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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.

Assessment: F

(Received a D in 2008–2009)

  • Transport Canada's performance in 2010–2011 was poor, and a drop from that in 2008–2009. Since then, despite a reduction in new requests and pages reviewed, Transport Canada's deemed refusal rate has increased sharply, from 31.2 percent to 52.6 percent. The number of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) received about Transport Canada rose by 48 percent, from 52 to 77 over the same period.
  • Although Transport Canada's access office received additional funding and was able to recruit new staff in 2009–2010, it remained under-resourced in 2010–2011, access officials reported. Nonetheless, they placed renewed emphasis on training, with the hope of retaining staff, along with developing a plan to rebuild.
  • Transport Canada satisfactorily implemented two of the OIC's five 2008–2009 recommendations, yet it needs the renewed commitment of institutional leadership to realize results in response to all of the OIC recommendations. The OIC has issued several new ones to prompt Transport Canada to reverse the decline in its performance (2010-2011 Recommendations).
Quick facts
2008–2009* 2010–2011
Number of requests carried over from previous fiscal year 221 (205) 347
Number of new requests 1,069 (647) 573
Number of requests completed 1,043 (632) 573
Number of pages reviewed for requests completed 120,000 64,780
Deemed refusal rate 17.6% (31.2%)** 52.6%**
Average number of days to complete a request 60 (94) 177
Average number of days to complete a request received in 2010–2011 n/a 43
Number of consultation requests received 178 230
Percentage of required extension notices submitted to the OIC <85% >85%
Number of complaints registered with the OIC 52 77
Number of complaints the OIC resolved 17+ 46+
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information operations, as of the end of the fiscal year 16.4 17.85
Follow-up on 2008–2009 recommendations

Leadership................................ Did not fully meet expectations

Deemed refusal rate......................... Did not meet expectations

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

Consultations.............................................................. Disagreed

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 .

*   In September 2008, Transport Canada stopped processing certain types of administrative requests as formal access requests. The numbers in parentheses in this column show the volume of requests and other statistics with those files removed from the counting.

** 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

Transport Canada's performance in 2010–2011 was poor, and a drop from that of 2008–2009 when it received a below average rating. Since then, despite a reduction in new requests and pages reviewed, Transport Canada's deemed refusal rate has increased, from 31.2 percent in 2008–2009 to 52.6 percent in 2010–2011. The number of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) received about Transport Canada rose by 48 percent, from 52 to 77.

Transport Canada reported that in September of 2008, about halfway through the 2008–2009 reporting period, boat operators seeking their own registration information no longer had to submit formal access to information requests. However, Transport Canada still included these requests in its statistical submission for the 2008–2009 report card. The front page of the report card, therefore, shows what the 2008–2009 statistics would have been without those informal requests, for purposes of comparison. The OIC commends Transport Canada for switching to informal disclosure for these simple requests.

In 2010–2011, the average time Transport Canada took to complete a request rose from 94 to 177 days, although this can be partly attributed to the institution's concentrated effort to complete long-standing files in its backlog. Excluding the backlogged files, the average completion time for requests received and completed in 2010–2011 was 43 days.

The OIC notes the increase in the number of extensions Transport Canada took in 2010–2011 for more than 90 days and, in particular, the jump in its extensions for third-party consultations and in the number of extensions it took for an unspecified length of time (as per the notices it sent to the OIC about its use of extensions in 2010–2011).

Transport Canada reported that a shortage of staff continued to impair its ability to comply with its legislated access to information obligations. Although the access office received additional funding and was able to recruit nine new staff members in 2009–2010, it remained under-resourced, access officials said, particularly in light of unexpected long-term absences. Because of budgetary constraints and the difficulty of filling such positions temporarily, they remained vacant. A senior analyst left early in 2011, and although potential replacements were interviewed, no suitable candidate was identified for deployment. In addition, 3.5 full-time equivalents were diverted to address the backlog, which meant that those analysts could not regularly work on new requests. This resulted in Transport Canada being able to significantly reduce the number of old files. However another result was that those analysts who were available to process current requests had an average workload of 50 to 60 files.

Despite the shortage of staff, Transport Canada was able to place renewed emphasis on training and also implemented an employee development program, in the hope of retaining and developing its existing staff. In 2010–2011, many of the access staff, particularly those in leadership positions, participated in training sessions, including those on negotiation, writing, and supervisory and leadership skills. Six candidates in the employee development program attended a variety of training programs and received considerable mentoring and coaching from access team leaders.

