Report on the administration of the Access to Information Act 2012-2013
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About this publication
Publication author : Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions
Publish date : September 25, 2013
This report deals with the activities of the Agency in implementing the Access to information Act for the fiscal year 2012-2013.
Table of Contents
- Mandate of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec
- Access to Information and Privacy Office
- Delegation of authority
- Interpreting the statistical report on access to information requests
- Administrative policies and practices
- Complaints and investigations
- Info Source
- Reading room
- Actions planned for 2013-2014
- Annex A – Statistical report
- Annex B – Reporting requirements
- Annex C – Delegation schedule
The Access to Information Act (the Act), promulgated on July 1, 1983, aims to broaden access to the records of the federal government. It enshrines the principle of the right of the public to be given information and endeavours to complement arrangements for access to records.
In deference to this legal principle, federal institutions are required to establish standardized practices and procedures for processing access to information requests. These practices and procedures must include an undertaking to make all reasonable efforts to assist applicants, regardless of who they may be. Institutions must also apply the Act in an effective, coordinated and proactive manner so as to provide full, accurate and timely responses to access to information requests, subject only to regulatory constraints.
Lastly, section 72 of the Act requires federal institutions to submit an annual administration report to Parliament.
This document reports on the activities carried out by the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec (the Agency), with respect to the application of the Act.
The Access to Information Act allows Canadians, permanent residents and anyone in Canada to exercise a general right of access to information held by federal institutions, subject to specific and limited exceptions.
Mandate of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec
Mission: Under its incorporating act, which came into effect on October 5, 2005, the mission of the Agency is to promote the long-term economic development of the regions of Quebec, giving special attention to those where slow economic growth is prevalent or opportunities for productive employment are inadequate. As part of its mission, the Agency is committed to promoting cooperation and a complementary relationship with Quebec and its communities.
Vision: Quebec communities and SMEs participate to their full potential in the economy of tomorrow, building on their own assets.
By virtue of its mandate, the Agency is at the heart of the government's central economic and job-creation priorities. It is present in all regions of Quebec and works closely with local organizations. It supports communities and small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) to enable them to join the economy of tomorrow and reach their full potential, building on their own assets. It supports SMEs in improving their capacity for performance, productivity and innovation. The Agency also offers temporary support to regions facing economic shocks, natural disasters or situations that may have unwanted effects on their development by helping them to diversify their economic base in the interests of longterm growth.
Delivery of these services, grounded in quality standards, is overseen by advisors in 12 business offices. To learn more about the Agency's mandate, programming and operations, consult its Web site: www.dec-ced.gc.ca.
Access to Information and Privacy Office
The Access to Information and Privacy Office (AIPO) is a division of the Agency's Corporate Secretariat, reporting directly to the Deputy Minister's Chief of Staff.
AIPO has a manager from the Corporate Secretariat, an access to information and privacy coordinator and a part-time access to information officer. The coordinator oversees compliance with legislation, regulations, procedures and broad government trends. Half of the officer's workload is devoted to processing requests for access to information.
Through its delegated authority, AIPO represents the Agency on matters relating to the Act in dealings with the public, Treasury Board Secretariat, the Information and Privacy Commissioners and other federal departments and institutions.
AIPO's chief duties are:
- Processing access requests and coordinating all attendant administrative and legal operations
- Assisting applicants
- Developing opinions, general guidelines and procedures relating to application of the Act
- Reporting on the Agency's application of the Act
- Meeting the training needs of Agency employees
Delegation of authority
The Agency's enabling legislation identifies its head as being the Deputy Minister. In addition to managing the institution and overseeing management of Agency personnel, the Deputy Minister is responsible for application of the Access to Information Act.
During the current fiscal year, a new Deputy Minister was appointed. All delegated authorities were upheld when the new Deputy Minister signed the delegation schedule on December 6, 2012. A copy is appended.
Authority for application of the Act was delegated to the manager position in the Corporate Secretariat, while most administrative authority was delegated to the position of access to information and privacy coordinator.
This delegation emerged from the 2011-2012
comprehensive access plan. This plan continues
to reflect government trends and adheres to
the overall principles of access to information.
The section on "
Administrative Policies and
Practices" in this report provides more detail
to this effect.
Interpreting the statistical report on access to information requests
AIPO recorded a 79% jump in the number of access to information requests in 2012-2013. The nature of these requests turned out to be more complex than in past years and required numerous discussions with applicants to clarify what information they were looking for. A number of requests targeted information on disclosure of contributions or falsified payments in the Public Accounts of Canada, memoranda to Cabinet, briefing notes containing Cabinet confidences and the Strategic and Operational Review.
