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1. Measuring up: Finding signs of improvement

The proportion of access to information requests that all institutions across the federal government closed within 30 days in 2010–2011 remained at 57 percent, the same level as in 2008–2009, according to statistics from the Treasury Board Secretariat. Over the same period, however, institutions received and closed 22 percent more requests, as well as 22 percent (4,116) more requests in fewer than 30 days. This means that institutions provided a response to nearly one quarter more requesters within the 30-day time frame set out in the Access to Information Act. They did this in the face of an increasing workload, including a growing volume of pages of records to review.

Using, along with our complaints data, the detailed indicators we developed to assess the timeliness of the responses given by institutions that were part of the report card process in 2008–2009 and 2010–2011, we found signs of improvement. This progress, in combination with effective oversight, ongoing and adequate resources for the access function, and leadership by ministers and senior officials, bodes well for more timely responses to access requests and greater compliance with the Act.

What we learned

Deemed refusal rate

With four exceptions, institutions' deemed refusal rates decreased, sometimes significantly. Seven institutions had rates of lower than 10 percent in 2010–2011, compared to just one among the same group of institutions in 2008–2009.

Average completion time

Eight institutions took longer, on average, to complete a request in 2010–2011 than they did in 2008–2009. However, 12 institutions also significantly reduced their backlog, which inflated their average completion time. When considering only requests received and completed in 2010–2011, these institutions significantly reduced their average completion time, with two succeeding in lowering it below the 30 days set out in the law.

How long it took to complete overdue requests

While institutions were still closing only half of overdue requests in the first 30 days after the due date in 2010–2011, there were nearly 25 percent fewer late requests than in 2008–2009. This is noteworthy, since the overall pool of requests these institutions received increased by 7 percent from 2008–2009.

Evidence of delay

The statistical evidence about delay we gathered focused on three primary indicators:

  • deemed refusal rate
  • average time to complete all requests
  • how long it took to complete a request once it was late.

Deemed refusal rate

A response to a request provided after its legislated due date— either the 30 days set out in the Access to Information Act or at the end of a valid time extension—is considered to be a "deemed refusal." To determine the deemed refusal rate, we calculated the number of requests an institution completed late in the subject year as a proportion of its overall caseload that year. (See Appendix B for the exact formula.)

Figure 1: Deemed refusal rates, 18 institutions, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Figure 1: Deemed refusal rates, 18 institutions, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

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Figure 1 compares the deemed refusal rate for each of the 18 institutions we studied in 2010–2011 with the corresponding figure for 2008–2009. With four exceptions, institutions reduced their rate, some quite significantly. The rate for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), for example, dropped from 59.6 percent in 2008–2009 to 27.8 percent in 2010–2011. As an example of the benefit to requesters of that decrease, DFAIT responded late to 46 requests it received and completed in 2010–2011 compared to 163 requests it received and completed in 2008–2009.

In addition to a general drop in deemed refusal rate (the median was 13.45 percent among the 18 institutions in 2010–2011 compared to 20.1 percent in 2008–2009), seven of the 18 institutions achieved rates of less than 10 percent in 2010–2011, compared to just one among this same group of institutions in 2008–2009.

Average time to complete a request

While the deemed refusal rate shows that requests are delayed because they are completed late, it does not give any indication of the number of days the delay might involve. Measuring the average time to complete a request sheds light on this.

Figure 2 shows the average time each of the 18 institutions took to complete a request, relative to the 30-day ideal set out in the Access to Information Act. Ten institutions improved their performance in this area. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, for example, reduced its average completion time from 80 days in 2008–2009 to 45 in 2010–2011. The other eight institutions performed worse, and none achieved an average completion time of less than 30 days.

Figure 2: Average time to complete a request, 18 institutions, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Figure 2: Average time to complete a request, 18 institutions, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Text Version

The increases in average completion time are likely due to our recommendation in the 2008–2009 report cards that 12 of the 18 institutions reduce their backlog of long-standing requests. Due to the age of many of these files, institutions' average completion time increased dramatically as they subsequently completed large numbers of files carried over from previous years. Figure 3 shows much improved average completion times when these backlogged requests are not taken into account. Canadian Heritage's average completion time, as an example, dropped from 185 days overall to 36 days for requests received and completed in 2010–2011.

