recommendations cabinet used during a review of 1,128 public programs, 86 of which were later cut by government.

The government denied the request. The NDP went to court, winning access to information on 85 of the programs. The government appealed, arguing that direct advice and recommendations to cabinet should not be released. The N.S. Court of Appeal rejected that claim, telling government to release the information because it was deemed to be background and cabinet had already made its decision.

The Nova Scotia government appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada last October. The Supreme Court turned down the province’s application to appeal.