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ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND PRIVACY - Collected personal information - Purpose of disclosure or release

Monday, March 09, 2020 @ 9:50 AM  


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Appeal by Banfield from a decision of the Utility and Review Board dismissing his appeal from the Water Commission’s decision to bill him for stormwater service. The appellant did not receive water from the Commission. The stormwater service was mandated by statute but not funded by any level of government. The Commission, a public utility, financed the service by billing residents whose properties drained into the system. Since 2006, Halifax Water’s stormwater system and charges were subject to the Board’s regulation under the Public Utilities Act. A 2007 Transfer Agreement transferred to the Commission the Municipality’s stormwater facilities and their operation and administration. The appellant argued that the fact that the Municipality provided the Commission with his name and address, so the Commission could send him a bill for the stormwater charge violated his privacy rights under the Municipal Government Act, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and ss. 7 and 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter).

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The Municipality’s transfer of information to Halifax Water did not breach privacy rights under provincial legislation. Under s. 485 of the Municipal Government Act, the Municipality could disclose, and the Commission could use, personal information for the purpose of complying with an enactment or with a treaty, arrangement or agreement made pursuant to an enactment or to meet the necessary requirements of municipal operation or for collecting a debt owing to the Commission. The appellant’s name and address satisfied these criteria. Section 74(2)(a) of the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter permitted a municipality to enter into an agreement with a service commission respecting any service provided by the municipality. The 2007 Transfer Agreement was such an agreement. The Transfer Agreement transferred to the Commission the Municipality’s stormwater facilities and their operation and administration. This included the Municipality’s information needed for billings, such as the appellant’s name and address. There were no Charter breaches. Declining payment of a legally authorized user charge for a service that was provided to the appellant was neither the exercise of physical liberty nor a recognized category of fundamental personal choice. Nothing established that payment of the stormwater charge would have a serious and profound effect on the appellant’s psychological integrity. Considering the totality of the appellant’s circumstances, there was no reasonable expectation of privacy in his name and address. His name and address were not confidential. The provision of his name and address merely enabled the effective administration of a legally regulated activity.

Banfield v. Nova Scotia (Utility and Review Board), [2020] N.S.J. No. 39, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, P. Bryson, L.L. Oland and J.E. Fichaud JJ.A., January 28, 2020. Digest No. TLD-March92020003