Figure 3: Average time to complete a request, 12 institutions, 2010–2011, with backlogged requests removed

Figure 3: Average time to complete a request, 12 institutions, 2010–2011, with backlogged requests removed

Text Version

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), National Defence and Privy Council Office (PCO) each brought down their average completion times, even when the backlogged files they completed are considered. For example, National Defence's overall average completion time dropped from 125 days in 2008–2009 to 95 days in 2010–2011, and further decreased to 49 days when the older files are not counted.

In addition, two institutions achieved average completion times of less than the 30 days set out in the Act when only considering requests received and completed in 2010–2011: Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP; 20 days) and Environment Canada (26 days). Canadian Heritage (36 days), PCO (38 days) and DFO (39 days) each came close to the 30-day threshold.

By these measures, requesters are receiving faster service from many institutions. In some cases, requesters can even expect to get the information they are seeking in a time, on average, approaching 30 days or less.

Complaints

The delay-related complaints that we receive—those about deemed refusals and time extensions—offer another useful perspective on the timeliness of institutions' responses to requests.

By most measures, the complaints picture is positive. Overall and for our 18 institutions, we received 10 percent fewer complaints in 2010–2011 than we did in 2008–2009. Over the same period, the number of administrative complaints we registered fell by 11 percent system-wide and 16 percent for the 18 subject institutions. In addition, the number of time extension complaints decreased by 58 percent overall and 77 percent for the report card cohort. One requester who made frequent complaints about time extensions against a variety of institutions in 2008–2009, but was no longer doing so in 2010–2011, accounts for this large decrease.

In contrast, the number of deemed refusal complaints grew: by 82 percent across government and 94 percent among our 18 institutions. However, this increase can largely be attributed to a spike in deemed refusal complaints received from one requester in July 2010 against the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). With these figures removed from the calculations, the number of deemed refusal complaints decreased by 21 percent. (The corresponding system-wide drop is 47 percent.) Of the deemed refusal complaints we had closed as of mid-November 2011, 60 percent were resolved (meaning that they had merit and were resolved to the Commissioner's satisfaction). Again, however, not considering CRA changes the picture: without those figures, the number of resolved deemed refusal complaints among our 18 institutions decreased by 10 percent.

How long it took to complete a request once it was late

This indicator provides information about delay that the other two cannot. As noted, the deemed refusal rate measures the proportion of requests that are late, but does not speak to the number of days requests are overdue. The average completion time, in contrast, measures the number of days it takes to complete a request, but does not distinguish between those that are on time and late ones. By calculating how long it takes institutions to complete requests after the due date has passed, we can learn whether institutions let these requests languish.

Overall, only half of the requests that were overdue in both 2008–2009 and 2010–2011 were completed within the 30 days following the original deadline. Twenty percent of requesters waited between 31 to 60 days for a response, 10 percent for 61 to 90 days and a substantial 20 percent for more than 90 days.

However, as the lower 2010–2011 deemed refusal rates would suggest, the number of overdue requests received and completed in the same fiscal year by the 18 institutions that were part of the 2010–2011 report card exercise dropped. The decrease was 24 percent, from 1,549 requests in 2008–2009 to 1,181 in 2010–2011. This is particularly noteworthy, sincethe number of new requests these institutions received in 2010–2011 increased 7 percent from 2008–2009.

In addition, as Figure 4 shows, there was a decrease in the number of overdue requests closed in every time period: fewer than 30 days after the due date, 18 percent; 31–60 days, 27 percent; 60–90 days, 22 percent; and more than 90 days, 26 percent.

Figure 4: Number of requests completed late and how long it took to complete them, 18 institutions, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Figure 4: Number of requests completed late and how long it took to complete them, 18 institutions, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Text Version

In overall terms and according to our three indicators of delay, then, institutions have improved the timeliness of their response to access to information requests since 2008–2009. In addition, the 18 institutions we assessed both for that reporting period and 2010–2011 completed more requests within 30 days: 6,950 (50 percent) in 2010–2011 compared to 6,272 (47 percent) in 2008–2009. We also have a more complete statistical picture of the timeliness and, as the next section explains, of other issues that affect institutions' ability to respond to requests in a timely manner.

Systemic issues

During the 2008–2009 report card exercise, we identified six systemic issues (leadership, delegation orders, time extensions, consultations, resources and information/records management) as sources of chronic delay in the access to information system. We primarily focused on these topics in our recommendations that year, although we issued other recommendations to address specific circumstances at some institutions to further reduce delays and encourage compliance with the Act. Generally speaking, the institutions that significantly improved their rating in 2010–2011, compared to 2008–2009, were those that implemented most of our recommendations.

