Guide to FOIP-Chapter 4

Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner. Guide to FOIP, Chapter 4, Exemptions from the Right of Access. Updated 8 April 2024. 96 [30] Scholars also refer to a third rationale for the convention of Cabinet confidentiality: it promotes the efficiency of the collective decision-making process (see Campagnolo (2017), at p. 68). Thus, Cabinet secrecy promotes candour, solidarity, and efficiency, all in aid of effective government. This objective is also reflected in the jurisprudence of this Court. In Carey, this Court observed that the very purpose of the confidentiality is the proper functioning of government (pp. 664, 670-71 and 673). In Babcock, McLachlin C.J. stated: “Cabinet confidentiality is essential to good government” (para. 15). And in John Doe v. Ontario (Finance), 2014 SCC 36, [2014] 2 S.C.R. 3, this Court noted that exposure of policy priorities at an early stage of the deliberative process to journalists or political opponents “is combustible material liable to fuel a fire that could quickly destroy governmental credibility and effectiveness” (para. 44, quoting Canadian Council of Christian Charities v. Canada (Minister of Finance), [1999] 4 F.C. 245, at para. 31). [31] Cabinet confidentiality is therefore “not just a convenient political dodge; it is essential to effective government” (see White, at p. 139; see also p. 138). Our jurisprudence focuses broadly on the value of deliberative secrecy to the effective operation of government institutions, including Cabinet. It also recognizes that too much openness can impair that aim (see Babcock, at para. 18; Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association, 2010 SCC 23, [2010] 1 S.C.R. 815 (Criminal Lawyers’ Association 2010), at para. 40; B.C. Judges, at para. 96; see also John Doe, at para. 44; Williams Report, at p. 235). … [35] …Lord Reid famously explained the value of Cabinet confidentiality to government efficiency in Conway v. Rimmer, [1968] A.C. 910 (H.L.), at p. 952, in words quoted with approval by this Court in Carey, at pp. 658-59: [The premature disclosure of Cabinet secrets] would create or fan ill-informed or captious public or political criticism. The business of government is difficult enough as it is, and no government could contemplate with equanimity the inner workings of the government machine being exposed to the gaze of those ready to criticise without adequate knowledge of the background and perhaps with some axe to grind. [36] The prerogative to determine when and how to announce Cabinet decisions is grounded in the harmful impact that premature disclosure of policy priorities can have on the deliberative process. As Professor Campagnolo explains, as a matter of convention, the efficiency of the deliberative process justifies “keeping Cabinet proceedings confidential until a final decision is made and announced by ministers” (Behind Closed Doors: The Law and Politics of Cabinet Secrecy (2021), at p. 26). Publicizing Cabinet’s