Administrative law – Freedom of information and protection of privacy – Disclosure – Electronic records – Municipalities – Property assessment – Statutory interpretation – Judicial review – Standard of review – Correctness
Municipal Property Assessment Corp. v. Ontario (Assistant Information and Privacy Commissioner),  O.J. No. 2118, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, May 21, 2004, Benotto, Dunn and McCombs JJ.
The Commissioner ordered a governmental agency, the MPAC, to hand over to a collection agency an electronic record containing personal information concerning more than 10,000,000 Ontario residents. MPAC applied for a judicial review of the Commissioner’s order.
The Court found that MPAC was a not-for-profit corporation created under the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation Act. It administered a province-wide property valuation system based on current value assessment. Section 14 of the Assessment Act outlined information that MPAC was required to include in the assessment role. It included personal information. Failure to comply with the MPAC’s lawful demand for such information was an offence under section 13 of the Assessment Act. MPAC used forms to gather personal information from individuals. These forms reassured their recipients that the information would be protected and used for limited purposes. The Commissioner ordered MPAC to hand over to the collection agency an electronic record containing this personal information as the Commissioner accepted that the exception under section 14(1)(d) of the MFIPPA applied. This section prohibits a head of an institution from disclosing personal information unless another statute expressly authorizes disclosure. However, the Commissioner held that section 39 of the Assessment Act expressly authorized the head of MPAC to disclose the electronic record.
The court held that the standard of review was one of correctness where the issue on appeal is the interpretation of an external statute not within the Commissioner’s particular expertise.
The court held that the Commissioner erred in finding that there was legislation that expressly authorized MPAC to disclose information for the purposes of section 14(1) of the MFIPPA. The Commissioner erred in finding that section 39 of the Assessment Act expressly authorized the disclosure of the electronic record sought by the collection agency, as he failed to properly address the purpose of the statutes, the nature of the disclosure requests and by finding that since the information sought was available on paper, the electronic version of the information should be disclosed.
The Commissioner’s order was therefore quashed.
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