What we learned

Leadership continues to be a key element of a healthy and smooth-running access to information operation. Leadership efforts included providing resources, along with emphasizing the importance of responding to requests in a timely manner, to create a culture of compliance across the institution.

Streamlining the delegation order had positive effects on timeliness in a number of instances, although institutions did achieve improved performance despite disagreeing with us about the form delegation orders should take.

We have concerns that some of the 18 institutions took more time extensions in 2010–2011 than in 2008–2009. Most institutions, however, seem to have moderated their use of extensions.

Institutions reported that they generally did not have problems with consultations in 2010–2011, except for mandatory ones with DFAIT and PCO. They reported these as continuing sources of delay.

Additional resources have made a positive difference at most institutions; however, some access officials told us that they are concerned that budget cuts would undermine the gains they have made.

From the information we received from institutions, records/ information management seems to be receding as a concern. Most institutions reported few or no problems in this area; however, we note with interest that institutions had to process 47 percent more pages in 2010–2011 than in 2008–2009.

Leadership

In 2008–2009, we singled out strong leadership as the most important factor for the successful operation of an access to information office and made recommendations to six institutions to improve in this area. We challenged ministers and deputy ministers, through our recommendations and in subsequent meetings, to work to establish a culture of compliance, wherein access to information—and responding to requests in a timely manner—is an institutional priority, not an afterthought.

These six institutions responded in a variety of ways, including providing the recommended financial resources and personnel, as well as putting access to information on the executive-level agenda. Most of the institutions subsequently improved their results. DFO, for example, highlighted, in training and awareness sessions, the importance the minister and deputy minister attach to meeting access to information obligations. DFAIT senior management provided $2.7 million in new funding for the access function in the wake of the institution's catastrophic grade on the 2008–2009 report card, while the access office at the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) received $1.7 million. Health Canada has added meeting access to information commitments to the performance management agreements of senior executives.

Transport Canada and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) did not fully meet our expectations with regard to leadership and their performance was poor in 2010–2011, including high deemed refusal rates and long average completion times. In new recommendations, we have called on the leadership in those institutions and others whose performance was average or below to recommit to meeting their obligations under the Access to Information Act and fostering a culture of compliance across the institution.

Delegation orders

In the 2008–2009 special report, we emphasized that an appropriate delegation of authority is crucial to a well-functioning access to information operation. We made recommendations to eight institutions regarding their delegation orders: to either strictly adhere to the delegated authority of the coordinator and eliminate additional levels of approval; or to amend the delegation order to give the coordinator the authority and autonomy to approve the release of records. Both actions would have the net effect of streamlining the process and, other things being equal, mean faster turnaround times for responses.

Four of the eight institutions followed our recommendations, with corresponding positive results. For example, Canadian Heritage and CIDA both improved their approval processes, so they now respect the delegation order and do not delay the release of information. Some institutions, such as CRA, delegated some areas of responsibility to positions below the coordinator level to streamline the processing of requests.

Of the other four, three achieved better performance within the existing terms of their delegation order. Until only recently, Public Safety Canada, for example, had maintained that the delegated authority for approval to release proposed records must reside with senior managers who are ultimately responsible for their program areas. Public Safety Canada officials did acknowledge, however, that reviewing thousands of pages of records might not be the most efficient use of an assistant deputy minister's time, and have now amended the delegation order to give full authority for the application of exemptions to the access to information coordinator.

PCO's delegation order accords limited decision-making authority to the Access Director. This raises the concern that the Director has responsibilities for which the position is not delegated.

It remains our position that full delegation should rest with the access to information coordinator to encourage a simple, limited and, most of all, short approval process for release packages. (This is also the position the Treasury Board Secretariat [TBS] took in a study of best practices.1) We have made new recommendations about delegation orders in several report cards.

Other good practices

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) anticipated receiving requests about its operations at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. To ensure that records were retrieved in a timely fashion at source, the organization embedded an access analyst at the event to process requests. We consider this to be a best practice.

We also note, with interest, that the RCMP sought, in its response to one of our 2010–2011 recommendations, the commitment from the Minister of Public Safety to demonstrate the leadership required to promote a culture of compliance and improve the institution's access to information performance.

