2. Highlights

Requests and complaints on the rise

Canadians today are more and more interested in what their governments are doing. Requests made under the Access to Information Act have been increasing every year.

  • In 2010–2011, the government received approximately 41,600 access requests.
  • In 2015–2016, the number of requests rose to approximately 75,400, up 81% from five years earlier.
  • The OIC received over 2,000 complaints in 2016–2017.

Increased budget

In 2016–2017, the OIC received temporary funding for one year.

Putting this funding into maximum operation required a tremendous effort, including increasing the OIC’s IT capacity and adding office space. A special thank you is extended to the Chief Electoral Officer who provided temporary space at no cost. This assisted the OIC greatly. 

The OIC also had to hire additional investigators, train them and manage the increased investigative output.

As a result, the OIC resolved an unprecedented number of complaints. To continue to build on these results, the OIC is seeking additional funding for 2017–2018.

Investigations

There were a number of notable investigations in 2016–2017. These include the deletion of emails subject to an access request referring to the provincial and federal Liberal party; problems obtaining records in ministers’ offices; a failure to document decisions related to the tasering death of Robert Dziekanski; difficulties obtaining information regarding the governments’ interactions with SNC-Lavalin; and lengthy delays to access information related to an Indian Residential School.

Many of these investigations illustrate how the outdated Access to Information Act is used as a shield against transparency. The issues raised highlight the need to amend the Act to resolve long-standing deficiencies.

Unfortunately, the government has announced indefinite delays to reform of the Act (See detailed chronology at “Appendix A: Access to Information Act reform: A broken promise?”).

Access to Information Act reform: A broken promise?

"This winter, we’ll table legislation that will bring forward significant improvements to the Act – improvements outlined in our mandate letters, along with improvements we will have identified through our consultations with Canadians, stakeholders and parliamentarians.

These measures will shed more light than ever before on the Government."

President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison, speaking at Carleton University for Right to Know Week, 
September 26, 2016

"Brison said the government has run up against ‘important considerations’ in the efforts to broaden the access system to include ministers’ offices, the Prime Minister’s Office and the federal court system. Those considerations include ‘the neutrality of the public service,’ ‘the independence of the judiciary’ and Canadians’ privacy rights, the minister said.

‘These are important issues and we need to be prudent as we move forward,’ Brison said."

Scott Brison explains delay in promised transparency reforms – The Toronto Star, March 26, 2017