Mandatory vs. Discretionary 

There are two types of exceptions under the FOIP Act – mandatory exceptions and discretionary exceptions.

The requested public body MUST refuse to disclose all or part of a record if the information contained within it falls within a mandatory exemption. Discretionary exceptions give a public body a choice -- the body decides whether or not to withhold all or part of a record. 

Mandatory Exceptions

The mandatory exceptions to disclosure are as follows:

  • disclosure would be harmful to the business interests of a third party (section 16(1));
  • the information is about a third party and is in a tax record (section 16(2));
  • disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy (section 17);
  • the information is in a law enforcement record and its disclosure would be an offence under an Act of Canada (section 20(4));
  • the information would reveal Cabinet or Treasury Board confidences (section 22); 
  • records relating to an audit by the Chief Internal Auditor that are created by or for the Chief Internal Auditor (section 24(2.1)(a));
  • disclosure would reveal information about an audit by the Chief Internal Auditor(section 24(2.1)(b)) and
  • the information is subject to legal privilege and relates to a person other than a public body (section 27(2)).

There is an exception to these mandatory exceptions. Section 32 of the Act requires disclosure in the public interest. If section 32 applies, it overrides a mandatory exception.

In addition, information must not be disclosed if the disclosure is prohibited by another enactment (Act or regulation) of Alberta that prevails despite the FOIP Act.

Discretionary Exceptions

The following discretionary exceptions are listed in the Act:

  • disclosure harmful to individual or public safety (section 18);
  • confidential evaluations (section 19);
  • disclosure harmful to law enforcement (section 20(1));
  • disclosure harmful to intergovernmental relations (section 21);
  • local public body confidences (section 23);
  • advice from officials (section 24(1));
  • disclosure harmful to the economic or other interests of a public body (section 25);
  • testing and audit procedures (section 26);
  • legal and other privileged information of a public body (section 27);
  • disclosure harmful to the conservation of heritage sites, etc. (section 28); and
  • information that is or will be available to the public (section 29).