Canada Post has been subject to the Act since September 1, 2007. The administration of the ATIA at Canada Post is a complex and challenging task given the size of the Corporation and the reality of the business context in which it operates. Canada Post has navigated a steep learning curve as it dealt with the complexities of being subject to the Act in a multifaceted commercial environment, which impacted the timeliness of our request processing in a number of ways.
Canada Post operates one of the country’s largest transportation and retail networks with more than 23,000 delivery routes and 6,500 post offices nationwide. This expansive network provides Canadians in every community with delivery, logistics and communications services. The Canada Post Group of Companies employs 72,000 Canadians and connects millions of individuals, communities and companies to each other and the world.
We have the exclusive privilege of collecting, transmitting and delivering letters up to 500 grams within Canada. More than half of Canada Post’s revenues are derived from our parcels and direct marketing lines of business, which operate in competitive markets. Each business day, we process more than 45 million pieces of mail to nearly 15 million residential and business addresses. Our delivery network continues to grow by about 200,000 addresses a year.
Parliament, in enacting the Canada Post Corporation Act, requires that Canada Post operate a postal service which provides a standard of service that meets the needs of the people of Canada and to conduct its operations on a self-sustaining financial basis without government appropriations for operating purposes. We are expected to earn a return on equity and pay dividends to the Government.
Canada Post generates approximately 7 billion dollars a year in revenue and is more than double the size of all other federal Crown Corporations combined. In meeting our legislated commercial mandate, we face increasing competition from alternate means of communication and the explosive growth of technological advances, such as email, online and telephone banking services. In the parcel and courier market, Canada Post operates in a fiercely competitive marketplace vying for market share and revenue. We face competition from large private-sector domestic companies as well as well-capitalized global companies that have expanded aggressively into Canada such as FedEx, UPS and DHL.
Adding to an already challenging business environment, globally, postal administrations have suffered the impact of the economic downturn. Most postal administrations are experiencing decreasing mail volumes, increasing points of call, and demands from customers for increasingly sophisticated services. Canada Post is no exception. As we work to remain relevant in today’s marketplace, we tend to operate more like a private business than a government institution. We must continually be aware of competitors that encroach on our market share as we seek to gain ground in competitive markets such as e-commerce.
Readying the Corporation for ATI was a significant challenge that we took very seriously. Much time and effort was focused on communication, education and awareness with a view to bringing about culture change. These initiatives are outlined in Part E, 13.
Prior to becoming subject to the ATIA the Corporation established the ATI Directorate and after much consideration, staffed the Directorate with internal candidates and an experienced Coordinator with federal government ATI experience to lead the team. Overall responsibility of management of the ATI team was given to an executive level role. Knowledge of the Corporation and our business was considered to be essential for identifying responsive records and determining the accurate application of exemptions in Canada Post’s unique commercial environment. The combination of knowledge of the Corporation and ATI expertise was thought to be the best model. The learning curve was steep for the ATI Directorate in this first year of operation. The Directorate worked hard to master the request process, develop a strong and viable ATI network within the Corporation, improve performance and establish good working relationships with requesters. From September to December 2007, Canada Post received 74 requests, which were all a significant challenge for a newly formed ATI Directorate and the Corporation as a whole.
A network of almost 200 Offices of Primary Interest (OPI) and Liaison Officers (LO) was created to assist the ATI Directorate in retrieving records in response to requests. Though much communication and training was provided, organizational culture is much more difficult to change. Consequently, this network struggled to navigate the learning curve along with the rest of the Corporation, which sometimes led to delays as business areas came to terms with their obligations under the Act and the significant commercial risk associated with the release of their records. The Directorate and OPI’s worked together to overcome challenges in locating, retrieving and releasing records to the Directorate. Each request required that the ATI Directorate have an in-depth understanding of the unique business issues and commercial sensitivities of each request, so that records could be processed appropriately. As many OPI’s have yet to receive a request for their business area, we expect these challenges will likely continue for some time.