Transport Canada reported strong management support for the access function, which has resulted in additional permanent funding. There were some measures to increase the profile of the access program, such as reporting to senior management. Executive performance management accords were amended to include compliance with access timelines.

Since the 2010–2011 reporting period there have been more recent developments and some forward momentum that, with solid leadership, support and oversight from senior management, should foster improvement for the future.

Follow-up on the 2008–2009 recommendations

The OIC issued five recommendations to Transport 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, the institution's initial response and its October 2010 progress report, go here.)

  1. Transport Canada access officials reported they have put in place a plan to rebuild, and that they receive strong senior management support. But the program is struggling and needs senior management to refocus its efforts in support of the program.
  2. Transport Canada's deemed refusal rate increased 21.4 percentage points from 2008–2009 to 2010–2011, contrary to what the OIC expected when it issued its recommendation for the institution to strive to reduce the rate to zero.
  3. The OIC notes that Transport Canada did an excellent job reducing its backlog by dedicating full-time resources to this task, and introducing a program through which access office staff could volunteer to do overtime to work on long-standing files. At the time of writing, Transport Canada had reduced the backlog for requests prior to 2010 by 99 percent.
  4. Transport Canada did not agree with the OIC's recommendation to develop protocols to facilitate consultations with other institutions. The institution has committed to work with others to reduce the time taken to complete consultations, and to develop protocols as the need arises.
  5. In 2010–2011, Transport 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 Transport Canada's workload for the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Comparing 2008–2009 to 2010–2011, the institution saw a 22-percent decrease in its workload. The number of new requests Transport Canada received in 2010–2011 decreased by 46 percent (as did the number of pages reviewed for requests completed). However, the number of requests carried over from the previous fiscal year increased by 57 percent, while the number of consultation requests grew by 29 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 Transport Canada completed within the timelines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act dropped from 88 percent to 66 percent. The remaining requests were completed late: 106 requests in 2008–2009 and 120 in 2010–2011. The Office of the Information Commissioner is concerned that the pool of requests completed late grew by 13 percent, and that it equalled more than one third of the new requests Transport Canada completed 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 Transport 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. In 2008–2009, Transport Canada submitted fewer than 85 percent of the required notices, at which point the OIC issued a recommendation that Transport Canada improve its performance in this area. In 2010–2011, Transport Canada submitted more than 85 percent of the required notices. The OIC notes the increase in the number of extensions Transport Canada took in 2010–2011 in all categories, except one, and, in particular, the jump in extensions for an unspecified length of time.

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 Transport Canada in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009: 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. Overall, the number of complaints registered against Transport Canada increased by 48 percent from 2008–2009 to 2010–2011. Transport Canada was the subject of far more deemed refusal complaints than time extension complaints in 2010–2011.

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 Transport Canada in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Although the number of complaints decreased in 2010–2011 after more than doubling between 2008–2009 and 2009–2010, there were still 50 percent more complaints in 2010–2011 than there were two years prior to that. Of the complaints registered in 2010–2011 that have been closed, 59 percent were resolved.

 

Resolved*

Not substantiated

Discontinued

Pending

Total

2008–2009
Administrative 12 4 20 0 36
Refusals 3 8 1 1 13
Cabinet confidences 2 1 0 0 3
Total 17 13 21 1 52
2009–2010
Administrative 40 40 7 11 98
Refusals 4 3 3 3 13
Cabinet confidences 0 1 0 0 1
Total 44 44 10 14 112
2010–2011
Administrative 43 2 5 4 54
Refusals 3 2 3 15 23
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 46 4 8 19 77

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

2010–2011 recommendations

The OIC is concerned about Transport Canada's poor performance in 2010–2011, and makes the following recommendations to prompt efforts by the institution to improve.

1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Minister of Transport and the Deputy Minister demonstrate leadership in establishing a culture of commitment to access to information at Transport Canada, which must be upheld by all levels of senior management.

RESPONSE: Transport Canada's Executive Management Committee (TMX) continues to actively support the ATIP program. The Deputy Minister and members of TMX review the status of ATIP requests on a weekly basis. The Director of ATIP also meets with the Director of Operations in the DMO, Communications and the Senior Advisor for the ADM, Corporate Management and Crown Corporation Governance on a bi-weekly basis. Briefings and awareness sessions with ADMs/RDGs and their management teams are held on the modified process on an ongoing basis. All members of the senior cadre understand fully that they have a shared responsibility and accountability for improving and meeting legislated timelines. Functional authority for the ATIP Division was moved to the Chief Information Officer and Director General of Technology
and Information Management Services Directorate in January 2010, to align itself to the TBS model for the management of information services. This realignment has been beneficial in ensuring an integrated approach for MAF and other reporting requirements. TC received a strong rating in its last MAF evaluation for the measures it has undertaken to improve its ATIP program.

2. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Transport Canada, in particular senior management, remain committed to its plan to improve its access to information performance.

RESPONSE: The Performance Accords of all EXs continue to be reviewed to assess compliance and performance for Access and Privacy requirements. A monthly performance report is provided to all senior management members of the Transport Executive Management Committee (TMX) and performance and compliance issues are addressed at the DG and ADM level where compliance issues are identified. Senior management continues to be actively involved in the administration of the ATIP program at TC. In 2010, extensive consultations were undertaken with employees at all levels of the organization to review the existing process and make amendments to improve performance; consequently, TMX approved the modified process for dealing with Access requests, which was implemented in April 2011. Progress against the Action Plan is reported to TMX. A 6 percent performance improvement has been noted since its inception.

3. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Transport Canada's management team ensure that the access to information office has the resources it needs to meet its obligations under the Access to Information Act, and maintain its internal development program in order to stabilize staffing levels.

RESPONSE: TMX requests regular presentations on Strengthening ATIP at Transport Canada—it assesses and provides support as required. The Departmental Audit Committee has also requested presentations on ATIP processes and management practices and continues to review the program on an ongoing basis and allocates resources accordingly; in the past two years, senior management has approved resources for the hiring of consultants to assist in the backlog, in the processing of active requests and in meeting reporting requirements for TBS Info Source and the Annual Report to Parliament, as well as other activities to improve performance and ensure a more strategic use of internal permanent FTE resources.

4. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Transport Canada make a renewed, concerted effort to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

RESPONSE: Transport Canada is committed to reducing its deemed refusal rate. In the first six months of 2011–2012, since the implementation of the modified process, there has been a 6 percent improvement in meeting legislated deadlines. The backlog continues to require focused resources, but risk-based and fast-track approaches and strategies have resulted in an improved completion rate of active requests. As of March 2012, backlog files prior to 2010 were reduced by 99 percent, while backlog files received after 2010 were reduced by 83 percent.

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

RESPONSE: The ATIP Division at TC regularly reviews its processes to ensure that it meets its primary principle of duty to assist requesters and to ensure it applies legitimate and reasonable legal extensions. In December 2011, it undertook a detailed review of its ATIA modified process to identify any issues and address them with the active participation of the ADM Corporate Management and Crown Corporation Governance and members of the TMX. A follow-up presentation to TMX members in February 2012 was given to share the results of this detailed review and to ensure a more consistent approach in the regions and sectors. Where it can fast-track or risk-manage its processes, TC's ATIP Division makes revisions to its guidelines and ensures an integrated approach by all members of the team. For example, the revised TBS Directive on the Administration of the ATIA issued in January 2012 stipulates that the application of sections 15 and 16 no longer require formal consultations as was mandated in the past. This direction enables the ATIP analysts to review and complete requests in a timely manner, without lengthy consultative processes and legal extensions. When the directive was issued, it was communicated to the ATIP Division and implemented immediately. In addition, the ATIP Director has instituted monthly ATIP liaison meetings, to address performance and compliance issues and work with the liaisons to achieve positive results and share best practices amongst this internal community, which has a critical role to play in ensuring compliance and improved performance. This monthly meeting has had positive results in receiving strong recommendations and a better response rate.

6. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that Transport Canada engage its colleagues in other institutions to facilitate efficient consultations.

RESPONSE: In 2010–2011, TC received 230 consultations; in 2011–2012 (to March 26, 2012) it has received
312 consultation requests; in light of this increase, TC is drafting a protocol similar to that established at Justice Canada to improve its ability to respond within legislated timelines because of the increase in the number of consultations it has received in the past two years. It currently verbally advises consulting bodies of the anticipated time by which TC will be able to provide a response. This will ensure that expectations are met and that exceptional circumstances are dealt with prior to these organizations consulting with Transport Canada.

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

RESPONSE: Transport Canada's ATIP Division has always included supplementary information in its Annual Reports, over and above TBS reporting requirements and will continue to do so. It is important to correlate the recommendations of the OIC to TC's annual report to Parliament and the Management Accountability Framework to advise the Canadian public that we work together towards the same goals—improved performance and access to government information.