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Environment Canada 

Part A: Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year (2007-2008)
1. Number of requests carried over: 276
2. Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year— in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year 183
Part B: New Requests received in fiscal year 2008-2009— Exclude requests included in Part A
3. Number of requests received during the fiscal period 892
4.A How many were completed within the statutory 30-day time limit? 556
4.B How many were completed beyond the statutory 30-day time limit where no extension was claimed ? 123
4.C How long after the expiry of the statutory 30-day time limit did it take to complete the request where no extension was claimed ?  
  1-30 days: 56
  31-60 days: 22
  61-90 days: 12
  Over 91 days: 33
5. How many were extended pursuant to section 9? 40
6.A How many were completed within the extended time limit? 16
6.B How many exceeded the extended time limit? 24
6.C How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?  
  1-30 days: 9
  31-60 days: 7
  61-90 days: 0
  Over 91 days: 8
7. Number of requests carried over in 2009-2010? 173
8. As of April 1 st , 2009, how many requests are in a deemed-refusal situation? 101
Part C: Contributing Factors
9. Please describe the most significant issues that affected your institution’s ability to respond to access to information requests in a timely manner (within 30 days and/or statutory timelines). These may include:
  • Requests for large volume of records
  • Approval process of access requests
  • Difficulties to retrieve records (OPIs turnaround time)
  • Staff shortages
  • Requests filed in bulk
  • Consultations with other institutions
  • Others
  a) Workload challenges
  • Over the last fiscal year, Environment Canada’s ATIP Secretariat has been challenged by rising workloads. The number and complexity of requests, as well as the volume of pages reviewed, has increased.
  • In 2008-2009, Environment Canada received 35% more requests under the Access to Information Act than the previous fiscal year and the number of pages reviewed increased by 55%. In addition, the number of privacy requests increased slightly however the number of pages reviewed under the Privacy Act was five times greater that the previous year.
  • During this period, Environment Canada was also responsible for processing requests for Parks Canada. This accounted for an additional 93 requests processed under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act with approximately 30,000 pages to be reviewed
b) Staff shortages and staffing turnover
  • The shortage of qualified ATIP personnel is one of the most significant challenges facing Environment Canada’s ATIP office.
  • Despite running ten staffing processes at various levels over the last two years, we have been unable to fill all the vacant positions within the unit.
  • There are 18 FTEs in the ATIP Office; however we currently have 9 vacant positions.
  • Staff turnover has also impacted our ability to capitalize on institutional corporate memory. Only two employees within the ATIP Secretariat have more than five years experience with the Department. These two employees spend considerable time coaching and mentoring new employees within the unit.
c) Program response times & information management challenges
  • The environment continues to be a priority for the government resulting in a challenging operational context for Environment Canada due to increased policy and program activity.
  • Heavy workloads associated with regulatory initiatives and meeting government priorities have impacted the Department’s ability to respond to requests in a timely fashion.
  • During 2008-2009, the average response time for programs to provide documents to the ATIP Office was 26 days. This directly affects the ability of ATIP staff to review the documents, determine extensions, conduct consultations and respond within the legislated deadlines
  • Requests also frequently necessitate the retrieval of a large volume of information and documentation from several areas within the Department.
  d) Consultations with other government departments
  • As the environment is a shared jurisdiction and EC is a regulatory department, a large number of requests processed within the department require consultations with third parties and with other government departments, such as Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Department of Justice. Consultations with Legal Counsel, Privy Council Office are particularly onerous due to the administrative burden in preparing schedules for large volumes of documents.
  • Other government departments with which we consult are also facing heavy workloads and as a result, the consultation process may be quite lengthy and directly impact the EC’s ability to reply within the statutory deadlines.
Please describe any practices or policies developed/undertaken by your institution to improve the timely delivery of your access to information program and where possible, indicate how successful these practices/policies have been. These may include:
  • Informal treatment of requests
  • Streamlined approval process
  • Partial release of records
  • Fast track process for common requests
  • Others
a) Efforts to address workload challenges
  • Despite the increase in workload, Environment Canada closed more requests than it received last year. Although a backlog of requests still exists, the Department is working diligently on reducing the number of active requests by hiring consultants specifically to work on the older files.
  • Environment Canada has also begun working with program officials to make routine documents, such as call-ups for temporary help available to the public informally.
  • In addition, as of April 1, 2009, the Parks Canada ATIP Office became operational and as a result, Environment Canada is no longer responsible for the workload associated with requests to the Parks Canada Agency
b) Efforts to address staffing challenges
  • Recognizing that recruitment and retention challenges are likely to persist, Environment Canada has implemented an ATIP Professional Development Program. This is a longer term measure aimed at improving recruitment and retention issues as well as addressing succession planning needs within the Unit. The first recruitment of PM-01 and PM-02 level advisors within the Professional Development program is currently underway. It is our intention to finalize staffing these positions in Fall 2009.
  • We are also continuing our attempts to staff other vacancies within the unit with a PM-04 selection process currently underway. However, only four candidates have passed our initial screening of applications in this process. .
  • In 2007-2008, the ATIP Secretariat restructured into two teams and added two team leader positions. This has also contributed to improved operations. When additional positions are staffed, we will be able to fully implement the planned team structure.
  • Until staffing can be completed, the department is continuing to utilize consultants to assist in the processing of requests
  • We have also hired two students within the ATIP Secretariat. The students have worked on special projects within the Unit and have gained valuable experience and knowledge that can be used within Environment Canada as well as all federal government institutions subject to the Acts.
c) Efforts to address program response times & information management challenges
  • ATIP Secretariat staff routinely reminds program officials of the importance of providing records within the required timeframes. This is also emphasized during all training and awareness sessions. In 2008-2009, Environment Canada conducted targeted training sessions for approximately 140 employees.
  • In addition, the ATIP Secretariat has been working with program staff within the branches of the Department to assist in streamlining processes to expedite the retrieval and review of information.
  • EC is faced with information management challenges relating to the large amount of documentation found within the Department and the lack of a standard electronic document storage mechanism across the country.
  • An enterprise electronic document and collaboration solution, based on SharePoint, has been developed to capture documents to facilitate both access to and preservation of information with lasting business value. This tool, called E-Collab, is being rolled out across the department, along with awareness training on information management (IM) responsibilities.
  • Additional improvements include development of processes and guidelines; documentation of best practices, and provision of services, particularly in the area of data management.
  d) Efforts to address consultation delays
  • ATIP staff conducts regular follow-ups on the status of consultations and where possible, we negotiate partial releases of records or the re-scoping of requests to reduce consultations
Part D: Completion Time
11. What is the average completion time for all requests completed in 2008-2009?
  27.44 days
Part E: Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act
12. Please attach your institution’s completed Report on the Access to Information (Form TBS/SCT 350-62) for the 2008-2009.