In spite of the increase, AIPO managed to maintain a rate of 52% for requests processed in less than 30 days and even succeeded in raising the proportion of requests processed in less than 15 days from 3% to 29%.
Naturally, consultations with third parties or other organizations still represent a challenge for AIPO, since they are the main reason for the delay in the response. This notwithstanding, AIPO has still managed to answer as much as 85% of requests within the deadlines stipulated by the Act.
Requests received and processed
The number of access requests received and processed has increased in the current fiscal year as compared to previous years. AIPO received a total of 48 requests during the year, compared to 35 in 2011-2012. In addition to the requests received in 2012-2013, eight were carried over from the year before, making this years's total the highest in the last 12 years (in 2001-2012, AIPO had received 49 requests).
In total, AIPO processed 52 requests in 2012-2013. This increase by 79% monopolized the resources available, as well as pushed back certain AIPO activities.
Source of requests
This year again, the media accounted for the lion's share of requester, followed closely by members of the public. There was also a rise in the number of requests from the academic and business sectors, whereas last year there had been none.
The following table shows the sources of requests.
Subjects of requests
The subjects of the received requests are as varied as their sources, but certain broad themes come up each year, and this for a number of years.
This year, 46 requests out of the total (88%) were for documents related to grants or contributions and also for background documents like briefing notes. The nature of these documents envolved the need of consultations, entailing more processing time. The other six processed requests (12%) were for documents pertaining to the Agency's internal practices: service contracts and administration of expenditures.
Disposition and processing times
The Act stipulates that access requests must normally be answered within 30 calendar days. Of those processed in 2012-2013, 27 requests (52%) were answered in less than 30 days, and of these, 15 requests (29%) were answered in less than 15 days.
It is also important to note that the Act provides for extended deadlines for certain requests where consultations with third parties or other organizations are needed. Given the nature of the documents sought from the Agency in 2012-2013, several requests required such consultations. AIPO, therefore, had to extend the deadlines to be able to discharge its obligations under the Act. Thus, taking into account the number of requests where deadlines were extended to accommodate consultations, a total of 44 responses (85%) were delivered within the timeframe specified in the Act. This is the same rate as in the previous year.
In 2012-2013, two new phenomena were noted.
- An increase in the number of times the
No Record Exists" was invoked. For eight requests (15%), AIPO was unable to find a record matching the search criteria. This phenomenon partly accounts for the improvement in responses within 15 days.
- An increase in the number of requests abandoned. For six requests (12%), the applicants gave up their search while it was being processed. The reasons for these withdrawals have proved to be very varied and do not allow any specific explanation for this increase. However in carrying out its mandate, AIPO has been careful to assist applicants in exercising their right.
|Number of Days|
|1 to 15||16 to 30||31 to 60||61 to
|More than 365|
|Disclosed in part||1||7||7||5||1||3|
|No records exists||6||2|
Exceptions and exclusions invoked
Of the 52 requests processes, 6 were abandoned and in 8 cases no documents were communicated. Of the remaining 38 requests, the AIPO made full disclosure, without applying any protection, for 12 requests (32%) and invoked exemptions and exclusions for 26 other cases (68%).
As can be seen, the Agency, by virtue of its economic development activities, holds many records containing business, technical and financial information relating to third parties.
The following table shows the exemptions and exclusions invoked in 2012-2013. More than one section may be invoked for a given request.
|Third party information
|Advice and recommendations
|Tests and audits
|Refusal of access where
information to be published
69(1)g) re a)
69(1)g) re e)
Communication of disclosed documents
In 2012-2013, a total of 36 requests (69%) resulted in partial or full disclosure. Of this number, 34 responses (94%) were released on paper and two others in electronic format.
Communication in electronic format (sent on CD) is preferred, especially in the case of voluminous records. This option was used less often in the current year, precisely because the records disclosed were less voluminous.
This year again, as has been the case for many years, no records werre consulted in the Agency's reading room.
Pages reviewed and disclosed
With the introduction in 2011-2012 by the Treasury Board Secretariat of a new detailed statistical report, it is now possible to report the number of reviewed pages and compare it with the number of disclosed pages.
The amount of pages may vary considerably from year to year, depending on the subjects of interest and the quantity of relevant records held by the Agency. Over the past two years, however, AIPO has noticed a consistency in the number of reviewed and disclosed pages. In 2012-2013, the number of pages reviewed (3,949) was similar to the number for the previous year (4,175). The number of disclosed pages has also remained fairly constant: 2,128 pages during the current year and 2,361 in 2011-2012.
