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Canadian Heritage

Canadian Heritage is responsible for national policies and programs that promote Canadian content, foster cultural participation, active citizenship and participation in Canada’s civic life, and strengthen connections among Canadians.

Assessment: D

(Received an F in 2008–2009)

  • Canadian Heritage performed well in many regards in 2010–2011, with no files completed late from its current requests. However, its backlogged inventory kept its deemed refusal rate high, at 28.7 percent. The number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) against Canadian Heritage fell by 44 percent from the 2008–2009 level. The institution also streamlined its access review process.
  • A failing grade in 2008–2009 brought attention to the access to information program at Canadian Heritage and set changes in motion. Canadian Heritage subsequently doubled its full-time staff, and began carefully monitoring internal deadlines.
  • Canadian Heritage satisfactorily implemented all five of the OIC’s 2008–2009 recommendations. The OIC is issuing four recommendations to prompt further performance improvement in the coming years (2010-2011 Recommendations).
QUICK FACTS
2008–2009 2010–2011
Number of requests carried over from previous fiscal year 93 137
Number of new requests 294 253
Number of requests completed 239 296
Number of pages reviewed for requests completed 31,033 45,547
Deemed refusal rate 40.8%* 28.7%*
Average number of days to complete a request 107 185
Average number of days to complete a request received in 2010–2011 n/a 36
Number of consultation requests received 106 110
Percentage of required extension notices submitted to the OIC <85% >85%
Number of complaints registered with the OIC 25 14
Number of complaints the OIC resolved 14** 2**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information operations, as of the end of the fiscal year 5.4 10.2
Follow-up on 2008–2009 recommendations

Delegation order........................................ Met expectations

Resources................................................... Met expectations

Backlog....................................................... Met expectations

Training....................................................... Met expectations

Extension notices...................................... Met expectations

See report card text for details. For the full text of the recommendations, as well as the institution’s initial response and October 2010 progress report, go here.

* 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 OIC used to calculate this rate.)

** A complaint is resolved when the OIC finds it has merit and the institution resolves it to the Commissioner’s satisfaction. The number of complaints reported reflects complaints resolved as of November 2011. As a result, the figure for 2008–2009 may differ from what appeared in the 2008–2009 report card.

Report card

Canadian Heritage performed well in many regards in 2010–2011, with no files completed late from its current requests. However, its backlogged inventory kept its deemed refusal rate high, at 28.7 percent. The number of complaints registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) against Canadian Heritage fell by 44 percent from 2008–2009. The institution also made some progress reducing its backlog of long-standing requests, which drove its average completion time up to 185 days. However, excluding the backlogged files, the average completion time for requests received and completed in 2010–2011 was a commendable 36 days. The institution also reported that streamlining the review process and monitoring internal deadlines have both proved to be successful strategies.

A failing grade on the 2008–2009 report card brought management attention to access to information operations and set changes in motion. Notably, Canadian Heritage nearly doubled its staff from 5.4 to 10.2 full-time equivalents. The access to information coordinator determined the number of employees the office requires by analyzing the number of requests coming in and their complexity, and estimating how many files each analyst can realistically manage. A business case was prepared using this equation, which resulted in the office receiving the necessary resources and has greatly improved the institution’s ability to comply with the access legislation. An increase in knowledgeable and experienced staff has also meant that the unit has been able to be more proactive in clarifying requests with requesters and working with program areas to retrieve relevant records.

This equation does not, however, account for policy and other auxiliary Access to Information Activities, such as statistical reporting, policy development and training, since Canadian Heritage’s primary focus is processing requests. Nonetheless, one full-time resource managed to train 549 employees during 2010–2011, slightly more than 25 percent of all staff. This included regional training as well as customized training for specific program areas.

In addition to human resources, Canadian Heritage also invested in updated technology, allowing for an integrated approach to processing requests.

Canadian Heritage made changes suggested by the OIC with respect to its review process. Previously there was a multi-step process whereby one copy of the proposed disclosure package circulated to all senior management prior to release. Now, program areas whose records are the subject of the request have three days prior to the information being released to review the package. With fewer recipients and a streamlined process, the final stages of processing an access to information package have been simplified and therefore expedited. This process is compliant with the delegation order at Canadian Heritage.

To demonstrate its commitment to the legislation, Canadian Heritage has included access to information performance in executive performance agreements. The access coordinator reported that deadlines are now more well respected throughout the institution.

Follow-up on 2008–2009 recommendations

The OIC issued five recommendations to Canadian Heritage with the 2008–2009 report card. The following summarizes the subsequent developments at the institution in response. (For the full text of the recommendations, the institution’s 2008–2009 response and its October 2010 progress report, go here .)

