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Public Safety Canada

Public Safety Canada coordinates and supports the efforts of federal organizations to ensure national security and the safety of Canadians. It works with various stakeholders on issues of emergency management, national security, law enforcement, crime prevention and the protection of Canada's borders.

Assessment: B

(Received a C in 2008–2009)

  • Public Safety Canada's performance was above average in 2010–2011, and was an improvement over that from 2008–2009, even in the face of 27 percent more requests. The institution's deemed refusal rate was 5.8 percent and the average time to complete a request was 70 days.
  • Access officials reported that they continued to struggle with a lack of awareness in program areas of their obligations under the Access to Information Act and their importance. In contrast, the high staff turnover at Public Safety Canada that affected access operations in 2008–2009 seemed to have abated in 2010–2011.
  • Public Safety Canada satisfactorily implemented two of the Office of the Information Commissioner's (OIC) five 2008–2009 recommendations. It did not amend its delegation order or develop a training plan for access staff. However, the OIC is more concerned that the combination of a growing request volume and possible budget cuts not jeopardize those gains. The OIC has issued a recommendation to address this, and a number of others to prompt improved performance (2010-2011 Recommendations).

Quick facts

2008–2009

2010–2011

Number of requests carried over from previous fiscal year 59 28
Number of new requests 235 298
Number of requests completed 241 271
Number of pages reviewed for requests completed 28,695 32,616
Deemed refusal rate 8.5%* 5.8%*
Average number of days to complete a request 75 70
Number of consultation requests received 198 223
Percentage of required extension notices submitted to the OIC <85% >85%
Number of complaints registered with the OIC 18 21
Number of complaints the OIC resolved 4** 6**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information operations, as of the end of the fiscal year 6.5 8.6
Follow-up on 2008–2009 recommendations

Delegation order.............................. Did not meet expectations

Deemed refusal rate........................................ Met expectations

Consultations................................... Did not meet expectations

Training............................................. Did not meet expectations

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

See report card text for details. For the full text of the recommendations and the institution's initial response, 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 here is current as of November 2011. As a result, the figure for 2008–2009 may be different from what appeared in the 2008–2009 report card.

Report card

Public Safety Canada's performance was above average in 2010–2011, and an improvement from 2008–2009, even in the face of 27 percent more requests. The institution's deemed refusal rate was 5.8 percent, and the average time to complete a request was 70 days.

The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) notes Public Safety Canada's increasing use of time extensions in 2010–2011, and is particularly concerned about the sharp increase in those for more than 180 days.

Consultations with certain institutions continue to be a source of delay, although Public Safety Canada reports that, overall, the process is working efficiently. When consultations take too long, Public Safety Canada continues to invoke its own discretionary exemptions and release the documents, which the OIC supports as a good practice.

Internally, the quality of records and recommendations submitted by certain program areas has caused difficulty, access officials reported, and has resulted in extensive discussions between officials in those areas and access staff. Public Safety Canada reported that introducing a "statement of completeness" into the process has helped immensely. Director general-level officials must attest to a thorough search, completeness of the records provided, and the rationale for any exemptions.

The OIC suggests that further training of employees in program areas could lead to greater awareness of access obligations: currently, the only program areas to receive training are those that request it. The access office does not have a dedicated resource to provide training; instead, this duty is shared between the coordinator and two other senior staff. Although the OIC had recommended that Public Safety Canada develop an employee training plan, the institution reports that there has not been an overwhelming need to train access staff in the last two years. Employees do, however, participate in Treasury Board Secretariat learning events, and some access staff are seeking certification through the University of Alberta's Information Access and Protection of Privacy program.

The problem of high staff turnover, reported by Public Safety Canada in the past, seemed to have abated in 2010–2011, and the access unit was fully staffed with 8.6 full-time equivalents, an increase from 6.5 in 2008–2009. Further, a number of the analysts had a minimum of five years of experience in the field. Public Safety Canada reported that having a highly supportive assistant deputy minister, director general and director contributed to the stability of the unit.

Access staff said they are concerned that the current level of compliance will be difficult to maintain, since the number of requests continues to increase and operating budgets are being cut.

Follow-up on the 2008–2009 recommendations

The OIC issued five recommendations to Public Safety Canada with the 2008–2009 report card. The following summarizes the subsequent developments at the institution in response. (For the full text of the recommendations and the institution's initial response, go here.)

