P.E.I. man denied access to executive council office

Teresa Wright
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Prince Edward Island government offices in the Shaw Building, Rochford Street, Charlottetown.

A P.E.I. man denied access to the provincial executive council office last week says he believes he was blocked due to concerns he has raised with the privacy commissioner over how the premier’s office is handling some of his Freedom of Information requests.

On Thursday, July 10, Dan Aiken tried to gain entry to the executive council office, which is situated on the fifth floor of the Shaw Building in Charlottetown, adjacent to the premier’s office.

He was there to file a request for documents under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) Act. But Aiken says the security guard would not allow him past the main lobby security desk.

The guard called up to the premier’s office to inform them of Aiken’s wish to access the fifth floor, but was told by an administrative assistant he was not to be permitted entry “for security reasons.”

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” said Aiken, who has filed a number of FOIPP requests in person at this office over the last year without incident.

“It was bizarre because they had never done anything like that before.”

A staffer was sent downstairs to process his information request, but Aiken says he is upset about the way he was treated. He said he finds the timing of this treatment especially curious, as he had recently filed a complaint with P.E.I.’s privacy commissioner over the way some of his recent FOIPP requests involving the premier’s office expenses have been treated.

He has been filing a number of requests for the premier’s expenses and the expenses of his staffers for a trade mission to Egypt in January 2013.

But he has noted his requests to the premier’s office have consistently been forwarded instead to the province’s executive council office. He feels this is a violation of the legislation that dictates how the premier’s office, and indeed all public bodies, should handle information requests from the public.

“I feel the premier’s office has systematically tried to remove themselves from the freedom of information process,” Aiken said.

“And I believe that’s an effort to gain more secrecy for what’s going on in the premier’s office and I believe they are trying to remove themselves from public accountability.”

He forwarded these concerns to the province’s privacy commissioner two weeks ago.

The following week, he could no longer gain access to the executive council office.

“I’m not sure if there’s a connection there, but it does seem a little suspicious to me that you could have a complaint that the premier’s office is trying to keep people away, they don’t want to be involved in the freedom of information process and then the next time you show up, they don’t even want you in the building,” Aiken said.

The premier’s office did release a number of files to Aiken as a result of his original FOIPP request, detailing the travel, food, lodging and cellphone expenses charged to P.E.I. taxpayers by premier’s office staffers and executive council staff during the Egypt trade mission, which included stops in Turkey and London.

Aiken, who is an active member of the Progressive Conservative party, says his concern is not with the information he has received, but rather with the process by which the premier’s office is handling these requests.

And he’s not happy with how he is personally being treated now that he has raised these concerns.

“To have someone in Premier Ghiz’s own office say that it’s a security concern to have members of the public filing freedom of information requests is simply appalling and undemocratic.”

A spokesperson for the premier’s office would only say the Provincial Administration Building complex in Charlottetown has had additional security measures in place for more than a year.

He also noted members of the public can file Freedom of Information requests by mail.

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: Shaw Building, Provincial Administration Building

Geographic location: P.E.I., Charlottetown, Egypt Turkey London

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Gene Gallant
    July 16, 2014 - 15:53

    Dictatorship - They are running scared and are trying to cover their tracks I think -

    • @ Gene Gallant
      July 17, 2014 - 08:11

      according to the story, someone came downstairs, served him personally, AND he was given access to all documents he requested.... what a stellar way to "cover their tracks"!! lol. Seriously...

  • Concerned Taxpayer
    July 16, 2014 - 12:29

    I think its very humorous how many of these commenters take issue with Mr. Aiken being proactive in his approach to uncovering the frivolous spending of our tax dollars. Many of these same people commenting are probably the same ones who complain about the Royal's 2 million dollar black eye, or Sherry being in the process of botching our island's water supply. Kudos to Dan for shedding more light on these Liberals whom are destroying PEI from every conceivable angle.

    • and, so??
      July 16, 2014 - 13:00

      I have no issue at all with his FOIP requests or watchful eye on government spending... those are my hard earned tax dollars too... My only issue is his whining about not being allowed free access to administrative offices as a matter of building security.... according to the story, he got gull access to all services that he requested, he was just denied to roam freely through administrative offices, same as everyone else. As I said before, tough beans if he doesn't like building security policy.

