Appendix A: Communication between the Minister’s Office and ATIP officials
Established lines of communication
Although the evidence shows that ministerial staff members started communicating directly with ATIP officials in the spring/summer of 2009, there was already a procedure in place at PWGSC in terms of communications within the department. The purpose of this procedure was to ensure that communications between departmental officials, including ATIP officials, and ministerial staff members went through the Deputy Minister’s Office. This procedure was in keeping with Accountable Government (2008), which addressed interactions between departmental officials and ministers’ offices.
Inquiries coming from the Minister’s Office were supposed to go through the Deputy Minister’s Office, usually via the Deputy Minister’s Strategic Advisor. An ATIP official testified that the responsibilities of the Strategic Advisor included liaising between the Minister’s Office and the Corporate Services, Policy and Communications Branch on access-related matters. This testimony was confirmed by the Strategic Advisor herself, who testified that part of her role was to liaise with the Minister’s Office and the Corporate Services, Policy and Communications Branch, which included the ATIP Directorate. She explained that she would receive documents, questions or issues from the Minister’s Office or the views of ministerial staff concerning access requests, and transmitted this information to the ATIP Directorate.
The Strategic Advisor testified, however, that despite a procedure being in place, she was aware of instances in which communications between the Minister’s Office and the ATIP officials did not go through her. She also explained that her involvement in access and consultation files generally ceased after the file was returned to the ATIP Directorate from the Minister’s Office. This sometimes meant she was not aware of the direct communications between members of the Minister’s staff and ATIP officials once the file was returned to the ATIP Directorate.
The Director of Parliamentary Affairs testified that it was usual for members of the Minister’s staff to go though the Deputy Minister’s Office to communicate with the department. The Minister’s Special Assistant also confirmed that the usual process was for communication to take place via the Deputy Minister’s Office.
ATIP officials generally respected the established communications procedure. For the most part, they followed up on files in the Minister’s Office via the Deputy Minister’s Strategic Advisor. When required, they would also ask her for clarification on directions given by members of the Minister’s staff when requests were returned from the Minister’s Office. The Deputy Minister’s Strategic Advisor explained that, given her role as liaison officer and the Director of Parliamentary Affairs’ responsibility for access-related issues within the Minister’s Office, she generally dealt with him on these matters.
At times, however, ATIP officials directly emailed the Administrative Assistant, a departmental official in the Minister’s Office, for updates on requests in the review process. The evidence also shows one instance in which an ATIP official did not include in or copy the Strategic Advisor on emails sent to the Administrative Assistant in the Minister’s Office and instances in which the Director of Parliamentary Affairs responded directly to emails on which he was copied. These emails consisted of communications between departmental officials and the ATIP Directorate, who were discussing how the Minister’s Office wanted certain requests to be processed. The evidence shows that the Director of Parliamentary Affairs would respond to these emails directly even though he was not the main recipient.
Other ministerial staff members also became involved in email exchanges between departmental officials. This occurred in two of the files the OIC examined (files AC-2009-00039 and A-2008-00519). With regard to the involvement of ministerial staff, one ATIP official acknowledged that the interest of the Minister’s Office in access matters was not merely passive or informational in nature. This official testified that ministerial staff members were actively involved in how requests should be processed at PWGSC.
Ministerial staff members’ communications with the ATIP Directorate
In the context of this investigation, ministerial staff members who testified framed their involvement in access matters as limited to asking questions regarding the ATIP Directorate’s decision to disclose information or as simply expressing their views in that regard. They testified that their emails or notes on access matters only contained “questions,” “explanations,” “justifications” or “suggestions” on the nature of the documents the ATIP Directorate had decided to release.
ATIP and departmental officials, however, described ministerial staff members’ emails and various notes as “opinions,” “statements,” “orders” or “directions” to the ATIP Directorate.
Email communications from ministerial staff members to the ATIP Directorate demonstrate, by their tone and content, that members of the Minister’s staff were directing the ATIP Directorate how to apply exemptions to the information it had decided to release, what the scope of requests was and whether the information the ATIP Directorate had decided to disclose fell within that scope.
The evidence shows that the Director of Parliamentary Affairs would, at times, email ATIP officials directly. When questioned on why he emailed ATIP officials directly, the Director of Parliamentary Affairs testified that he attended weekly access meetings with ATIP officials, and sometimes ATIP officials contacted him directly.
