Archived - Department of Finance Canada
Annual Report to Parliament on the Administration of the Access to Information Act
2009–2010

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Purpose of the Access to Information Act

Mandate of the Department of Finance Canada

Administration of the Access to Information Act

Interpretation of the Statistical Report

Complaints/Investigations

Appeals to the Federal Court of Canada

APPENDIX A - Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act Requests

Introduction 

This Annual Report to Parliament on the Administration of the Access to Information Act (the Act) within the Department of Finance Canada is being submitted in accordance with section 72 of the Act and covers the period from April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010.

Purpose of the Access to Information Act

The Act came into force on July 1, 1983. It gives Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or any person or corporation present in Canada a right to access information that is contained in government records.

The Department of Finance Canada recognizes that the right of access to information in records under the control of the Department and other federal government institutions is an essential element of our system of democracy. The Department is committed to openness and transparency, respecting both the spirit and the requirements of the Act, its Regulations and its related policy instruments.

The Department further acknowledges the importance of facilitating access to records by requiring that its employees make every reasonable effort to assist applicants.

Mandate of the Department of Finance Canada

The Department of Finance Canada is the federal government central agency responsible for providing advice on all aspects of Canada’s economic and financial affairs. Concerned with the performance of the Canadian economy, it oversees all initiatives that affect the economy and follows the development of external factors that bear on domestic economic performance.

The Department is committed to making a difference for Canadians by helping the Government of Canada develop and implement strong and sustainable economic, fiscal, tax, social, security, international, and financial-sector policies and programs. It plays an important role in ensuring that government spending is focussed on results and delivers value for taxpayer dollars. The Department interacts extensively with other federal departments and agencies and plays a pivotal role in the analysis and design of public policy across a wide range of issues affecting Canadians.

The Department’s most visible output is the federal budget. The budget speech provides an authoritative review of past, present, and future economic factors that will affect Canada’s economic performance and finances. The budget reviews government accounts for the past period and presents its fiscal projections for the coming years. These include the government’s expenditure program, revenues from existing sources, taxation changes, and debt levels. The Minister of Finance has a number of statutory responsibilities and plays a significant role as central policy advisor.

Specifically, the Department’s ministerial and departmental functions are as follows:

Program (or statutory) responsibilities and core functions

  • Fiscal and monetary policy
  • Budget preparation and planning
  • Tax policy
  • Debt and exchange fund management
  • Tariff and certain aspects of trade and
    tariff policy
  • Financial sector policy
  • International financial arrangements
  • Federal‑provincial fiscal arrangements (policy and program administration)
  • Private pension policy and public pension financing
  • Privatization

Central agency functions

  • Development of the fiscal framework
  • Preparation of the economic outlook and forecast
  • Analysis and assessment of major policy initiatives and options
  • Shared supervision of Crown corporations and agencies
  • Coordination with other central agencies on key files

Administration of the Access to Information Act

Access to Information and Privacy Division

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Division is responsible for administering the Act for the Department of Finance Canada. As a centralized operation, the ATIP Division coordinates the timely processing of requests under the legislation, conducts interdepartmental consultations, handles complaints lodged with the Information Commissioner, and responds to informal inquiries. ATIP staff also provides advice, guidance and training to departmental officials on matters involving the Act.

The ATIP Division comprises a director, two team leaders, nine full-time ATIP analysts, one part-time analyst, and two administrative assistants.

Educational and training activities

During the past year, the ATIP Division organized eight educational and training activities for all branches of the Department. It also participated in four of the Department’s orientation sessions, providing information about the Act and proper information management procedures to 126 employees new to the Department. In addition, ATIP provided three Access to Information Act training sessions that included a total of 83 employees. Ad hoc training was also provided as needed or requested by departmental branches or individuals.

Institutional changes to the administration of the Access to Information Act

No new policies, guidelines or procedures were implemented during the reporting period.

Delegation of authority

The delegation of authority that was approved on March 31, 2008, remained in effect throughout the reporting period. Depending on the nature of the information requested and its sensitivity, the authority to approve or deny the release of departmental information requested under the Act is shared by the Deputy Minister, the Associate Deputy Minister and G7 Deputy for Canada, the Associate Deputy Minister, the Assistant Deputy Minister and Counsel to the Department, and the Access to Information and Privacy Director. Generally, the ATIP Director approves all exemptions.