It became clear in 2007 that the majority of requests received by Canada Post are quite complex and involve a large number of records, this remains the case today. Due to our size, the diversity of our business, many business partners and our unique status as a competitive crown corporation, many requests involve complex, sensitive business issues and generate large volumes of information for review. This review often involves consultation with multiple internal and external stakeholders, which can take time.
Given that over 50% of Canada Post’s revenues are earned in a competitive market and that Canada Post operates on a self sustaining basis, it is critical that certain information not be disclosed due to commercial sensitivity. The Corporation is committed to protecting information received from its partners, suppliers and customers and believes that it is of paramount importance to balance the requesters’ right of access with the protection of commercially-sensitive, corporate and third-party information. This commitment is fundamental to customer relationships and the trust customers have in the Corporation.
Another significant challenge experienced by the ATI Directorate is ensuring that requesters understand the Corporation well enough to identify what they are truly looking for. The operations of a commercial Crown Corporation are very different in nature from the operating structure of federal government departments. In this regard, the ATI Directorate takes its “duty to assist” obligations under s.4 (2.1) of the ATIA very seriously and works extensively with each requester to help them understand how CPC operates and how information is created and managed.
The ATI Directorate has experienced significant change in its short 36 month existence and with it, many challenges. Like most ATI and Privacy teams staffing issues and workload have been a challenge. The original team of 10, who processed only ATI requests, has experienced turnover, position reductions, long term absences and the departure of an experienced Coordinator. The existing team of 9 works hard to continue to develop their expertise and balance competing priorities such as: maintaining current ATI requests on time, eliminating the backlog, processing privacy requests, meeting OIC commitment dates and working with the OIC.
In July 2009, the ATI Directorate merged with the Privacy team, forming the Privacy and ATI Directorate. In October of 2009, the ATI Directorate leveraged its existing technology and expertise to process both ATI and Privacy access requests. In late 2009, the Privacy and ATI Directorate merged with the greater compliance team, some of whom are situated across the country, which includes functions such as Official Languages, Anti-Money Laundering, Employment Equity and Human Rights. This merger allows the compliance functions to effectively realize synergies and leverage common expertise. In terms of workload, these changes have added complementary, but additional responsibilities to the ATI Directorate. The Directorate is now responsible for processing ATI and privacy requests, meeting Treasury Board requirements such as Infosource, the development and maintenance of ATI and privacy request processing policy, process and monitoring, delivering training and handling formal and informal complaints.
Canada Post has received 380 requests since becoming subject to the Act and 54 consultations from other government institutions. As a result of the time pressures created by the challenges outlined above, the Directorate has accumulated a significant backlog of requests and pages to review. For example, the Directorate currently has over 42, 000 pages in the queue for review from requests received in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Over 14,000 of these pages were received as a consultation from another government department and pertain to complex business matters that are currently subject to litigation.
These challenges have also generated a number of formal complaints to the OIC. Canada Post has enjoyed a positive and collaborative working relationship with the OIC, but as the investigation process is still relatively new to us and Canada Post is relatively new to the OIC, the time and workload demands of each investigation can be onerous and unfortunately divert resources away from the timely processing of requests. Over the last 36 months, we have worked with the OIC on closing 74 complaints. So far in 2010, Canada Post has dealt with 15 different investigators from the OIC on complaints that remain active. There may be an opportunity to explore a more streamlined process involving fewer investigators on Canada Post files, so that we can develop stronger working relationships and knowledge of each other’s processes.
Despite the challenges of the last 36 months, Canada Post is pleased with what is has accomplished. We have successfully managed an extensive change management, communication, education and culture change initiative, built the ATI Directorate and OPI network from the ground up with predominantly internal expertise, while at the same time completing 339 requests and consultations and reviewing almost 17,000 complex, commercially sensitive pages for release. Canada Post has made significant investments and has laid the groundwork critical for our compliance with the Act. This groundwork will facilitate our improved compliance in the future.