Attorney General for Ontario v. Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, et al.

(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)

(Sealing order) (Certain information not available to the public)


Access to Information – Access to records – Exemptions – Cabinet records – Mandate letters – Legislation – Interpretation – Whether confidential communications in respect of policy initiatives and development, prepared by the Premier of Ontario for his Cabinet ministers, are protected by the Cabinet records exemption – Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F. 31, s. 12(1).


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A journalist with the CBC made an application under the Act for disclosure of the mandate letters addressed from the Premier of Ontario to each minister setting out’s the Premier’s policy priorities for the minister’s mandate. The Cabinet Office opposed the disclosure on the basis of s. 12(1) of the Act, the introductory language of which provides that a government head shall refuse to disclose a record where the disclosure would reveal the substance of deliberations of the Executive Council or its committees.

In Order PO-3973, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario ordered disclosure of the mandate letters to the CBC. He determined that a record not listed at subparagraphs (a) to (f) will qualify under the opening words of s. 12(1) if the context or other information would permit accurate inferences to be drawn as to actual Cabinet deliberations at a specific Cabinet meeting. The words do not encompass the outcome of the deliberative process, such as policy choices. The Commissioner found that Cabinet Office must provide sufficient evidence to establish a linkage between the content of the record and the actual substance of Cabinet deliberations, and concluded that neither the content and context of the letters nor the evidence and representations of Cabinet Office met the test under section 12(1). The Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed the appellant’s application for judicial review and the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the appeal, with Lauwers J.A. dissenting.

Lower Court Rulings

August 27, 2020
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

2020 ONSC 5085
Application for judicial review dismissed.
January 26, 2022
Court of Appeal for Ontario

2022 ONCA 74
Appeal dismissed.