access to information act

Schedule 1
Designation Order—Access to Information Act
Powers, duties, or functions Section Deputy Minister Associate DM Associate DM and G7 Deputy  for Canada Assistant  DM and Counsel, Law Branch Director, ATIP ATIP Team Leader Senior ATIP Analyst
Reasonable effort to assist, respond accurately and completely and provide timely access in the format requested 4(2.1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To give notice to applicant that access will be given 7(a) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To give access to the record 7(b) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To transfer to another institution or to accept transfer from another institution and to give notice to applicant 8(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To extend time limit and give notice 9 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
No records exist 10 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To require payment of additional fees 11(2) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To require payment for machine readable record 11(3) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To require payment of a deposit 11(4) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To give notice of amount required 11(5) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To waive the requirement to pay a fee 11(6) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To determine whether a record should be translated 12(2) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To determine whether a record should be provided in an alternative format 12(3) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 13 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 14 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 15 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 16 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 16.5 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 17 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 18 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 18.1 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 19 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that subsection 20(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To disclose part of a record referred to in that subsection 20(2) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To disclose part of a record referred to in that subsection and provide written explanation 20(3) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To disclose, with the consent of third party, a record referred to in subsection 20(1) 20(5) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To disclose, in the public interest, a record referred to in paragraphs 20(1)(b),(c) or (d) 20(6) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that subsection 21(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 22 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 22.1 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 23 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 24 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To disclose information that can reasonably be severed 25 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To refuse to disclose a record referred to in that section 26 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To give to third party notice of intent to disclose 27(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To extend time limit set out in 27(1) 27(4) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To decide on disclosure after third party representation and to give notice of decision to third party 28(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To waive requirement for written representations 28(2) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To give access unless review of decision is requested 28(4) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To give notice to applicant and to third party 29(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To advise the Information Commissioner of any third party who received notification or, if the document would have been disclosed, would have received notification 33 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To make representations to the Information Commissioner 35(2) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To give notice to the Information Commissioner that access to a record will be given 37(4) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To give notice to a third party of application for Court review 43(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To give notice to applicant that third party has applied for Court review 44(2) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To request hearing in the National Capital Region 52(2) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To request opportunity to make representations ex parte 52(3) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To provide facilities where manuals may be inspected by public 71(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To exempt information severed from manuals 71(2) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
To prepare annual report for submission to Parliament 72(1) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
To carry out responsibilities conferred on the Head of the institution by regulations made under section 77 which are not included above. 77 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Reading room

The reading room, located in the Department’s library, is available to individuals who wish to view the records released by the Department in response to their access requests. This facility contains current volumes of Info Source, previous annual reports to Parliament, and Access to Information Request Forms.

Interpretation of the Statistical Report

The number of requests received under the Act in this reporting period was 310, a 4.4% decrease from 324 requests the previous reporting year. This is the third consecutive decrease since
2006–07 when 444 requests were received. This reporting year, the total number of requests considered was 375 as 65 requests remained outstanding from 2008–09. By the end of 2009–10, 309 requests had been completed, with 66 carried forward to 2010–11.

In 2009–10, the ATIP Division also received 120 new consultations from other departments on matters of interest to the Department of Finance Canada. By the end of the year, 122 had been completed (includes some consultations that were carried over from the previous fiscal year).

Source of requests received

While more than half the requests this year came from business (54.8%), this is not an overly large increase from the previous year of 46.9%. The largest differences were seen in the number of requests received from the public (a 10.1% increase, or 30 requests) and from organizations (a 9.2% decrease, also 30 requests). The next largest difference had to do with the number of requests received from the media (a decrease of 7.1%, or 26 requests). Requests received from members of the remaining category, academia, decreased slightly by 1.9%, or six requests.

Source 2008–09 2009–10
Public 28 8.6 % 58 18.7 %
Media 94 29.0 % 68 21.9 %
Business 152 46.9 % 170 54.8 %
Academia 9 2.8 % 3 0.9 %
Organizations 41 12.7 % 11 3.5 %

To determine whether there had been any noteworthy differences over the years as to the sources of requests, this year’s figures were compared to the average number of requests by category over a five-year span.

Source Average
2004–05 to 2008–09
(rounded figures)
2009–10
Public 46 12.8 % 58 18.7 %
Media 106 29.6 % 68 21.9 %
Business 159 44.5 % 170 54.8 %
Academia 4 1 % 3 0.9 %
Organizations 40 11.2 % 11 3.5 %

Disposition of requests

The following table indicates the disposition of the 309 requests completed during this reporting period:

Disposition Number
of Requests
Percentage
of Requests
All disclosed 25 8.1 %
Disclosed in part 158 51.2 %
Nothing disclosed (excluded) 2 0.6 %
Nothing disclosed (exempt) 2 0.6 %
Transferred 2 0.6 %
Unable to process 108 35.0 %
Abandoned by applicant 11 3.5 %
Treated informally 1 0.3 %
Total 309 99.9 %

Records fully disclosed

In 8.09% of the 309 requests completed (25 cases), the applicants were provided full access to the records they requested.

Records partially disclosed

In the majority of cases (51.13%, or 158 requests), some exemptions and/or exclusions needed to be invoked before the records could be provided to the applicants.

No records disclosed

In only four cases (1.29%) was the Department required to deny access to records in their entirety.

Requests transferred

Only two requests were transferred to other government institutions that had a greater interest in the records being sought by the applicants.

