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Report Cards


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Institutions assessed in 2008–2009

Transport Canada

Transport Canada is responsible for transportation policies and programs. It ensures that air, marine, road and rail transportation are safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible. Transport Canada works with other government departments and jurisdictions, and with industry to ensure that all parts of Canada’s transportation system work well.

2008–2009 report card at a glance

whole star whole star half star empty star empty star
D

  • Deemed refusal rate was 17.6 percent.
  • Average completion time was 60 days.
  • Severe staffing problems have hampered compliance rates: approximately half of the staff in the access to information office departed in 2008–2009.
  • While the access office was short of staff, access officials could not make any progress reducing the backlog of requests; nor could they deliver widespread training across the institution.
  • Transport Canada began to recruit new candidates from within the institution who had transferable skill sets. Training about access to information will be required, but not to develop institutional knowledge.
  • Transport Canada submitted the required notices of extensions of more than 30 days to the Office of the Information Commissioner 47 percent of the time.
  • The access to information office is represented at senior executive meetings, during which outstanding files are discussed, with the intention of advancing them.
  • Transport Canada has a strong delegation order that gives the access to information director and chief exclusive authority to release records.
  • Senior management has identified the access program as a critical needs area. This has resulted in additional resources for new staff, a dedicated team to address the backlog and an increased budget for 2010–2011.

Some facts about access to information operations at Transport Canada in 2008–2009

Number of requests carried over from 2007–2008
221
Number of new requests
1,069
Number of requests completed
1,043
Deemed refusal rate
17.6%*
Average time to complete a request (in days)
60
Number of consultation requests
178
Number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner
52
Number of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner resolved
8**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information office, as of March 31, 2009
16.4
 

* Percentage of carried over and new requests delayed beyond the deadlines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act. (See Appendix B for the formula the Office of the Information Commissioner used to calculate this rate.)

** A complaint is resolved when the Office of the Information Commissioner finds it has merit, and the institution resolves it to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.


2008–2009 report card

Transport Canada achieved only average compliance with the Access to Information Act in 2008–2009, with a 17.6 percent deemed refusal rate. However, this does not accurately reflect the current state of the institution’s access to information program. Transport Canada acknowledges that its statistics are inflated because of “pleasure craft” requests, which seek the identity of a boat’s owner and are more straightforward to process than other access requests. Consequently, these requests substantially raised Transport Canada’s “completed” request figure for the first six months of the fiscal year, until the institution stopped treating them as access requests in September 2008.

Transport Canada faced serious human resource problems in 2008–2009, when approximately half of the staff in its access to information office departed. Concerned with the reason for the exodus, senior management conducted exit interviews. These identified office morale as the predominant reason for the departures. Subsequently, the access to information office began recruiting new personnel from other areas of the institution, focusing on pertinent skills and competencies rather than technical expertise in administering the Act. This strategy will require significant training of employees, yet simultaneously deliver the institutional knowledge lacking in new access to information staff transferring in from other institutions.

As access staff dealt with a significant backlog of requests in 2008–2009, in addition to the usual stream of new requests, they had to decline numerous requests from program branches for training. Access officials recognize the importance to their success of access awareness at all levels of the institution, and have sought additional resources to fund an educational component to meet this important demand.

Mandatory consultations with certain institutions are a source of frustration for Transport Canada officials who report that, even though they contact the institutions with which they must consult for an estimate of how much time it will take to review the records, these institutions often do not meet these deadlines. This affects Transport Canada’s compliance rate, since the institution does not close these files until it gets a response to its consultation request.

The access to information office is represented at Transport Canada’s senior executive meetings, at which outstanding access requests are identified to the responsible branch executive in order to elicit the necessary aid to advance them. Transport Canada also has a strong delegation order, which fosters autonomy for the access function, giving the access to information director and chief exclusive authority to release records.

Transport Canada was part of the Office of the Information Commissioner’s (OIC) inaugural report card process in 1999, and in several subsequent years. It has never fully complied with the Access to Information Act, and its compliance in 2008–2009 was not as good as it had been in the past. In order for Transport Canada to bring about meaningful change, sustained support from the senior executive cadre and increased awareness of access legislation at the working level across the institution are necessary. The OIC calls on Transport Canada to implement measures to address these issues and bring about improved and sustainable compliance as soon as possible.