In file A-2008-00519, ministerial staff members’ emails to the ATIP Directorate indicated that “we should not be releasing the remainder of the ATIP,” that “this should be the only part of the ATIP to be released,” that “only the work stop order document relates to the original ATIP request,” that “I encourage the ATIP department to remove everything but the workorder” and that “Hopefully, the ATIP that will be sent back up will have that change.” The Minister’s Office was directing that only one page (i.e. the work stop order) be released, as opposed to the 132 pages the ATIP Directorate had decided to release. Similarly in file AC-2009-00039, ministerial staff members sent an email to the ATIP Directorate indicating that “those comments are inappropriate and improper, not relevant to the request and should not be disclosed.”
In one request (file A-2008-00519), the Director of Parliamentary Affairs agreed that his comments were “strongly worded.” The evidence shows that these types of emails by ministerial staff members affected the processing of access and consultation requests.
The evidence does not support the position that the Minister’s Office was only asking questions. None of their emails actually include question marks and they were directive in nature.
Of the eight files the OIC examined, five show ministerial staff members instructing the ATIP Directorate how the Access to Information Act should be applied with respect to the information the ATIP Directorate had already decided to release or, in the case of a consultation, had recommended for release.
For example, in the access request concerning the American President’s visit to Canada (file A-2008-00519), the ATIP Directorate decided to disclose, in its entirety, the 132 pages of records provided by the OPIs. The purple file folder, as returned to the ATIP Directorate unsigned by the Minister’s Office, included a post-it note with a statement that read as follows:
If the only modification [to PWGSC’s daily activities] was the “work stop order” found on the last page of the ATIP, then we should not be releasing the remainder of the ATIP.
The Director of Parliamentary Affairs subsequently sent the ATIP Directorate the following email:
Some of the documents have been released but they are looking for a specific document. We need to only release and provide what they are asking for. If they wanted all documents relating to President Obama’s visit, they would get that, but they are not asking for that. We reviewed the atip and one document related to the demand is relevant and actually fully answers the request. For more in depth analysis, please speak to [the Minister’s Special Assistant].
At that point, the Minister’s Special Assistant, who had reviewed this request and testified that she wrote the post-it note, responded to everyone in the email chain, and did so before the ATIP Directorate even asked for her input or analysis. Her email read as follows:
To be more specific, the ATIP request indicates that the only thing they are looking for are modifications to the regular operations during Obama’s visit. Our department specifically states that the only documentation they have pertaining to this is the work stop order. This document is found on the last page of the ATIP. Therefore, this should be the only part of the ATIP to be released.
In his testimony, the Director of Parliamentary Affairs recalled that the Special Assistant had concerns with the information the ATIP Directorate wanted to release. He explained that she felt some of the information in the file was not the right information being given to the requester and that the file was not accurate. He also testified that the Special Assistant urged him to send the email to the ATIP Directorate and that he was presenting their views to the ATIP Directorate.
For her part, the Minister’s Special Assistant testified that she emailed the ATIP Directorate directly because she wanted to understand why the department was providing the requester with more information than was requested. She testified that the email was her explanation of how she was interpreting the content of the ATIP and what was being requested. She added that the sentence in her email that read, “this should be the only part of the ATIP to be released” was “my justification and [my] explanation of the way I’m interpreting the content of the ATIP and what’s being requested.” She added that her justification was really a question that she was providing to the Director of Parliamentary Affairs. She further explained that she intended to clarify her view and understanding that the information requested was part of what was being released. She testified that it was not her role to give directions to public servants. She would seek more information to understand why the ATIP Directorate was applying the Act in certain ways.
With respect to her overall involvement in this request, she stated, “I raised my concerns and my questions with [the Director of Parliamentary Affairs] to let him know from my side what my view was.”
With respect to this file, one ATIP official described the involvement of the Minister’s Office in the file as scoping: “It was not an issue of exemptions. It was an issue of interpretation, of scoping.” [translation] This testimony is in keeping with the evidence given by a senior official who similarly testified that the Director of Parliamentary Affairs was “scoping” the information in this access request. In other words, he was aiming to limit the release of information. In this regard, the Deputy Minister’s Strategic Advisor explained that during the weekly access meetings, ministerial staff members would sometimes express concern that the information the ATIP Directorate had decided to release was not within the “scope” of the particular request being discussed.
