Ontario Medical Association v (Ontario) Information and Privacy Commissioner 2018 ONCA 673

A reporter for the Toronto Star requested access to information from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.8.0. 1990, c. F.31. She sought access to the names of the top 100 physician billers to the Ontario Health Insurance Program for the 2008 to 2012 fiscal years and a breakdown of the physicians’ medical specialties and the dollar amounts billed.

An adjudicator assigned by the Information and Privacy Commissioner directed the Ministry to disclose the physicians’ names, the amounts billed and the physicians’ fields of specialization, if applicable. The Divisional Court upheld the Adjudicator’s order on judicial review.

The adjudicator had determined that the requested information did not constitute “personal information” within the meaning of s. 2(1) and, therefore, the s. 21(1)exemption from disclosure did not apply.

The Ontario Medical Association and two groups of physicians appealed. They argued that a physician’s name is “personal information” and thereby exempt from disclosure by s. 21 (1) of the Act.

The ONCA panel ruled that:

In our view, where, as here, an individual’s gross professional or business income is not a reliable indicator of the individual’s actual personal finances or income, it is reasonable to conclude not only that the billing information is not personal information as per s. 2(1), but also that it does not describe “an individual’s finances [or] income”, for the purpose of s. 21(3)(f). As a result, we are not persuaded that s. 21(3)(f) demonstrates that the Adjudicator erred in concluding that the billing information was not personal information.