Speaking notes for Suzanne Legault Information Commissioner of Canada, Special Report to Parliament Report Cards 2011-2012

December 6, 2012


Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining me today.

The report tabled in Parliament this morning is the closing chapter of my three-year study on the causes of delay in the federal access to information system.

In four reports since 2010, my office has assessed the performance of 33 institutions to determine their overall performance in responding to access to information requests and compliance with the Access to Information Act.

The present report is a re-assessment of two institutions that received failing grades on my 2009–2010 report cards: the Canada Post Corporation and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The CBC transformed its access to information operations in the subsequent two years, to receive an “A” grade for 2011–2012. We attribute the excellent performance to a number of measures taken by senior management, including by the President and CEO, to instil a culture of transparency in the organization. Notable among these was making senior officials accountable for access to information performance. The CBC also communicated to all staff the importance of being transparent and of allowing Canadians to seek information about the public broadcaster.

The results at Canada Post were less successful. While the institution did improve its performance in a number of areas, overall it is still far from acceptable. Through experience we know that institutions that follow all or most of our recommendations generally perform better. In light of this, it is noteworthy that Canada Post did not meet or fully meet our expectations on four out of the five recommendations we issued in 2009–2010. As a result, while Canada Post is back on our rating grid, it still received an “F”.

I take this opportunity to once again call on the president and senior executives to show further leadership to promote openness at Canada Post and increase compliance with the Access to Information Act.

Those of you who were here for the release of my May 2012 report will remember that I reported then that I had seen the first improvement in a decade in how quickly institutions responded to access requests. As this new report underlines, however, the improvement is not uniform across government. It is also a long way from what it was in 2002–2003, when institutions responded to 69 percent of requests in 30 days or fewer.

Moreover, any momentum institutions have established is fragile and the health of the system as a whole is vulnerable, particularly since the effects of the most recent budget cuts have yet to be fully felt.

Consequently, the need for vigorous oversight of the access system is more essential than ever. I have a range of tools at my disposal to accomplish this, including investigations and court actions. In the coming year, I will also assess in detail the new, more complete statistics institutions now have to produce and the annual reports they submit to Parliament on access operations.

Should I find signs of any deterioration in the system, I will not hesitate to bring my concerns to Parliament’s notice and take any appropriate action, including re-instating the report cards earlier than planned.

Thank you for your time and attention. I would now be pleased to answer your questions.