Recommendations

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the deputy minister ensure that Transport Canada’s effort to rebuild the access to information office is well supported and monitored through strong leadership.

Response

The deputy minister has provided her full support to rebuilding efforts. It should be noted that, effective January 4, 2010, the access to information organization now reports to the departmental chief information officer. The deputy minister has a keen interest in access to information issues and also indicated support to implement measures identified as necessary to improve operational performance. In addition, the deputy minister receives regular reports on the backlog in order to monitor progress in that area.

Following the reorganization, the access to information office was integrated into the Information Management Services Directorate. This move will provide additional resources and operational support to the access to information office. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has commented on this as a positive development.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Transport Canada strive to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

Response

Transport Canada is committed to complying with the legislation.

The access to information teams are structured to deal with current files. The work strategy is to meet statutory deadlines by working on these files on a priority basis.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the access to information coordinator at Transport Canada allocate resources to eliminate its backlog of requests.

Response

A backlog team was formed after the new staff were in place.

We are anticipating hiring a senior analyst from another department to complete the team. Other access to information analysts working on current files are expected to contribute on a limited basis to processing backlog files.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Transport Canada develop protocols with other federal institutions to facilitate timely consultations.

Response

This is being contemplated as a last-resort solution, since the problem is not widespread.

The access to information office works closely with other institutions to reduce the time taken to complete consultations. Some departments, given their own internal complexities and interdependencies, will take longer to respond.

5. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Transport Canada comply with the Access to Information Act and notify the Office of the Information Commissioner of all the extensions it takes for more than 30 days.

Response

The lapses in notification were mainly due to inexperience and the lack of a coordinated approach.

New procedures and practices are being implemented. The new team structure ensures consistency in processing, since team leaders meet regularly with the director and chief to discuss processes and methodology.

 

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

Transport Canada reported that it completed 106 of the requests it received in 2008–2009 after their due date. This graph shows how long these requests stayed open beyond that deadline.

How long requests completed late were overdue, 2008–2009

Number and length of time extensions reported in 2008–2009

This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions Transport Canada reported to have taken in 2008–2009. Transport Canada supplied this information in the notices it sent to the OIC under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. Transport Canada submitted the notices 47 percent of the time in 2008–2009; the OIC expects this figure to be 100 percent in 2009–2010.

Number and length of time extensions reported in 2008–2009

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

These graphs show the number and outcome of two types of complaint registered against Transport Canada in the last three reporting periods: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that Transport Canada delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about Transport Canada’s use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

Deemed refusal complaints

Deemed refusal complaints

The number of deemed refusal complaints decreased significantly over the first two years (from 31 to 7), but increased again the subsequent year to 18. The number of resolved deemed refusal complaints decreased over the period (21; 6; 2).

Time extension complaints

Time extension complaints

The number of time extension complaints rose (1; 10; 17) each year; however, the proportion of resolved complaints to the total decreased significantly from 2006–2007 to 2007–2008 (from 100 percent to 20 percent) and then remained steady (at 24 percent).


Number and outcome of complaints to the OIC, 2006–2007 to 2008–2009

This table sets out the number and outcome of the complaints the OIC registered against Transport Canada in each of the last three reporting periods. Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

  Resolved Not
substantiated
Discontinued Pending Total
2006–2007
Administrative 22 2 13 0 37
Refusals 6 1 1 4 12
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 28 3 14 4 49
2007–2008
Administrative 11 2 6 2 21
Refusals 5 5 0 9 19
Cabinet confidences 0 1 0 0 1
Total 16 8 6 11 41
2008–2009
Administrative 6 4 19 7 36
Refusals 2 2 1 8 13
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 3 3
Total 8 6 20 18 52

The number of overall complaints decreased from 2006–2007 to 2007–2008 (from 49 to 41) but increased again the following year to 52; the number of administrative complaints followed the same pattern (37; 21; 36). The proportion of resolved complaints to total complaints decreased each year (57 percent; 39 percent; 15 percent).

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