ATIP officials also testified that, in their view, the Minister’s Office was giving an order or was stating its position to the ATIP Directorate concerning the information it had decided to release. The ATIP officials felt this way after receiving the Director of Parliamentary Affairs’ email, “I encourage the ATIP department to remove everything but the workorder. […] Hopefully, the ATIP that will be sent back up will have that change.” Indeed, the ATIP Acting Manager who processed the request testified that the Director of Parliamentary Affairs was giving her “orders” to put only the work stop order (as opposed to the entire 132 pages) in the file that was returned to the Minister’s Office for signature. Also, the ATIP Director testified that, in his view, the initial email from the Administrative Assistant in the Minister’s Office informing the ATIP Directorate that the file was being returned “for modification” was not a collegial request for information. His view is that the Administrative Assistant’s email was a “statement” that the file was being returned for modification, and he acknowledged that it seemed like a decision had been made by someone in the Minister’s Office.
The Director of Parliamentary Affairs and the Special Assistant both testified that they were comfortable with the explanation provided in response to their questions by the ATIP Directorate and that they ultimately accepted the Directorate’s decision to release all the information.
Another example is in a consultation file from Health Canada concerning Chrysotile asbestos (file AC-2009-00039). In this file, the ATIP Directorate reviewed the information and found that no exemptions applied to the records and that Health Canada should disclose the information in its entirety. The file was circulated for signature and the Notice of Reply was returned duly signed to the ATIP Directorate. Included in the file was a note by the Director of Parliamentary Affairs referring to several sentences in the records that had been highlighted. When the ATIP Directorate asked the Administrative Assistant in the Minister’s Office about the Director’s note, the Minister’s Policy Advisor, who had reviewed the information, replied directly by email as follows:
Those comments are inappropriate and improper, not relevant to the request and should not be disclosed.
When questioned as to why he thought the comments were “inappropriate and improper,” the Policy Advisor testified that he felt the highlighted sentences may have hindered intergovernmental relations. He also testified that, in sending this email, his intent was to convey an opinion to the ATIP Directorate. The documentary evidence shows that the ATIP Acting Manager who processed this request did not agree with the Policy Advisor’s opinion that the comments were inappropriate and improper, not relevant to the request and should not be disclosed. She replied to the Minister’s Policy Advisor that the legislators did not include a section in the Act for exempting inappropriate and improper comments.
The Minister’s Office also attempted to get the ATIP Directorate to adopt its interpretation of how the Act applies in file A-2009-00169. The file dealt with a request for a copy of 11 Question Period notes, one of which was in draft form. The issue of draft QP notes appears to have been contentious for the Minister’s Office and a recurring issue between the Minister’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs and the Corporate Services, Policy and Communications Branch, the departmental branch responsible for parliamentary affairs at PWGSC.
In this case, the Director of Parliamentary Affairs thought the note should not be released because it was a draft and had not been requested or approved by the Minister’s Office. He signed the Notice of Release but wrote the following direction on the notice that was returned to the ATIP Directorate:
I am strongly opposed to releasing the visible minorities note because this was never requested, nothing was sent up to alert of this issue and the note was never in the QP book of the Minister. A note must be included relaying that information in the ATIP release. In future ONLY QP notes that are approved and/or put in the QP book will be considered “QP notes.” [emphasis original]
The Director of Parliamentary Affairs testified that his second sentence meant that an explanation must be included in the cover letter to the requester. He explained this was a suggestion to the ATIP Directorate to include such an explanation to the requester. With respect to the last sentence of his written comment, he testified that he was referring to future ways of creating QP notes at PWGSC.
A final example of ministerial staff members communicating to the ATIP Directorate how the Act should apply and the proper scope of a request involves the request for a list of all QP notes created for the Minister during a specified period (file A-2009-00033). In order to respond to the request, the department created a list of the requested notes and indicated “(French)” next to the 14 QP notes drafted in French. The folder was circulated for signature and the Notice of Release was returned to the ATIP Directorate duly signed by the Minister’s Office. The word “(French),” however, had been crossed out 14 times on the document.
The Administrative Assistant sent an email advising the ATIP Directorate that the file was being returned. The Director of Parliamentary Affairs responded to all the individuals in the email chain, as follows:
It is signed to go out on the condition that the changes I requested be made.
When questioned on this email, the Director of Parliamentary Affairs testified that it was a suggestion that the ATIP Directorate make changes to the document that he felt were needed. He testified that he crossed out the references to “(French)” because he felt this information was an inaccurate description of the QP notes. He explained that all QP cards drafted for the Minister were translated in both official languages and that to tell the requester that a QP note was drafted in French only was inaccurate.
