The long-simmering fight for access to former federal minister Jim Prentice's expense records has led to calls for an independent investigation after a list identifying the people seeking records was circulated in his former department.
The list's existence was revealed Thursday by La Presse, prompting calls by those on it for an investigation into why they were identified within the department on a politically sensitive file. However, Aboriginal Affairs says it will investigate the leak, rather than the existence of the list itself, putting the matter in the hands of Canada's Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner.
One of the requesters on the list, Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is also questioning whether there was "potential political interference" in a case that saw the federal government first deny the Prentice records existed, then later recover them when pressed.
The man in charge of the department's access to information and privacy program, Kent Glowinski, is said to have ties to the former federal Progressive Conservative party, of which Mr. Prentice once sought the leadership. The CTF says he should have recused himself from the process. He did not respond to requests for comment.
The saga began earlier this year, when Mr. Prentice announced his candidacy for the Alberta PC leadership – a race that has its first-ballot vote set for Saturday. That led to access-to-information requests being filed for his time as Aboriginal Affairs minister. A list was created within the department that identified half a dozen people who made those requests, including the CTF and researchers for three opposition parties, according to La Presse, which obtained a copy of the list.
The CTF was told in June by James Larkin, an Aboriginal Affairs official, that Mr. Prentice's expense records had been "destroyed." The CTF says it asked for a review, which confirmed the records were destroyed. The CTF, in turn, filed requests for similar records around the same time frame. After those were filed, Mr. Glowinski wrote the CTF on Aug. 20 to say the records had been found.
Treasury Board guidelines say a requester's identity should only be revealed when there is a "clear need to know in order to perform duties and functions related to a lawful program or activity." It's not clear how widely the list was circulated.
It was created "for internal administration of Access to Information and Privacy," the department said in a written statement.
A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner said Thursday no complaint had been received. The CTF's Mr. Fildebrandt says he will ask the Information Commissioner to investigate the violation of privacy, who produced the list, with whom it was shared and whether there was "any potential political interference," saying Mr. Glowinski's background raises questions in this case. "At the very least, the optics are such that he should have recused himself" from handling the Prentice requests, Mr. Fildebrandt said.
Several messages left for Mr. Glowinski on Thursday were not returned, including detailed questions about his political history. Sources said it's the same Kent Glowinski who ran unsuccessfully for the federal PCs in 1997 before taking a job at the party headquarters. Mr. Prentice sought the federal PC leadership in 2003.
However, another PC party staffer at the time – Susan Elliott, who also worked on Mr. Prentice's leadership campaign – said Thursday she didn't believe Mr. Glowinski had any close ties to the minister. "To the best of my knowledge, he doesn't have any particular relationship to Prentice. … The other thing I would say is I would argue he's a consummate professional," Ms. Elliott said.