  • Garth Staples
    July 16, 2014 - 11:32

    There are three questions here: 1. A change in procedure was made (for what reason) 2. Access to the Executive Council Office vs Premiers Office re access to information. 3. Did the Access to Info office play a role here.

  • and, so??
    July 16, 2014 - 11:25

    and, so.... what am I missing? Why is this an issue? He got access to all services he sought. I'm a government employee and I have no expectation to access building areas where I don't need to be related to my work. I don't go whining to the press about it. Building security is what it is... Tough beans if he doesn't like it.

    • Old Lady
      July 16, 2014 - 13:46

      " ... whining to the press ..." -- you'd prefer there be no press, no media, perhaps? Then you'll not be irritated? Or perhaps you'd prefer to personally dictate what's news-worthy, what's important, what "deserves" publication? Your frustration with the press, frequently-heard on this beautiful, gentle, but backward Island, only exposes ignorance of and contempt for the vital role press and media play in our democracy. Educate yourself, please.

    • nitpicker
      July 16, 2014 - 15:13

      @Old Lady. Ok you are starting to amuse me now. Your post here contains nothing but a strawman argument and other logical fallacies, (look these terms up if you must, or wait till second-year university) as well as totally missing the poster's point. No press? No media? Talk of the media's role in democracy? Where'd you come up with that? Bonus comment: "Newsworthy" is one word and "frequently heard" is not hyphenated.

    • Old Lady
      July 16, 2014 - 17:12

      @nitpicker Thank you for the bonus comment. You're right, my hyphens are inappropriate. I rephrased and missed the latter; considered and kept former, a style choice. Opinion should be debated, not grammar, and not via putdowns. If your intent was to embarrass me, you've succeeded. You've also taught me much more than you realize.

  • JP
    July 16, 2014 - 11:00

    Seriously? Someone came downstairs to serve you and you got the information that you wanted. Only in PEI would a random person expect to physically have access to the Premier's office whenever they felt like showing up and run to the media when they didn't like the reception they got.

    • Bert
      July 16, 2014 - 11:10

      There are lots of people have access to the Premiers Office we all know who they are Kevin. But this guy is of the wrong stripe.

  • nitpicker
    July 16, 2014 - 10:54

    Is the Guardian taking on the role of an Ombudsman? I find the media's increasing willingness to highlight the inconvenience(s) of one individual puzzling. If there is an underlying issue at play here that affects us all, then the Guardian should seek it out and do a story. Until then, I don't particularly care that this person couldn't get to the fifth floor when he wanted to.

    • Old Lady
      July 16, 2014 - 13:55

      The fact you don't perceive the important principles involved reflects badly on your education (Island schools, perhaps?) and reasoning.

    • nitpicker
      July 16, 2014 - 14:58

      You resort to insult rather than debate. Usually that means you have no debate to offer, or are just lazy. Regardless, one person's experience shows just that: one person's experience. As I said, if there is a larger picture here, such as systemic issues with access to information, mistreatment of the public, or inaccessibility of elected representatives, the Guardian should pursue that angle, not parrot the observations or experiences of one individual, whose bias or intentions are unknown. As of now, his story belongs in a Letter to the Editor.

  • A Little Unstable Maybe?
    July 16, 2014 - 10:40

    So all of his previous requests for information were answered and a staff member was sent to process his current request. His only beef then is that he wasn't permitted to enter the premier's office or the Executive Counsel office. I am not really sure how this is a story. If I go to renew my drivers license I don't need to go to the Registrar's office. As long as someone precesses my request I am happy. Sounds like this guy is just looking for a soap box.

  • Waste
    July 16, 2014 - 10:09

    For someone who is taking a hard stance against frivolous government spending this guy sure doesn't mind wasting government man-power and resources on filing these Freedom of Information requests looking for that needle in a haystack scandal he is convinced exists.

    • Gene Gallant
      July 16, 2014 - 15:56

      Are you suggesting that no one should bring wrong doing to lite - This is a process for some to get at the truth -