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Canadian Taxpayers Federation v Alberta (Election Commissioner), 2023 ABKB 161

This case involves the applicants, CTF and John Doe’s application for a publication ban and sealing order over John Doe’s identity and an order permitting John Doe to give evidence in camera in the context of CTF’s appeal of the Election Commissioner’s decision that CTF had breached various provisions of the Elections Act and the Elections Finance Disclosure Act, and CTF’s constitutional challenge of the validity of various provisions of those statutes. The applicants alleged that there was a serious risk to John Doe’s privacy interests, the commercial interests of his business, and his fair trial rights if his identity was subject to the open court principle.

The Court rejected the applicant’s argument that an individual’s opinion about the sensitivity of their information is the paramount consideration in determining whether there is an important public interest, which was the interpretation of the scope of dignity interests discussed in Sherman Estate by another Alberta Court of King’s Bench judge in Doe v Canada (Attorney General).

The Court confirms that whether privacy interests are an important public interest is not a subjective matter: the focus of the analysis is not whether the information is personal to the individual but whether a larger societal interest requires protection (at para 25, citing Sherman Estate v Donovan at para 33). The court also found that there is no important public interest in confidentiality in this case, and that there is no risk to a fair trial of the issues.