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Information Commissioner reports limited gains for transparency as a result of the Federal Accountability Act

Ottawa, March 10, 2011 - The Information Commissioner of Canada, Suzanne Legault, today reported that new exemptions and exclusions to access to information legislation ushered in by the Federal Accountability Act (Fed AA) have resulted in limited gains for overall transparency in Canada's federal institutions. While the FedAA made more institutions subject the Access to Information Act, the accompanying limitations introduced a higher level of complexity that ultimately fetter Canadians' access rights.

"The Access to Information Act is a law of general application that must rest on strong foundations to be effective," said Legault. "This means broad coverage, narrow limitations and a strong compliance model to ensure timely, accurate and complete responses to access requests." She added that "the FedAA introduced a piecemeal approach to amending the Access to Information Act rather than following guiding principles that respect its basic tenets and a modern access to information regime".

The Commissioner's comments were made following the tabling of the special report in Parliament today, entitled, "Open Outlook, Open Access". The special report studied the access to information performance of eight institutions that became subject to the Act as a result of the Federal Accountability Act. Five Crown corporations and three Agents of Parliament-including her own office (assessed by an independent third party)-were the subjects of this year's report.

The Commissioner reported that six of the eight institutions studied had a strong performance, which the report attributes to an open outlook on transparency at the highest levels of leadership, which in turn establishes the right tools, resources and attitudes towards access to information throughout the institution. Her office, however, assessed Canada Post Corporation with a red alert, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with an F grade. Significant internal delays and drawn-out review and approval processes resulted in average response times of 190 days and 158 days, respectively. The access to information law prescribes 30 days for federal institutions subject to the Act to respond to requests.

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For media enquiries, please contact :

Thérèse Boisclair
613-943-4368

A full copy of the report is available here

2009-2010 Ratings by institution

Institution

Letter

grade

Overall

performance rating

National Arts Centre Corporation

A

Outstanding

Office of the Auditor General

A

Outstanding

Office of the Information Commissioner*

A

Outstanding

Office of the Privacy Commissioner

A

Outstanding

Atomic Energy Canada Limited

B+

Above average

VIA Rail Canada Inc.

B

Above average

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

F

Unsatisfactory

Canada Post Corporation

Off chart

Red alert

*The performance of the Office of the Information Commissioner was assessed by the Information Commissioner ad hoc.