Though the majority of requests processed in 2012-2013 contained fewer than 100 pages, by comparison with the previous year, where the number of pages per request was higher, processing proved to be more complex because of their nature.
Third party consultations and extensions
In order to meet the demands of the Act, third party consultations led to extensions in 31 out of 52 requests (60%), as compared with 20 requests (70%) last year. In each case, applicants were advised of the extension in accordance with the Act.
Of all these third party consultations, two were answered after expiry of the prescribed deadline, leading to delays in processing.
This was the case, for instance, where the third party, after consultation, objected to the Agency's decision to disclose and, therefore, filed suit in Federal Court, only to drop the action 186 days later, causing a processing delay of 343 days.
Privy Council Office consultations and extensions
Through representations made by the Agency's Legal Services, AIPO had to consult the Office of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada five times to confirm applicability of section 69, which provides for exclusion of confidences of the Privy Council. Of these five requests, four were answered after the extension has expired.
Because of the imposed procedures obliging us to go through Legal Services in seeking consultation and because of the delay in processing, these consultations are still problematic in terms of response time.
Consultation requests from other federal institutions
In the current year, AIPO has processed a total of 17 requests from other federal institutions or bodies. These requests account for a total of 178 pages for processing.
Of these 17 consultations, a recommendation for full disclosure was made for 13 requests (76%) and for partial disclosure for two (12%). The two remaining requests (12%) yielded no recommendation, since the records didn't concern the Agency. All of these requests were processed within 15 days.
Fees and exemptions
AIPO complies with the guidelines of the Treasury Board Secretariat with regard to imposition and waiving of access fees. For example, it waives reproduction fees of less than $25. Above that amount, it decides whether full fees should be charged or not on the basis of perceived public interest.
In 2012-2013, fees of $180 were collected for submission of requests. A few other requests had submission fees waived. In most cases, AIPO sought to split requests that referred simultaneously to multiple awards of contributions by the Agency. This practice has had the effect of getting responses to applicants faster, since consultations are conducted individually with the third party who received the contribution in question.
The cost of administering the Act in 2012- 2013 amounted to $156,117. This includes $133,987 in payroll and $11,478 for travel, software licensing, supplies and translation. Exceptionally, professional fees of $10,652 were paid this year because consultants were hired to accelerate the process of a voluminous access to information request.
In fiscal year 2011-2012, we were able to develop and deliver a series of mandatory training sessions entitled Access to Information and Privacy Protection. This major initiative was conducted by the AIPO team and led to instruct 316 Agency employees on issues of access to information and protection of personal data.
There were plans for AIPO to continue offering these sessions in 2012-2013 on an as-needed basis to train new employees or those who had not yet attended, but because of operational requirements associated with access requests, this training endeavour was put on hold.
However, AIPO has contributed to learning retention by publishing practical information capsules for all employees. This initiative was complemented by four one-time training sessions. In all, four employees took this training.
Administrative policies and practices
For the past three years, AIPO has had an Access to Information and Personal Information Procedure, submitted to and approved by the Agency's top management. Purely administrative amendments were made in 2012-2013 following appointment of a new Deputy Minister.
The procedure meets the demands of the Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act, as updated in January 2012. The purpose of this directive is to facilitate compliance with legislative and regulatory strictures, spell out the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in processing access requests and provide an efficient model of practices and processes for handling access requests.
In addition to presenting the roles and responsibilities of the various individuals involved, this procedure presents the process for handling requests, intended to illustrate the various processing and approval stages in effect at the Agency, based on the steps indicated in the following diagram.
Information available on the Agency's Web site
One section of the Agency's site has information about its role in applying the Act. There, one can find details on the access requests processed by AIPO and for which records have been released. In accordance with the Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act, the Agency has been publishing a monthly summary of completed access to information requests since May 2011. This includes the request's identification, summary, disposition, as well as the number of pages released.
This publication also contains practical supplementary information to help citizens who want to file an access request. This section is intended as a gateway to AIPO's services and undertaking.
The Agency strives constantly to strengthen public sector management by promoting transparency within its own organization. One of the first measures implemented was mandatory proactive disclosure of information on finance and human resources.
Since 2005, the public has been able to access the Agency's Web site to obtain quarterly information on travel and hospitality costs, contracts, reclassification of positions and grants and contributions to SMEs and NPOs.
