Remarks by the Information Commissioner of Canada
Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics

Main Estimates: Vote 1 under Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

May 25, 2015

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Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting me to discuss the Main Estimates of the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada.

The salary and operating budget for my office in 2015-16 is approximately $11.3 million, including employee benefit plans. I have 93 employees to assist me in carrying out my mandate.

I dedicate as many resources as possible to the program while maintaining internal services functions at a sufficient level to ensure proper stewardship and governance of the Office.

My office is a very lean organization. In addition, year after year, my office receives unqualified opinions from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

In 2014-2015, the office received 1,749 new complaints and completed 1,605 investigations. Since 2012-2013, we have seen an increase of about 10% in complaints, with a spike of 30% between 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. At the beginning of this year, our inventory of complaints stood at 2,233.

During my last appearances before this Committee, I raised concerns with my organization’s budget and the risks that the current funding level had on my ability to carry out my mandate and to face contingencies. I have also pursued all available channels within government to seek and obtain additional funding. The most immediate impact of our financial situation has been longer wait times for complainants. There is a currently an overall delay of about five months before a file gets assigned to an investigator. (For refusal complaints alone, the delay is seven months).

This situation will continue and only get worse as no new source of funds was granted to my office through the most recent government Budget.

However, I plan to continue to safeguard the right of access to the greatest extent possible under the circumstances.

To further enhance efficiency and bring discipline, predictability and clarity to the complaints-handling process—internally and with institutions and complainants—my team and I continue to improve our investigative processes.

Together, we are resolved to maintain the course of excellence we value and to uphold Canadians’ information rights to the best of our ability and capacity. Given the quasi-constitutional status of the right of access, anything less would be unacceptable.

Mr. Chair, I am ready to answer your questions.