The complainant alleged that Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) had improperly withheld information under subsection 19(1) (personal information), paragraph 20(1)(b) (confidential third-party financial, commercial, scientific or technical information), paragraph 20(1)(c) (financial impact on a third party), paragraph 21(1)(a) (advice or recommendations) and paragraph 21(1)(b) (accounts of consultations or deliberations) of the Access to Information Act in response to an access request for records related to a Request for Proposals (RFP).
The investigation revealed that ECCC did not exercise its discretion under subsection 19(2) to disclose publicly available personal information and seek consent from the individuals to disclose their personal information, where appropriate.
Where ECCC had withheld the evaluators’ comments on bid evaluation grids under both paragraphs 21(1)(a) and 21(1)(b), ECCC showed that the requirements for paragraph 21(1)(a) were met, and that discretion was appropriately considered, taking into account the specialized nature of the field, and the small number of competitors.
ECCC and the third party were able to show that the requirements for paragraphs 20(1)(b) and 20(1)(c) were met for specific sensitive content of the Response to the RFP, disclosure of which could indeed harm the third party’s competitive position in the market.
At the same time, the parties could not show that certain withheld financial and commercial information met all of the requirements of paragraphs 20(1)(b) and 20(1)(c), as absolute confidentiality is unreasonable when public funds are being spent, and some of the withheld information was publicly available.
ECCC gave notice to the Commissioner that it would follow her recommendations.
The complaint is well founded.