Work is ongoing to make it easier to extract data on grants and contributions awarded by the Agency, offering a spreadsheet to make it easier to sort the information. This AIPO initiative is intended to guide applicants and foster a willingness to be transparent.
Informal requests chiefly target public information on disclosed contributions, most often in the form of lists giving the criteria for specific searches.
In accordance with the Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act, and to the extent possible, the Agency strives to process these requests informally. These entail no fees, nor any right to complain to the Information Commissioner.
In 2012-2013, this informal processing enabled the Agency to respond to seven requests for public information on disclosed contributions.
The Agency intends to make its Internet grants and contributions disclosure lists more user-friendly. Applicants will then be able to browse the Web site's Proactive Disclosure section for lists normally accessed through informal requests.
As with informal requests, AIPO tracks follow-up requests for access to information already processed. In 2012-2013, only one such request was received.
In all, AIPO processed eight informal requests. This number represents a drop from 2011-2012, when 17 such requests were processed.
Complaints and investigations
AIPO received a total of two complaints during the current fiscal year.
The first complaint, for denial of access, was received in June 2012. However, the complainant himself withdrew it a few months later.
A second complaint, likewise for denial of access, was received in July. As requested, AIPO sent the records and the required supporting documentation to the Office of the Information Commissioner. The main point in question was interpretation of section 20(1) regarding documents showing contribution amounts claimed by Agency clients and paid out. As this report was published, AIPO was waiting for the Commissioner's findings.
The Treasury Board Secretariat requires an updated account of all the Agency's information holdings so that they can be included in Info Source. This publication has been located on the Secretariat's Web site for several years.
This year, AIPO, together with certain other federal bodies, took part in a Secretariat initiative aimed at publishing Info Source directly on their own sites. This initiative will make it easier to access information of higher quality that is regularly updated. This made it possible to revise and update the information holdings before they were published on line: http:// www.dec-ced.gc.ca/fra/ressources/publications/agence/ info-source.html
In order to encourage the general public to avail themselves of the existing mechanisms for obtaining information and to comply with the requirements of the Act, the Agency may designate a room in its Montreal offices to be used as a reading room for members of the public wishing to consult records under an access to information request. Similar arrangements may be made in the Agency's regional offices to better serve the public in regions.
Actions planned for 2013-2014
AIPO will work towards responding to all requests for access to information in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of the Act.
Furthermore, it intends to consolidate its workforce in order to continue improving its business practices and conform to directives, regulations and broad trends in access to information.
Business practices will be improved in 2013- 2014 in particular through training activities:
- One-time training for AIPO staff on applying certain exceptions
- Continuation of the awareness sessions for all employees
- Distribution of information capsules to all employees
Annex A – Statistical report
Part 1 – Requests under the Access to Information Act
|Number of Requests|
|Received during reporting period||48|
|Outstanding from previous reporting period||8|
|Closed during reporting period||52|
|Carried over to next reporting period||4|
|Source||Number of Requests|
|Business (Private Sector)||6|
Part 2 – Requests closed during the reporting period
|Disposition of requests||Completion Time|
|1 to 15 days||16 to 30 days||31 to 60 days||61 to 120 days||121 to 180 days||181 to 365 days||More than 365 days||Total|
|Disclosed in part||1||7||7||5||1||3||0||24|
|No records exist||6||2||0||0||0||0||0||8|
|Section||Number of requests|
|15(1) - A.I.*||0|
|15(1) - Def.*||0|
|15(1) - A.S.*||0|
* I.A.: International Affairs Def.: Defence of Canada S.A.: Subversive Activities
|Section||Number of requests|
|Disclosed in part||22||2||0|
|Disposition of requests||Number of pages processed||Number of pages disclosed||Number of requests|
|Disclosed in part||3,487||1,702||24|
|Type of request||Less than 100 pages processed||101-500 pages processed||501-1000 pages processed|
|Disposition||Number of requests||Pages disclosed||Number of requests||Pages disclosed||Number of requests||Pages disclosed|
|Disclosed in part||18||281||3||968||3||453|