  1. Despite the OIC's recommendation to revise the delegation order to provide the access to information coordinator with greater autonomy, the current delegation order stands. However, access officials reported increased awareness that having assistant deputy ministers review thousands of pages of documents is not an efficient use of their time. This may reportedly lead to the delegation order's being changed in the future. In the OIC's experience, strong delegation orders that are not diffuse tend to lead to the best results. However, Public Safety Canada access officials have said their delegation order does not cause delays in the access process, a fact borne out by the institution's performance in 2010–2011.
  2. With its deemed refusal rate decreasing to 5.8 percent, Public Safety Canada is close to full compliance with the requirements of the Access to Information Act.
  3. Public Safety Canada did not, as per the OIC's recommendation, develop formal protocols regarding consultations with other institutions, but this does not appear to be impeding the processing of requests.
  4. Public Safety Canada did not follow the OIC's recommendation to implement a training plan for access staff. However, it does maintain a stable employee training program, which is largely focused outside of the access office.
  5. In 2010–2011, Public Safety Canada submitted more than 85 percent of the required notices of extensions taken for more than 30 days, which meets the OIC's standard for acceptable performance in this area.

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

This graph shows the sources of Public Safety Canada's workload for the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Comparing 2008–2009 to 2010–2011, the institution saw a 12-percent increase in its workload. A 53-percent decrease in requests carried over into 2010–2011 was offset by 27 percent more new requests and 13 percent more consultation requests than in 2008–2009. The number of pages reviewed for completed requests increased by 14 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 Public Safety Canada completed within the timelines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act remained the same, at 95 percent, although the proportion of requests completed within 30 days decreased by two percentage points, from 74 percent in 2008–2009 to 72 percent in 2010–2011. A small number of requests were completed late: 10 requests in 2008–2009 and 11 in 2010–2011.

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 Public Safety Canada 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. Public Safety Canada submitted fewer than 85 percent of the required notices in 2008–2009, at which point the OIC issued a recommendation that Public Safety Canada improve its performance in this area. In 2010–2011, Public Safety Canada submitted more than 85 percent of the required notices. The OIC notes Public Safety Canada's increasing use of time extensions in 2010–2011, and is particularly concerned about the sharp increase in those for more than 180 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 Public Safety Canada in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that Public Safety Canada delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about Public Safety Canada's use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. Overall, the number of complaints against Public Safety Canada in 2010–2011 increased by 16 percent from 2008–2009, although the number of both deemed refusal complaints and time extension complaints decreased slightly.

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 Public Safety Canada in each of three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Although the number of complaints registered with the OIC decreased significantly in 2009–2010, compared to the year before, it rose again in 2010–2011 to exceed the number received in 2008–2009.

 

Resolved*

Not substantiated

Discontinued

Pending

Total

2008–2009
Administrative 3 2 8 0 13
Refusals 1 1 1 1 4
Cabinet confidences 0 1 0 0 1
Total 4 4 9 1 18
2009–2010
Administrative 1 3 0 0 4
Refusals 0 2 0 1 3
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 1 5 0 1 7
2010–2011
Administrative 5 2 4 2 13
Refusals 1 1 3 2 7
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 1 1
Total 6 3 7 5 21

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

2010–2011 recommendations

Public Safety Canada's improvement could be jeopardized by budget cuts, particularly since the number of requests the institution receives continues to increase.

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Safety Canada maintain the resourcing levels needed to comply with its obligations under the Access to Information Act.

Response: Public Safety Canada will resource the function appropriately.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Safety Canada amend its delegation order, as recommended in 2008–2009.

RESPONSE: The Minister of Public Safety made a new delegation order on March 8, 2012, which is now in effect. We informed the Office of the Information Commissioner of the change and provided a copy of the new order on March 9, 2012.

The new delegation order gives full authority for the application of exemptions to the ATIP Coordinator, thereby streamlining the approval process, as recommended by the Office of the Information Commissioner.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Public Safety Canada review and document the criteria it uses for extensions to ensure that they are reasonable and legitimate.

RESPONSE: Public Safety Canada must take extensions in order to consult with other government departments and other governments, given the nature of our work. Public Safety Canada takes reasonable and legitimate extensions in order to do so. The department receives periodic notices from other institutions informing us of how long those departments require to process consultations. In cases where no notice has been received, extensions are taken based on the average number of days an institution has historically required, or by contacting the department to ask. Public Safety Canada will create a guide for the use of extensions by the end of fiscal year 2012–2013 to document the current processes.

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

RESPONSE: Public Safety Canada agrees to report on progress in implementing the recommendations of the Office of the Information Commissioner in its 2011–2012 Annual Report to Parliament on the Administration of the Access to Information Act.