Public Health Agency of Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) mandate is to promote and protect Canadians’ health by preventing and controlling chronic and infectious diseases and injuries as well as preparing for and responding to public health emergencies. PHAC also serves as a central point for sharing Canada’s public health expertise internationally.

In 2013–2014, PHAC received 130 requests, compared to 185 during 2012–2013 (a decrease of 30%). The workload in terms of volume of pages processed also decreased significantly. As a result, PHAC completed more requests than in the previous year (81% compared to 64%).

PHAC’s performance was below the government-wide results. Results achieved in 2013–2014 were also lower than in 2012–2013.

The media was the primary source of requests received in 2013–2014 (39.2%), followed by the public (37.7%). The proportion of requests received from the private sector was down from 42.7% in 2012–2013 to 13.8% in 2013–2014.

PHAC processed 8 informal requests,Footnote 1 compared to 14 such requests in 2012–2013. According to PHAC’s annual report on the administration of the Act, the decrease observed in the number of informal requests received could be due to the fact that requestors sought multiple ATI packages in one request.

Table 1. Workload

Measures Reporting Period
Reporting Period
Number of requests received 185 130 -29.73%
Number of consultations received (from other government institutions) 83 82 -1.20%
Average number of pages processed per request completed 432 166 -266
% of requests for which more than 1,000 pages were processed 10.83% 2.46% -8.37%
Note: The average number of pages processed per request completed and the percentage of requests for which more than 1,000 pages were processed are calculated from the total of requests completed for which the information was disclosed (in part or totally), exempted/excluded and for requests abandoned. It excludes requests completed for the following dispositions: no records exist, requests transferred and requests treated informally.


In general, requests in 2013–2014 took more time to complete than in 2012–2013 (92 days compared to 62 days).Footnote 2 PHAC completed 94 requests within 30 days or less, representing about 54% of completed requests. In comparison, in 2012–2013, 64% of requests were completed within that time frame.

In addition, the proportion of requests completed that required more than 120 days almost doubled compared to the previous year, from 12.6% in 2012–2013 to 23.1% in 2013–2014.

Requests closed past their statutory or extended deadline also represented a higher proportion in 2013–2014 (37%) compared to 2012–2013 (21%). This rate represents an “F” grade.Footnote 3


In terms of extensions, PHAC required proportionally more extensions to complete the 173 requests in 2013–2014. The number of extensions per request completed increased from 0.34 in 2012–2013 to 0.43 in 2013–2014. This is also above the government-wide ratio (0.26 extensions per request completed in 2013–2014).

About 32% of the extensions were for 30 days or less in 2013–2014, compared to 36% in 2012–2013. However, only one extension required more than 120 days compared to 7 during the previous reporting period.

Figure 1. Length of extensions (2011–2012 to 2013–2014)

Figure 1. Length of extensions (2011–2012 to 2013–2014)

Text version

Figure 1 is a bar chart with vertical bars, representing the length of extensions taken by PHAC during each reporting period between 2011–2012 and 2013–2014. The results are as follows:

Reporting period 30 days or less 31-60 days 61-120 days 121-180 days 181-365 days More than 365 days
2011–2012 19.70% 30.30% 50.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00%
2012–2013 36.00% 28.00% 22.00% 14.00% 0.00% 0.00%
2013–2014 32.00% 33.33% 33.33% 1.33% 0.00% 0.00%

Extensions under 9(1)(a) (interference with operations) represented 40% of the extensions (or 30 requests) taken in 2013–2014 to deal with “to process voluminous records”. The Act provides that institutions may extend the 30-day time limit under this section to respond to a request if it is for a large number of records or necessitates a search through a large number of records and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the institution. Based on the statistical report, only 3 requests were for more than 1,000 processed pages.Footnote 4

An additional 36% of extensions were taken for consultations (9(1)(b)).


Of the requests completed in 2013–2014, 18.5% were disclosed entirely, which represents a decrease compared to 2012–2013 (27.3%). PHAC also has a high number of requests with no responsive records (19.1%) and that were abandoned (17.3%).

Most of the pages processed were disclosed (94%), a significant improvement compared to 2012–2013, when the proportion was of 25.1%. Of note, 94.3% of responses were provided in paper format. Only 5 requests were responded to in electronic format.


In 2013–2014, a total of 219 exemptions and 6 exclusions were used to withhold information, representing a ratio of 1.3 exemptions/exclusions per request completed. This proportion was lower in 2012–2013 (1.26).

Frequently applied exemptions in 2013–2014 included: government operations (55 times), personal information and protection of third party information (46 times each).

In general, more exemptions were applied in 2013–2014 (225) than in 2012–2013 (176).

Table 2. Performance

Measures Reporting Period
Reporting Period
Completion of Requests
Completion rate 64.13% 81.22% 17.09%
Completion Time
% of requests completed within 30 days 64.34% 54.34% -10.00%
Average number of days to complete a request 62 92 30
% of requests closed past statutory or extended deadline 20.98% 36.99% 16.01%
% of consultations from government institution completed within 30 days 69.05% 78.57% 9.52%
% of extensions of 30 days or less 36.00% 32.00% -4.00%
Level of Disclosure
% of pages processed that were disclosed 25.07% 94.04% 68.97%
% of requests completed for which the information was disclosed entirely 27.27% 18.50% -8.77%
% of pages disclosed entirely 11.20% 8.07% -3.13%
Number of exemptions/exclusions per request completed 1.26 1.30 0.04

Other activities

In 2013–2014, PHAC initiated a new shared services model with Health Canada, in order to harmonize the ATIP processes between the two institutions. It also lead to the implementation of a single ATIP coordinator model for both institutions. PHAC mentioned that the model is “fully compliant with legislative requirements, and involves the cross-appointment of select delegated authorities to both institutions.”Footnote 5

PHAC also worked to enhance and stabilize the ATIP office by hiring more full-time employees instead of temporary help consultants. As such, competitive staffing processes were completed during 2013–2014 and were planned to continue through 2014–2015.


The number of complaints received against PHACFootnote 6 increased from 9 complaints in 2012–2013 to 13 in 2013–2014. Most of them (9 out of 13 complaints) were related to administrative matters.

A majority of them were also well founded (8). One complaint was not well-founded and 1 was settled. As of April 2015, 3 complaints were still pending.


Footnote 1

These informal requests include the release of previously released ATI packages. Based on the TBS’s guide, requests that are treated informally are formal requests that have been discontinued for an informal treatment. The inclusion of requests for previously released ATI packages in the calculation impacts the overall performance indicators of the institution.

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Footnote 2

Based on response to parliamentary written question Q-485.

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Footnote 3

The 2007–2008 OIC report card grading system was used to estimate the grade: A=0 to 5%, B= 5 to 10%, C=10 to 15%, D=15% to 20%, F=more than 20%.

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Footnote 4

The OIC’s Advisory Notice on Time Extensions Pursuant to Paragraph 9(1)(a)of the Access to Information Act indicates that the OIC normally considers 1,000 pages of records or more as a benchmark for what constitutes a large number.

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Footnote 5

PHAC’s annual report on the administration of the Access to Information Act 2013–2014: p.10.

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Footnote 6

The numbers reported in this section are based on the OIC’s statistics. The information may not reflect the statistics reported by institutions due to the discrepancies in the methodology used.

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