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P.E.I. government says it did not intend to miss deadline set out in e-gaming FOIPP order

Paul Maines, shown at Supreme Court on Thursday, is in the midst of a legal struggle to obtain Freedom of Information documents related to the failed e-gaming saga. Maines injured his arm in an unrelated accident. Stu Neatby/THE GUARDIAN
Paul Maines, shown at Supreme Court on Thursday, is in the midst of a legal struggle to obtain Freedom of Information documents related to the failed e-gaming saga. Maines injured his arm in an unrelated accident. - Stu Neatby

The province of Prince Edward Island is pushing back on a contempt motion, filed in relation to a delayed freedom of information request for documents connected to players in the failed e-gaming saga.

In a legal motion, the province says it intended to comply with a consent order it signed, committing to producing a 1,400-page freedom of information request for internal documents in a timely manner, even though the documents were not produced by an agreed deadline.

Representatives of the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture say the 1,400 pages of documents were not produced by Jan. 7, 2020, the date the department agreed to in the consent order, in part because of staffing issues and the “unexpected absence of a lawyer", according to court filings from the department.

The consent order was the first ever to be signed by the province’s information and privacy commissioner.

The outcome of the legal process could have implications related to the timeliness of future freedom of information requests in P.E.I.

The Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture signed the consent order, the result of a request for review of a freedom of information request, along with Paul Maines and the province’s information and privacy commissioner last October. Maines filed the initial request for email communications between a former employee of Tourism P.E.I. and a former CEO of Innovation P.E.I. between February and July of 2012.

Maines has been at the centre of lawsuits related to P.E.I.’s failed e-gaming initiative from 2009-2012. These lawsuits have been dismissed twice, but an appeal is still pending.

Documents not provided

The order committed the department to respond to the applicant by Jan. 7, 2020.

The documents requested were not provided to Maines by that date. By Jan. 10, Maines received an email from the province’s FOI co-ordinator informing him he would not be receiving the documents before the end of February.

Soon afterwards, Maines filed a contempt order motion with the Supreme Court of P.E.I.

Erin McGrath-Gaudet. - FIle
Erin McGrath-Gaudet. - FIle

A motion record filed on behalf of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture deputy minister Erin McGrath-Gaudet stated that the consent order was “vague as to what would be deemed as complying".

The motion also said efforts were made to produce the documents.

“Due to unforeseen and unexpected absences and staffing issues, a response was not provided by the head of the public body to the plaintiff on, or before, Jan. 7, 2020,” the motion read.

“This was not done intentionally.”

In a separate filing, McGrath-Gaudet also said she was not aware of correspondence between the FOI co-ordinator and Maines on Jan. 10. McGrath-Gaudet said 1,150 pages of the request would be made available to Maines this week.

McGrath-Gaudet and Maines both made an appearance at the P.E.I. Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon.

Judge Gregory Cann said he had been made aware that Maines and the department had signed three other privacy commissioner consent orders, and that another contempt motion was filed by Maines that morning. Maines also noted he had received the 1,150 pages.

“Do you intend to make motions with respect to the other two,” Cann asked Maines, referring to the other consent orders.

“Yes,” Maines said.

“I intend to file a motion on this matter again as well, when I receive the rest of the documents. The ones I've received are heavily redacted."

Cann opted to adjourn the matter until after other motions were filed.

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