Appendix A

Access to Information Act reform: A broken promise?

June 11, 2014

MP Justin Trudeau tables Bill C-613:

  • Requires government information to be open by default and available in user-friendly formats;
  • Grants order-making powers to the Information Commissioner; and
  • Requires a statutory review of the Access to Information Act every five years.

March 31, 2015

The Information Commissioner tables her Special Report to Parliament, Striking the Right Balance for Transparency. The special report provides 85 recommendations to modernize the Act.

October 19, 2015

The Liberal Party of Canada is elected on a platform of openness and transparency. The Liberals make the following promises for access to information

  • Make government data and information open by default in user-friendly formats;
  • Eliminate all fees related to access, except the $5 filing fee;
  • Grant the Information Commissioner the power to order disclosure;
  • Ensure the Act applies to the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministers’ Offices, as well as administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts; and
  • Undertake a full legislative review of the Act every five years.

November 13, 2015

The Prime Minister publishes the Ministers’ mandate letters. Each letter contains a broad commitment to government transparency and making information open by default. The letter to the President of the Treasury Board’s directs him to review the Act to:

  • Ensure coverage of the Act is extended to the Prime Minister’s office, Ministers’ offices, and the administration of Parliament and the courts; and
  • Provide the Information Commissioner with the power to order disclosure.

February 25, 2016

The ETHI Committee begins a comprehensive review of the Act. The Information Commissioner appears before the ETHI Committee as its first witness to discuss the recommendations in her special report, Striking the Right Balance for Transparency.

March 22, 2016

Budget 2016, Growing the Middle Class, is tabled. It includes a section entitled “Enhancing Access to Information” to fund government transparency initiatives. http://www.budget.gc.ca/2016/docs/plan/budget2016-en.pdf

March 31, 2016

At the Canadian Open Dialogue Forum, the President of the Treasury Board announces reform of the Act will follow a two-phased approach. Phase one will introduce legislation based on the commitments made in his mandate letter, and phase two will begin in 2018 and involve a more comprehensive review of the Act.

May 1, 2016

The government launches a two-month long online public consultation for access reform.

May 5, 2016

The President of the Treasury Board appears before the ETHI Committee regarding the Act and repeats his mandate letter commitments. He also states the government’s plans to address the problems of frivolous and vexatious requests and improve performance reporting.

Following his appearance before ETHI, the President of the Treasury Board issues an Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act. It directs government officials to waive all fees apart from the five dollar filing fee, and release information in user-friendly formats.

May 19, 2016

The Information Commissioner appears for the second time before the ETHI Committee as part of its review of the Act. The Commissioner outlines her key priorities for the government’s first phase of reform:

  • Coverage of the Act
  • Duty to document
  • Timeliness
  • Maximizing disclosure
  • Order-making model
  • Mandatory periodic review

June 16, 2016

The ETHI Committee presents its report on modernizing the Act, and provides 32 recommendations that closely align with the priorities identified by the Commissioner.

July 15, 2016

The government publishes its Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership.Footnote 1 Modernization of the Act is included as one of its commitments.

September 26, 2016

At a Right to Know Week event, the President of the Treasury Board announces first phase legislation will be tabled in winter 2017.

October 17, 2016

The government responds to the ETHI Committee’s report, and reiterates its plans to introduce first phase legislation in early 2017.

February 13, 2017

The government releases its end of term self-assessment report on its objectives in the Action Plan on Open Government 2014-2016. The report restates the government’s commitment to bringing forward changes to the Act in early 2017.

March 21, 2017

Canadian Press journalist Jim Bronskill publishes an article entitled, “Feds postpone initial Access to Information reforms, cite need to ‘get it right’”. In the article, a spokesperson for Mr. Brison states the government is “committed to taking the time to do it properly.”

March 25, 2017

In media articles, the President of the Treasury Board added “important considerations” for delaying access reform, such as “the neutrality of the public service” and “the independence of the judiciary”. 

Footnotes

Footnote 1

The Open Government Partnership is an international initiative committed to making governments more accountable.

Return to footnote 1 referrer