  1. By streamlining the review process, Canadian Heritage has ensured that it is not delaying the release of information and adheres to the delegation order, as per the OIC’s recommendation.
  2. The OIC commends Canadian Heritage for allocating the resources necessary to improve its performance, as recommended. Since receiving the 2008–2009 report card, Canadian Heritage has nearly doubled its staff and invested in new technology to facilitate the processing of requests.
  3. Canadian Heritage made inroads towards eliminating its backlog of long-standing requests, but more work can be done.
  4. Canadian Heritage developed a training plan, in response to the OIC’s recommendation, and provided training to more than 25 percent of employees across the institution.
  5. The OIC recommended that Canadian Heritage improve its procedures to ensure it submits all the required notices of extensions of more than 30 days. Canadian Heritage met the OIC’s 85-percent standard for acceptable performance in this area in 2010–2011.

Access to information workload, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

This graph shows the sources of Canadian Heritage’s workload for the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Comparing 2008–2009 to 2010–2011, the institution’s overall workload was essentially the same but the composition changed. Canadian Heritage received 14 percent fewer new requests but carried over 47 percent more requests from the previous fiscal year. The number of pages reviewed for requests completed increased by 47 percent.

Access to information workload, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

Text Version

How long it took to complete new requests, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Between 2008–2009 and 2010–2011, the proportion of new access requests Canadian Heritage completed within the timelines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act increased from 75 percent (with 57 overdue requests) to 100 percent (and no overdue requests). However, Canadian Heritage did take extensions for a greater proportion of its requests in 2010–2011 (22 percent) than in 2008–2009 (4 percent).

How long it took to complete new requests, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Text Version

Number and length of time extensions taken, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions Canadian Heritage reported to have taken in 2008–2009 and 2010–2011. The institution supplied this information in the notices it sent to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. Canadian Heritage submitted fewer than 85 percent of the required notices in 2008–2009, at which point the OIC issued a recommendation that Canadian Heritage improve its performance in this area. In 2010–2011, Canadian Heritage submitted more than 85 percent of the required notices. The OIC notes the increase in the number of extensions Canadian Heritage took in 2010–2011 for more than 120 days.

Number and length of time extensions taken, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Text Version

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

These graphs show the number and outcome of two types of complaint registered against Canadian Heritage in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that Canadian Heritage delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about Canadian Heritage’s use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. Overall, Canadian Heritage was the subject of 44 percent fewer complaints in 2010–2011 compared to 2008–2009, including fewer deemed refusal and time extension complaints.

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

Text Version

Number and outcome of complaints received by the Office of the Information Commissioner, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

This table sets out the number and outcome of the complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) registered against Canadian Heritage in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. The number of complaints against Canadian Heritage was 44 percent lower in 2010–2011 than in 2008–2009. Half of the complaints registered in 2010–2011 are pending, while 36 percent were found to be not substantiated or were discontinued.

 

Resolved*

Not substantiated

Discontinued

Pending

Total

2008–2009
Administrative 14 2 5 0 21
Refusals 0 1 2 1 4
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 14 3 7 1 25
2009–2010
Administrative 6 4 0 0 10
Refusals 2 0 3 3 8
Cabinet confidences 0 1 0 0 1
Total 8 5 3 3 19
2010–2011
Administrative 2 1 1 1 5
Refusals 0 1 0 4 5
Cabinet confidences 0 2 0 2 4
Total 2 4 1 7 14

* Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

2010–2011 recommendations

Canadian Heritage’s overall performance got better in 2010–2011, but there is still room for improvement. The OIC is issuing four recommendations to prompt the institution in this regard in the coming years.

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Canadian Heritage reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

RESPONSE: Canadian Heritage continues to adhere to the legislation and makes every effort to complete its access to information requests within the statutory time frames. In fiscal year 2010–2011 Canadian Heritage completed all its new requests on time. The Department is committed to completing the outstanding backlog requests.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Canadian Heritage review and document the criteria it uses for extensions to ensure that they are reasonable and legitimate.

RESPONSE: The use of time extensions is documented in the Canadian Heritage access to information procedure manual, which is continuously reviewed and updated. Canadian Heritage takes time extensions to process access to information requests only when required and legitimate. As noted in this report, Canadian Heritage has received very few extension complaints and the outcome of complaints for 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 revealed that none of the extension complaints were considered to have merit. 

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Canadian Heritage continue with its plan to eliminate its backlog of access requests.

RESPONSE: During fiscal year 2010–2011, besides completing all requests that were received within the fiscal year within the time limits, Canadian Heritage has made significant progress in dealing with the backlog, completing 87 of the 137 requests that were carried over into that fiscal year. Work continues on the outstanding files.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Canadian Heritage report on its progress implementing these recommendations in its annual report to Parliament on access to information operations.

RESPONSE: Canadian Heritage continues to fully report on its Access to Information Activities in its annual report to Parliament.