CRA promoted the annual Right to Know Week as part of training it gave in program areas, using the event to promote the spirit of the Access to Information Act—not just the obligation to comply—among the participants.

The duty to assist was codified in the 2006 Federal Accountability Act. This duty requires institutions to make every reasonable effort to assist requesters in connection with their requests, respond to the request accurately and completely, and provide timely access to the records in the format requested.

We observed that institutions that made a concerted effort to respect the duty to assist have realized improvements in their operations. Officials at the RCMP reported improved results as the result of more open dialogue with requesters. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) also reported that communicating with its applicants has helped to streamline operations. In addition, CSIS has begun pro­actively processing frequently requested records with results that have proven so successful that a full-time resource has been assigned to this task. We consider these efforts by the RCMP and CSIS to be best practices.

Time extensions

Taking an extension to accommodate the time required to respond to an access request is allowed under the Act in certain circumstances. However, we observed in 2008–2009 that access officials in some institutions were using extensions to manage their own workload, rather than that of program areas (it is the latter that the Act intends). As such, we recommended to four institutions that they document the criteria they used for the extensions they take to ensure they are reasonable and legitimate. We also issued an advisory notice that sets out the factors we consider during investigations into complaints about institutions' use of time extensions for searching for or through large volumes of records (paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Act). The use of these extensions among the 18 institutions that were part of the report card process decreased (according to TBS data) by 6 percent from 2008–2009 to 2010–2011. This contrasts with a 24-percent increase system-wide.

National Defence implemented an excellent process whereby analysts must receive the agreement of a team leader before they may take an extension. Extensions of longer than 30 days require the agreement of the director and the coordinator. Consequently, National Defence significantly reduced its use of time extensions between 2008–2009 and 2010–2011. We consider National Defence's new process to be a best practice.

Despite this good example, and the small decrease (1.5 percent) in the use of extensions among our 18 institutions (according to TBS data), the report cards revealed that a number of these institutions, including CIDA, CSIS, Environment Canada and Public Safety Canada, increased their use of extensions between 2008–2009 and 2010–2011. There was also a 43-percent increase in extensions for consultations with third parties (TBS data). While this may help institutions avoid having requests become overdue, it does not, in our view, wholly fulfill institutions' duty to assist obligations, particularly to provide timely responses to requesters. Consequently, the use of extensions is a delay-related issue that requires continuing attention. To that end, we have issued in the present report new recommendations to institutions for which the use of time extensions is a problem. We are also conducting a systemic investigation on delay, to be completed in 2012–2013, that touches on institutions' use of time extensions.

Consultations

When an institution receives an access to information request and the responsive records pertain to the business of other institutions, the primary institution may consult with those other institutions (or is sometimes required to under Treasury Board policy). In previous years, we have reported that, as a result of growing workload, the turnaround time for consultation requests has greatly increased. This, in turn, has led to delays in responding to the original access request.

We made recommendations to four institutions in 2008–2009 relating to consultations, such as developing protocols with other federal institutions to facilitate timely interactions. CIDA reported having informal agreements in place with frequently consulted institutions, while Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) officials said they use the average completion time of previous consultations to take appropriate extensions.

In our systemic investigation on delay, to be completed in 2012–2013, we are looking more closely into consultations, including those with DFAIT and PCO. These remain a source of delay for institutions, and associated practices and turnaround times are affecting requesters' rights to timely responses to their access to information requests.

Resources

In the 2008–2009 report, we made recommendations to eight institutions regarding resources. We called on the deputy heads of institutions to devote the necessary personnel and financial resources, in the access office and/or program areas, to make full compliance with the Act possible. Seven of these institutions acted on our recommendation, providing among them such things as additional financial resources, more employees, new computer software, additional training opportunities and employee development programs.

For example, NRCan made a concentrated effort to enhance access training across the institution, made possible by additional resources. Environment Canada launched an employee development program and reported early successes, with staff progressing to increasingly senior positions.

Some access officials we spoke to during the 2010–2011 report card process expressed concern about potential cutbacks under the federal government's Deficit Reduction Action Plan. It is their view—and we strongly agree—that diminished resources would undermine the gains in timeliness institutions have made over the last three years and, ultimately, reduce compliance with the Access to Information Act. Increased resources have, in many institutions, been a key element of improved compliance with the Act. In light of this, we emphasize that access to information is not only a cornerstone of democracy, as stated by the Supreme Court of Canada, but also a legislated obligation for government institutions.

