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Appearances before Parliamentary Committees

Year


Appearance before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on the Main Estimates 2009-2010

Ottawa

[2009-5-13]

[Check against Delivery]

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to appear before this committee once again. With me is Suzanne Legault, Assistant Commissioner, Policy, Communications and Operations.

I am here today to discuss my Office’s main estimates for 2009-2010. I know members of this committee are very interested in the legislative reform of the Access to Information Act, and rightly so. I will be back before this committee on May 27 to discuss this very important matter with you.

Over the last two years, I have made profound institutional changes to address inherent weaknesses that were limiting our ability to do our job. My actions sought to ensure diligent and effective stewardship of the Office’s operations with the overarching goal to do everything within my mandate to ensure that individuals’ rights under the Access to Information Act are safeguarded.

While progress has been made in a number of areas, there continues to be a capacity shortfall in key functions. The Office undertook a comprehensive review of our operations and funding levels in 2008-2009 to determine whether we had sufficient resources to be able to deliver on our mandate.

Mr. Chairman, the Office currently has an annual budget of $8,505 millions and 82 Full Time Employees. In light of the conclusions of the A-Base Review, we submitted a request for additional funding to the Advisory Panel on the Funding and Oversight of Officers of Parliament in March 2009. This request is not reflected in the 2009-2010 planned spending. We will obtain additional funding through the Supplementary Estimates A.

In order to cause greater compliance with access to information obligations , there are specific priority areas we feel we need to focus on in 2009-2010.

We want to continue to put significant efforts into service delivery to information requesters. In order to do so, I have developed a new business model with three specific objectives in mind:

First, I want to improve the effectiveness and timeliness of our operations to eliminate the case inventory and prevent it from coming back. We did this through the establishment of a new Intake Unit which takes care of the administrative aspects of a complaint so that investigators can focus on investigations.

Second, I want to adopt a strategic and proactive approach to addressing systemic issues in order to improve compliance with the Act and to provide a better picture of the state of the access regime. This includes continuing to undertake our annual performance assessments (report cards), identifying emerging problems and their root causes, and investigating cross-cutting issues.

And third, I want to use a spectrum of tools to support our investigative and systemic actions to maximize compliance in a context of limited resources, from collaboration and mediation to the full range of adversarial tools that are at our disposal.

In my last appearance before you, I’ve talked a lot about the need to bring legislative as well as administrative changes to modernize the Act. Obviously, this is a priority for my Office. As I said earlier, I am looking forward to discuss this matter on May 27.

These are our operational priorities. We also have management priorities.

We are building our organizational capacity to deliver services to Parliament by strengthening investigative, support, administrative and corporate capabilities. We will achieve this by putting the emphasis on recruiting, training, and retaining our resources.

We’re also implementing a multi-year and in-depth IM/IT renewal strategy in order to support our new business model, provide much needed assistance to our investigators, and deliver on our ATIP responsibilities.

Finally, we will continue to streamline and integrate our planning and reporting instruments, including management, business, and corporate planning and reporting, so that we can better align them together and ensure strong performance management and measurement.

As you can see, there is much to be accomplished this year but my team and I are very much energized with the progress we are making with our new business model, and also with the new resources we have (will be) received (receiving).

Thank you again for inviting me. The two of us would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.