Opposition joins with Information and Privacy Commissioner to demand stronger legislation
The NDP joins Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner in calling on the government to apologize for violating the privacy of a health care worker, and agrees the legislation must be tightened up to prevent the premier and his senior political staff from doing it again.
In a report released Tuesday morning, Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski ruled that several government agencies were involved in violating the privacy of a Saskatoon care aide after he publicly blew the whistle in the spring on chronic understaffing and neglect in the seniors care home where he worked. The commissioner concludes that the seniors care home inappropriately provided details of the employee's personal employment history to the Ministry of Health by email at 10:34 a.m. on April 20, 2015. Those details were immediately shared with the premier's office, and between 12:01 p.m. and 1:38 p.m. on the same day, the premier's chief of operations and communications sent "many emails" to the media in order to leak the inappropriately obtained details.
Shockingly, the premier has admitted to proactively ordering the leak of the individual's confidential information because he found himself in a political "conundrum" and he repeatedly said he has no regrets.
"The commissioner's report says that the care home, the health region and the health ministry all broke the law when they fed this confidential information to the premier's office," said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon. "Due to a loophole in the legislation, the commissioner was prohibited from ruling on Mr. Wall's actions, and that's why the commissioner wants the legislation strengthened, because let's be clear: Mr. Wall and his political staff are the ones who made the disturbing decision to send a flurry of emails to media in a clear attempt to publicly smear an individual citizen. Mr. Wall attacked a private citizen's reputation and intimidated thousands of front-line health care workers. Mr. Wall may have gotten off on a technicality, but what he did was absolutely wrong. Mr. Wall needs to apologize and we need to take steps to ensure he can never do this to anyone else, ever again."
In addition to an apology, Commissioner Kruzeniski recommends that The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act should be amended to apply to the premier's office and ministers' offices. The commissioner notes that the premier and his ministers "are not exempt from society's expectations that they protect personal information and personal health information." He also recommended amendments to The Public Interest Disclosure Act, to provide health care workers with reasonable whistle-blower protection, as well as an update to the Overarching Personal Information Privacy Framework and a code of conduct.
The Opposition New Democrats support the commissioner's recommendations and called on the government to commit to make the necessary changes during the fall session of the Legislative Assembly.
"Mr. Wall has repeatedly said he has no regrets about his involvement in this breach of privacy, so we're concerned that he won't hesitate to do it again, especially since he's finding himself in more and more conundrums these days," said Wotherspoon. "That's why we need to tighten up the legislation, remove the technicality that let the premier off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and ensure that Mr. Wall and his political staff start respecting the law, as well as the rights and privacy of public employees and private citizens."