Unable to process

No relevant records were found regarding 108 requests (34.95% of cases). The majority of these (73 files) were responses to a group of applicants who submit monthly requests for comfort letters.

Abandoned

In 11 cases, applicants either failed to clarify the nature of their requests or were unwilling to pay the requisite fees and, therefore, the requests were abandoned.

Treated informally

Only one of the 309 requests completed was treated on an informal basis.

This year, the ATIP Division wished to see whether the disposition of completed requests had changed over the last few years. A comparison was made between this year’s figures and the average disposition rates over a five-year period.

Disposition Average
2004–05 to 2008–09 (rounded figures)
2009–10
All disclosed 31 9 % 25 8.1 %
Disclosed in part 207 58 % 158 51.2 %
Nothing disclosed (excluded) 6 1 % 2 0.6 %
Nothing disclosed (exempt) 3 1 % 2 0.6 %
Transferred 2 1 % 2 0.6 %
Unable to process 86 24 % 108 35.0 %
Abandoned by applicant 19 5 % 11 3.5 %
Treated informally 3 1 % 1 0.3 %
Average # Completed / Completed 2009–10 357 100 % 309 99.9 %

Exemptions invoked and exclusions cited

During the period, the following exemptions were invoked:

Sections of the Act General Provisions Number of Files
Where Applied
Section 13 Information obtained in confidence from other governments 40
Section 14 Federal-provincial affairs 70
Section 15 International affairs and defence 35
Section 16 Law enforcement and investigations 13
Section 17 Safety of individuals 1
Section 18 Economic interests of Canada 118
Section 19 Personal information 76
Section 20 Third party information 100
Section 21 Operations of government 227
Section 22 Testing procedures, tests and audits 3
Section 23 Solicitor-client privilege 19
Section 24 Statutory prohibitions 10
Section 26 Information to be published 2

During this reporting period, the following exclusions applied:

Sections of the Act General Provisions Number of Files
Where Applied
Section 68 Published material 6
Section 69 Confidences of the
Queen’s Privy Council
49

Completion time

This year, 90.6% of closed requests were completed on time. This is slightly better than last year’s reporting rate of 90.1%. The Department is committed to maintaining or improving its compliance rate in responding to requests under the Act.

Of the 309 requests completed during the reporting period, 173 (or 55.98%) were completed within 30 days, 48 (or 15.53%) were completed within 31 to 60 days, 46 (or 14.88%) were completed within 61 to 120 days, and 42 (or 13.59%) were completed in 121 days or over. Requests taking 121 days or more to complete usually involved voluminous files that required extensive internal consultations, consultations with third parties, and consultations with other government institutions.

The Department has not been the subject of a Report Card by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) for quite some time. However, it has conducted self-assessments using the OIC’s mathematical formula to determine its “grade.” The self-assessment resulted in a “C” in 2005–06 and a constant “B” from 2006 to 2009. In the 2009–10 self-assessment, the Department has again attained a “B” grade.

Extensions 

During the reporting period, extensions of 30 days or less were invoked as follows:

Searching for large number of records 16
Consultation with other government institutions 22
Notification of third parties 19

Extensions of 31 days or over were invoked as follows:

Searching for large number of records 9
Consultation with other government institutions 59
Notification of third parties 42

Translations 

No requests for translations were received.

Method of access 

In 183 cases, access was provided to the applicants either on paper or by compact disk. No applicants asked to view the records they had requested as opposed to receiving a copy.

Fees 

There have been no changes to the departmental fee policy. With the exception of the $5.00 application fee, fees assessed at less than $25.00 are waived.

During this reporting year, $1,825.00 in fees were collected, approximately $2,600 less than in the previous reporting year. This is largely due to an increase in demand for records in compact disk format.

Costs 

Costs incurred during the reporting period are calculated based on the salaries of ATIP staff
(14 full-time employees and one part-time employee) and the administrative expenses associated with administration of the Act. Costs do not include the salaries of other departmental officials and support staff involved in processing requests (i.e., search, collection, and initial review of documents). See Appendix A for cost details.

Complaints/Investigations 

Complaints filed

There were 14 complaints initiated against the Department, which represents 4.5% of the requests completed during the reported period. The categories of the complaints are as follows:

Reasons for Complaint Complaints
Refusal (general or exemption) 7
Refusal (exclusion, section 69) 3
Extension 2
Delay 2

Complaints

Of the 14 complaints received this fiscal year, three were deemed to be not well-founded by the Information Commissioner, seven were resolved, and two were discontinued. Findings have yet to be rendered regarding the remaining two files, one of which is a complaint about the exemptions claimed, while the other concerns an extension of the statutory time limit. The Information Commissioner’s investigations did not raise any specific issues or concerns.

Appeals to the Federal Court of Canada

No appeals to the Federal Court were made in this reporting period.

APPENDIX A

Statistical Report on the
Access to Information Act Requests

Report on the Access to Information Act Requests