The ATIP Acting Manager who processed this request explained that for this request, no exemptions were at play but that the issue for the Minister’s Office concerned the “scope” of the request. The Acting Manager testified that both the ATIP Directorate, and the OPI, had no issue with releasing the 14 references to “(French).” She acknowledged that the word “(French)” was not essential information, but that it was nevertheless information that could be shared with the requester. The ATIP Directorate removed the 14 references to “(French),” as per the wishes of the Minister’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs. The ATIP Acting Manager testified that the list had been created to respond to the request and that removing the word “(French)” was not considered to be altering the record. Moreover, the ATIP Directorate did not believe that removing this supplementary information was restricting the right of access and that the information as requested was in fact being provided to the requester. She acknowledged, however, that in her view the Director of Parliamentary Affairs was interpreting the “scope” of the request when he crossed out information that was not explicitly requested.
Ministerial staff member communicating with a ministerial staff member in another department
There was one instance in which a ministerial staff member contacted his counterpart in the ministerial office of another federal department with a view to coordinating the response to an access request (file AC-2009-00039). The file in question concerned the issue of Chrysotile (i.e. asbestos) and a consultation request from Health Canada. The Minister’s Policy Advisor, who reviewed the file on behalf of the Minister’s Office, testified it was tagged “interesting” because it concerned asbestos. This was an interesting or important issue for Minister Paradis, since the last Chrysotile mine in North America is located in his electoral district.
On this consultation request, the PWGSCATIP Directorate had determined that it would recommend that the information be fully disclosed to the requester. The purple file underwent the review process and the Notice of Reply was returned to the ATIP Directorate signed by all levels of review.
After that, discussions between the ATIP Directorate and ministerial staff members ensued about the scope of the request. The evidence shows that the Minister’s Policy Advisor contacted his counterpart at the Health Canada Minister’s Office and sent him the consultation request for review by that office.
Upon receiving the consultation request that originated from his own department, the Health Canada ministerial staff member inquired, via email, “What changes are you looking for?” The PWGSC Minister’s Policy Advisor replied, “I would like to apply severances on informations that could show tension and dissension between the departments, over the issue of the expert panel on chrysotile asbestos.” The Policy Advisor attached those portions he had highlighted in the responsive record in his email to the ministerial staff member at Health Canada. The Policy Advisor’s changes were adopted in the response Health Canada sent to the requester.
When asked about the PWGSC and Health Canada ministerial staff members’ involvement in this consultation request, for which the ATIP Directorate had initially recommended that all the information be disclosed, an ATIP official who processed this file agreed that the involvement of ministerial staff members in this file constituted “interference.”
ATIP Directorate’s approach to dealing with ministerial staff members on access-related matters
Although the purpose of the folder process was not to solicit senior managers’ feedback but to advise them of forthcoming disclosures so they could prepare accordingly, it was common practice within the ATIP Directorate to address concerns ministerial staff members would raise regarding access and consultation requests, or the directions they gave. The evidence shows that the ATIP Directorate would gather sufficient information to respond to input or concerns raised by ministerial staff members. ATIP officials who testified all agreed that they never ignored the input of ministerial staff regarding the scope of a request or the application of exemptions, and explained that they took into account anything raised by ministerial staff members to ensure the quality of access responses.
One ATIP official testified that, in reviewing files, the Minister’s Office could sometimes see things that the ATIP Directorate had missed. Another official testified that “it was normal to examine questions that were asked of us,” [translation] regardless of where they came from. Similarly, the ATIP Director testified that, at times, the Minister’s Office raised valid concerns when reviewing an access file. Because of this, all input received during the purple file process was addressed, and responsive records were reviewed in light of the input by the Minister’s Office and other stakeholders.
In one file (file A-2008-00588), the request was for briefing notes prepared for the Minister, one of which concerned a public opinion research project. The directions received from the Minister’s Office, specifically the Director of Parliamentary Affairs, were clearly taken into account by the ATIP Directorate, and the information the Directorate decided to release was reviewed in light of those directions. These directions, written in red ink on post-it notes affixed to the responsive records, read, “Research projects #s should not be released,” “None of these #s should be released” and “Should not be released.”
