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Demand for Senate documents draws blanks

OTTAWA - The Privy Council Office is refusing to release documents about the four senators embroiled in the ongoing Senate expense scandal — but apparently they have plenty of blank paper to go around.

Despite a complaint to the federal information commissioner, PCO — the central bureaucracy that serves the prime minister and cabinet — still refuses to disclose any of the contents on a number of pages related to the Senate controversy.

The Canadian Press filed an access-to-information request to PCO in August asking for any records created since late March relating to senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau or Pamela Wallin.

PCO replied a month later. The department released just two emails in which its staff discussed similar access-to-information requests. Another 27 pages were completely blank, their contents withheld.

PCO claimed every single word on every single one of those 27 pages might jeopardize solicitor-client privilege, or reveal personal information, or third-party information, or details on secret deliberations.

The Canadian Press complained to the federal information commissioner about the withheld pages, prompting a response from PCO that arrived Friday.

"As you exercised your right to complain about the withholding of information, a re-examination of the records was conducted," wrote Dwayne McDonald, PCO's director of access to information.

"Through this review, it has been determined that information remains subject to the exemptions indicated on the attached records."

The letter was accompanied by a second matching stack of 27 blank pages.

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