|Type of request||1001-5000 pages processed||More than 5000 pages processed|
|Disposition||Number of requests||Pages disclosed||Number of requests||Pages disclosed|
|Disclosed in part||0||0||0||0|
|Disposition||Consultation required||Assessment of fees||Legal Advice Sought||Other||Total|
|Disclosed in part||18||0||12||6||36|
2.6 Deemed refusals
|Number of days past deadline||Number of requests past deadline where no extension was taken||Number of requests past deadline where an extension was taken||Total|
|1 to 15 days||0||0||0|
|16 to 30 days||0||2||2|
|31 to 60 days||0||2||2|
|61 to 120 days||0||3||3|
|121 to 180 days||0||0||0|
|181 to 365 days||0||1||1|
|More than 365 days||0||0||0|
|English to French||0||0||0|
|French to English||0||0||0|
Part 3 – Extensions
|Disposition of requests where an extension was taken||
Interference with operations
Third party notice
|Disclosed in part||0||2||9||11|
|No records exist||0||0||0||0|
|Length of extensions||
Interference with operations
Third party notice
|30 days or less||0||0||9||11|
|31 to 60 days||0||0||2||7|
|61 to 120 days||0||0||0||0|
|121 to 180 days||0||5||0||0|
|181 to 365 days||0||0||0||0|
|365 days or more||0||0||0||0|
Part 4 – Fees
|Fee Type||Fee Collected||Fee Waived or Refunded|
|Number of requests||Amount||Number of requests||Amount|
Part 5 – Consultations received from other institutions and organizations
|Number of pages to review||Other organizations||Number of pages to review|
|Received during reporting period||15||138||1||26|
|Outstanding from the previous reporting period||2||19||0||0|
|Closed during the reporting period||16||152||1||26|
|Pending at the end of the reporting period||1||5||0||0|
|Recommendation||Number of days required to complete consultation requests|
|1 to 15 days||16 to 30 days||31 to 60 days||61 to 120 days||121 to 180 days||181 to 365 days||than 365 days||Total|
|Disclose in part||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Consult other institution||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Recommendation||Number of days required to complete consultation requests|
|1 to 15 days||16 to 30 days||31 to 60 days||61 to 120 days||121 to 180 days||181 to 365 days||than 365 days||Total|
|Disclose in part||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Consult other institution||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Part 6 - Completion time of consultations on Cabinet confidences
|Number of days||Number of responses received||Number of responses received past deadline|
|1 to 15||0||0|
|16 to 30||0||0|
|31 to 60||0||0|
|61 to 120||0||0|
|121 to 180||5||4|
|181 to 365||0||0|
|More than 365||0||0|
Part 7 – Resources related to the Access to Information Act
|Goods and Services||$22,130|
|• Professional services contracts||$10,652||$11,478|
|Resources||Dedicated full-time to ATI activities||Dedicated part-time to ATI activities||Total|
|Part-time and casual employees||0.00||0.00||0.00|
|Consultants and agency personnel||0.06||0.00||0.06|
Annex B – Reporting requirements
|Institution||Number of informal releases of previously released ATI packages|
|Canada Economic Development||1|
Annex C – Delegation schedule
|Manager, General Secretariat||Co-ordinator|
|7(a)||Notice when access requested|
|7(b)||Giving access to record|
|8(1)||Transfer of request to another institution|
|9||Extension of time limits|
|11(2), (3), (4), (5), (6)||Additional fees|
|12(2)(b)||Language of access|
|12(3)(b)||Language in alternative format|
|13||Exemption - Information obtained in confidence|
|14||Exemption - Federal-provincial affairs|
|15||Exemption - International affairs and defence|
|16||Exemption - Law enforcement and investigations|
|16.5||Exemption - Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act|
|17||Exemption - Safety of individuals|
|18||Exemption - Economic interests of Canada|
|18.1||Exemption - Economic interests of government institutions|
|19||Exemption - Personal information|
|20||Exemption - Third party information|
|21||Exemption - Operations of government|
|22||Exemption - Testing procedures, tests and audits|
|22.1||Exemption - Audit working papers and draft audit reports|
|23||Exemption - Soliciter-client privilege|
|24||Exemption - Statutory prohibitions|
|26||Exemption - Information to be published|
|27(1), (4)||Third-party notifications|
|28(1)(b), (2), (4)||Third-party notifications|
|29(1)||Where the Information Commissioner recommends disclosure|
|33||Advising Information Commissioner of third-party involvement|
|35(2)(b)||Right to make representations|
|37(4)||Access to be given to complainant|
|43(1)||Notice to third party (application to Feferal Court by third party)|
|44(2)||Notice to applicant (application to Federal Court by third party)|
|52(2), (3)||Special rules for hearings|
|71(1)||Facilities for inspection of manuals|
|72||Annual report to Parliament|
I approve the delegation schedule.
Guy Mc Kenzie, Deputy Minister/President
Date: December 6, 2012
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