After further consideration and discussions at the departmental level, the reviewing ATIP official agreed that the directions from the Minister’s Office should be applied. In the end, the ATIP Directorate released the information in accordance with the directions given by the Minister’s Policy Advisor.
Even in instances in which the file under review was returned to the ATIP Directorate with the Notice or Release or Notice of Reply duly signed, the Directorate would not release the requested information when a direction issued by the Minister’s Office was outstanding. In four of the files that were investigated, members of the Minister’s staff ordered that a different approach be followed than what the ATIP Directorate had intended, even though the Notice of Release or Notice of Reply had already been signed and returned to the ATIP Directorate (files A-2008-00588, AC-2009-00039, A-2009-00033 and A-2009-00169).
The evidence also shows that, in four of the eight requests reviewed, attempting to address the concerns raised and directions given by the Minister’s Office resulted in a breach of PWGSC’s zero-tolerance policy of releasing the information six working days after the date of the Notice of Release or Notice of Reply.
One ATIP official testified that if the extended due date had not yet passed, the ATIP Directorate would generally overlook the zero-tolerance policy to address concerns raised by members of the Minister’s Office. The official also testified that the ATIP Directorate did not ignore questions from the Minister’s Office and would not release information until the disagreement with the Minister’s Office was resolved, even when the disagreement resulted in the zero-tolerance policy not being respected. On this point, an ATIP official testified, “It affects our job more if the file becomes late due to their questions. If we still have time legally to look at the file, then it’s not such a big issue having them in the process, even if they shouldn’t be.” When questioned why this official believed ministerial staff members should not be involved in the process, this official responded, “Because they’re not supposed to be in the process, it doesn't say anywhere in the Act that our work should be overseen by the Minister’s Office, we have delegation of authority.” This official conceded, however, that “but it’s done that way.”
Based on the investigation, the Commissioner concluded that the ATIP Directorate was efficient in addressing issues raised by ministerial staff members. Although there was an increased risk that responses to these requests would be unduly delayed because of discussions between ATIP officials and ministerial staff members, the ATIP Directorate took immediate action to address their concerns. One departmental witness testified, “In order to ensure that the file was signed and returned quickly to us, we had to react fast and provide a response to an opinion of the Minister’s Office as quickly as possible, even if we were not in agreement with this opinion. The more we delayed to respond, the more chances increased that they would retain the file.” [translation]
Despite this approach, the involvement of ministerial staff members resulted in delays to the processing of four of the eight requests. The evidence shows that, at times, responses deemed ready by the ATIP Directorate were delayed to ensure the concerns of the Minister’s Office were fully addressed.
A culture of maintaining good relations with the Minister’s Office
The evidence shows that PWGSC considered it important to take into account the position of ministerial staff members on the scope of requests or the application of exemptions and any direction they gave in order for the department to maintain good relations with the Minister’s Office. In the context of the request for 11 QP notes (file A-2009-00169), one of which the Director of Parliamentary Affairs did not want to release (i.e. the one pertaining to “visible minorities”), the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Corporate Services, Policy and Communications Branch testified that the department tried to persuade the Director of Parliamentary Affairs of the correctness of its position in order to maintain good relations with the Minister’s Office.
The Director General, Executive Secretariat, agreed with the ATIP Directorate that any concern raised by the Minister’s Office was always taken into account. She acknowledged that the department had the responsibility and obligation of taking into account questions, statements or directions by the Minister’s Office. She explained that ministerial staff members could have opinions on access matters and could also ask questions, but could not make decisions on access files. The Director General further explained that, in general, the ATIP Directorate is required to respond to concerns raised by the Minister’s Office but that the ultimate decision on access matters lies with those who have delegated authority.
The Acting Director General, Executive Secretariat, mentioned the importance of providing effective service delivery to the Minister’s Office. She testified that her team was regularly at the frontline in terms of dealing and interacting with the Minister’s Office and that, in this regard, the Corporate Services, Policy and Communications Branch “ensured that it was building effective relationships through effective service delivery to the Minister’s Office.”
One ATIP Acting Manager testified that the Minister’s Office was “at the top” of the bureaucratic structure, which made it necessary to respond to any of ministerial staff members’ access-related questions or to take into account any concern or direction they expressed in this regard. The ATIP Director testified that this occurred because members of the Minister’s staff were of a higher authority in terms of the bureaucratic organizational structure. Testimony received from the ATIP Directorate confirmed that ministerial staff members were not considered colleagues.
