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Environment Canada

Part A:       Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year (2009-2010)
1. Number of requests carried over: 215
2. Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year— in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year 94
Part B:       New requests received in fiscal year 2010-2011 (Exclude requests included in Part A)
3. Number of requests received during the fiscal period 1128
4.A How many were completed during fiscal year 2010-2011 within the statutory 30-day time limit? 827
4.B How many were completed during fiscal year 2010-2011 beyond the statutory 30-day time limit where no extension was claimed? 26
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: 17
  31-60 days: 3
  61-90 days: 3
  Over 91 days: 3
5. How many were extended pursuant to section 9? 250
6.A How many were completed during fiscal year 2010-2011 within the extended time limit? 103
6.B How many were completed during fiscal year 2010-2011 after exceeding the extended time limit? 47
6.C How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?  
  1-30 days: 23
  31-60 days: 8
  61-90 days: 6
  Over 91 days: 10
7. Number of requests received in 2010-2011 that were carried over to 2011-2012? 125
8. As of April 1st, 2011, how many requests which were received in the 2010-2011 reporting period are in a deemed-refusal situation? 30
Part C:       Workload
9. What is the number of pages reviewed for requests completed in:  
  2008-2009? 134,080
  2009-2010? 169,275
  2010-2011? 163, 273
10. What is the number of consultations requests received  in:  
  2008-2009? 189
  2009-2010? 117
  2010-2011? 159
Part D:       Contributing Factors
11. 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 (OPI turnaround time)
  • Staff shortages / resources
  • Requests filed in bulk
  • Consultations with other institutions
  • Others

2010-2011 marked a turning point for Environment Canada’s ATIP operations.  Despite a significant increase in the number of requests received under the Access to Information Act, the department managed to meet the workload challenge and improve its overall compliance.  While the department has made improvements in each of the areas identified in the 2008-2009 action plan, we continue to focus on the following issues:

Staffing challenges:
Staffing remains a significant challenge within the unit.  Despite staffing processes, we have been unable to fill all of our Senior Officer positions.  We are focusing on recruitment through the departmental ATIP Professional Development Program.  A second round of recruitment into the program is near completion and a pool is being created to staff positions as current development participants progress within the program.   While we have begun reaping the benefits of this program, the full potential of this program will not been realized for another 1-2 years.  Succession planning for the senior ATIP personnel within the unit has also become an issue of concern.  The departure of senior ATIP personnel is anticipated over the coming years. As this could impact our ability to meet future challenges, we are working on a strategy to ensure that the unit continues to have the leadership it requires to maintain and improve service to Canadians. An anticipatory staffing process is being planned.

Environment Canada has made substantial progress on the backlog of files within the unit.  Efforts have focused on closing the oldest of our backlog files.  While progress has been made, we have not been able to fully eliminate our backlog.  A number of files are awaiting responses to mandatory consultations and cannot be closed until these consultations are completed. The vast majority of the remaining backlog files are in the final stages of review and approval.  We are continuing to use the services of consultants to eliminate the backlog.

Program response times
Program response times have continued to improve.  Over the last two fiscal years, over 700 departmental employees have attended ATIP training and awareness sessions.  As a result of the additional training and leadership from senior management, the average turn around time for programs to provide records in 2010-2011 was 16 days.  This has allowed us to increase the number of requests that we were able to complete within 30 days and more appropriately request extensions for files that required longer to process.  As the vast majority of requests are directed to two branches of Environment Canada, we will continue to work closely with these branches to identify ways in which to streamline records retrieval without compromising service delivery.

Environment Canada shares jurisdiction on many issues with other government departments and the provinces; which creates the need to consult on requests for information. As a regulatory department and a department that is involved in many international agreements, Access to Information files often require mandatory consultations.  These extra layers of consultation directly impact our ability to respond to requests in a timely fashion.

12. 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

Environment Canada has undertaken a number of new practices and strengthened existing practices in an effort to improve departmental performance.  Some of these practices include:

Informal requests
Environment Canada has begun processing more informal requests in cases where the requested information has been previously processed.  This practice has proved beneficial to both the requester and the department.

Development of an Intake Unit
In order to better manage workload within the ATIP Office, requests are opened and records retrieval is conducted centrally before requests are assigned to individual officers to process.  This has allowed the ATIP office to better manage workload among officers and to ensure that Development Program Participants gain experience on a wide variety of files at an appropriate complexity level.  This has allowed the unit to better manage workload therefore improving compliance

Streamlined approval of Environmental Compliance requests
Environment Canada receives a large number of requests concerning the environmental compliance of properties.  These requests are generally routine in nature with many requests resulting in no records being located.  In the case of no record responses for these files, we have developed a streamlined approval process via e-mail.   These no record responses are also generally approved by the Manager of the ATIP Office, who has full delegation. 

Monthly Senior Management Updates
Environment Canada’s senior officials are committed to improving departmental performance.  Environment Canada’s Executive Management Committee (EMC) is provided with a monthly statistical report of the department’s Access to Information activities and compliance is monitored by the Deputy Minister.

Communications with Requesters & Partial Releases of records
Environment Canada ATIP staff have improved communication with requesters, particularly in the case of large volume requests, in order to negotiate scope of requests.  This has resulted in a faster service to requesters.  In cases where there is a large volume of records, the department will also undertake partial releases of records where possible.

Part E:       Completion Time
13. What is the average completion time for all requests completed in 2010-2011?
72 days
Part F:        Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act
14. Please attach your institution’s completed Report on the Access to Information (Form TBS/SCT 350-62) for 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. For institutions on a fiscal year other than April 1st-March 31st, include any supplemental reports where available.