Although the ATIP Directorate had the delegated authority to release information without obtaining a signature from the Minister’s Office on the Notice of Release or Notice of Reply, the evidence relating to the requests that the OIC investigated and that were processed between July 2008 and early 2010 shows that concerns raised or directions given by ministerial staff members were always addressed before responding to requests. In this respect, one departmental official testified that the need to maintain good relations with the Minister’s Office put a lot of pressure on departmental officials who interacted with members of the Minister’s staff on a regular basis. This official recalled a “constant pressure” in meeting with ministerial members, such as during the weekly access meetings. The testimony gathered in the course of this investigation confirmed that departmental officials felt pressured in their interactions with members of the Minister’s Office. One witness described the involvement of ministerial staff members in access matters at PWGSC as “inappropriate.”
There was also mention of a culture at PWGSC of maintaining good relations with and of pleasing the Minister’s Office. Some departmental officials also testified that, when members of the Minister’s staff would become involved in the processing of requests, they felt a lack of support from some of the senior officials with delegated authority. One witness also explained that when she informed her senior managers, who did not have delegated authority, of her belief of inappropriate involvement in access requests by ministerial staff members, she was advised to simply keep challenging ministerial staff members in order to maintain good relations.
ATIP officials all testified that they were never told to disregard input from members of the Minister’s Office staff, who did not have delegated authority. A departmental official and an ATIP official testified that they felt an absence of direction and support on the part of some officials with delegated authority in dealing with members of Minister Paradis’ staff. An ATIP official testified that ATIP analysts and managers would have appreciated support from their superiors in their interactions with the Minister’s Office, especially when being told to do something under the Actthat they were of the view should not be done.
Measures taken by a manager with delegated authority to end the direct contact between ATIP officials and ministerial staff members
The Director General, Executive Secretariat, testified that when she arrived at PWGSC in August 2009, which is towards the end of the time period under investigation, she started attending the weekly access meetings.
On August 26, 2009, the position of Director General, Executive Secretariat, in the Corporate Services, Policy and Communications Branch was permanently filled. The ATIP Director testified that, on this day, he met with the Director General and informed her of his concerns regarding the regular participation of the PWGSC Minister’s Office in access-related matters. The Director General confirmed having met with the ATIP Director on, or close to, her arrival and that they discussed a number of issues, including the involvement by members of the Minister’s staff in access matters.
Shortly after she was appointed, the Director General indicated that she became aware that the established communications procedure at PWGSC was not being followed. She testified as follows with respect to the direct contact between ministerial staff members and ATIP officials: “I felt that this practice should not exist, that it should not be part of the norm.” [translation] She also explained that when she learned of direct communications between ATIP officials and members of the Minister’s staff, she took steps to end them. She later indicated that a change of ministers would be an opportune time to put an end to the participation of ministerial staff at the weekly access meetings.
Beginning in September 2009, the Director General instituted a practice whereby all contact between the ATIP Directorate and PWGSC senior management (in the Deputy Minister’s Office, the Assistant Deputy Ministers’ Offices, and the Minister’s Office) would be channelled through her. This change in practice concerned all communications (including telephone and email) that the ATIP Directorate received from the Minister’s Office and for which the Minister’s Office needed a response. One senior manager described the Director General’s role as that of “interlocutor.” This change in practice served to protect the ATIP Directorate from influence in decision making.
Of the eight files the OIC investigated, two were processed during the time immediately following the Director General’s arrival, in the fall of 2009. In both these files, the Director General was copied on email communications between ATIP officials and members of the Minister’s staff.
In the fall of 2009, the Director General also put an end to the practice of ATIP officials attending the weekly access meetings without a senior manager from the Corporate Services, Policy and Communications Branch. This reflects the testimony of ATIP officials that the Director General, who had delegated authority, started attending the weekly access meetings. The Director General testified that “it was a better practice to at least have a Director General attend those meetings.” [translation]
Despite the interventions of the Director General, the direct communication between ATIP officials and the Minister’s Office persisted at PWGSC. ATIP officials testified that ministerial staff members still contacted them directly. One departmental official testified: “It wouldn’t stop them [members of the Minister’s staff] from perhaps making contact by telephone or by email or in person.” He further explained that, what it would do, is allow the Director General to “better understand what was being asked from the Minister’s Office”. He also testified that the Director General wanting to know about all contact between ATIP officials and ministerial staff members, “served to protect the ATIP office from influence.”