Other good practices

We noted an increase in the policy capacity of access to information offices in some institutions:

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a new policy team with its own deputy director and information technology specialist.
  • The Correctional Service of Canada set up a new policy and training unit.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency created a new unit for policy development and training.
  • Canadian Heritage created a new position for training and awareness, and policy work.

This new capacity has proven helpful in institutions in which senior managers have taken more responsibility for oversight of the access function and, consequently, have required more statistical reports. We consider developing such capacity to be a best practice.

Records/information management

In the 2008–2009 special report, we observed that several institutions had insufficient records management systems, resulting in inefficient and potentially incomplete records retrieval. We made recommendations to four institutions to identify and implement the necessary enhancements to records management to ensure a timely and effective search of records in response to access to information requests.

The institutions implemented this recommendation to varying degrees. Environment Canada went through a significant restructuring in 2008–2009, which ushered in greater stability and resulted in improved ability to retrieve records. With program areas having a better idea of where information is located, retrieval time has declined substantially, from an average of 26 days to 7. DFO recognized information management as a priority for 2010–2011 and refreshed both its hardware and software. Health Canada reported having put a multi-faceted plan in place to improve information management, which it will implement over the next three years. Meanwhile, it continues to struggle with records retrieval.

Since all but a few institutions reported difficulties with records retrieval in 2008–2009, it is noteworthy that the issue came up only rarely in 2010–2011, particularly in light of the 47-percent increase over the same period in the volume of pages to review (see box). This increase may reflect the complexity of projects on which public servants now work or may suggest that the advent of electronic records management systems is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they may, in conjunction with the TBS Directive on Recordkeeping, have made it much easier for program areas to locate records. On the other, such repositories may have led to officials' keeping every record they produce rather than properly sorting and filing their documents.

Growing page volume

The volume of pages institutions reviewed for access requests they completed ballooned by 47 percent between 2008–2009 and 2010–2010.

Certain institutions saw a more dramatic increase than others. The number of pages the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reviewed in 2010–2011 tripled from 2008–2009, while at the Canada Revenue Agency, the page volume nearly doubled to more than 1.1 million, the highest among the 18 institutions in the 2010–2011 report card exercise. The ability of institutions to adapt to an increase in page volume appears to be an important factor in performance.

Follow-up on recommendations to Treasury Board Secretariat

With the 2008–2009 report cards, we issued five recommendations to TBS related to the systemic issues. As the administrator of the federal access to information system, TBS plays a key role in ensuring that institutions have the policies, support and resources they need to comply with the Access to Information Act and respond to requests in a timely manner.

We recommended that TBS assess the extent to which institutions implement best practices related to delegation orders. After conducting a review of delegation orders in 2010, TBS issued new fact sheets and best practices on this topic in July 2011.

TBS regularly reviews and updates the Management Accountability Framework (MAF), which sets out expectations of senior leadership for good public service management. In line with our recommendation, TBS has, over the past two years, added questions to the MAF focusing on institutions' principles, standards and policies within their access to information operations. This is an improvement from previous versions of the MAF, which only assessed whether institutions had met their statutory and regulatory requirements under the Act, met all the mandatory reporting requirements in their annual report to Parliament on access to information operations and ensured that the descriptions of their records holdings in InfoSource were clear and up-to-date. However, TBS considers this area of management to be non-core and, as a result, will not be assessing it again until 2013–2014.

To augment the baseline of information available about access to information operations, we recommended that TBS collect more statistical data in various areas and assess the magnitude and impact of consultations between institutions. In 2010–2011, TBS began asking institutions to report on the number of pages processed, timelines, extensions, consultations and delays. The results will be published in the Fall 2012 InfoSource Bulletin. We will monitor the trends these expanded statistics bring to light.

In February 2012, TBS announced that consultations under sections 15 (international affairs and defence) and 16 (law enforcement and investigations) would no longer be mandatory. This means that institutions may now exercise their own discretion about whether they need to consult with other institutions, except when they require more information to make that decision or when they intend to disclose information.

We will look with interest at data on the impact of limiting the circumstances in which institutions consult on sections 15 and 16—in the hopes that this helps improve timeliness across the access to information system. Our concern, however, is that these changes are biased towards limiting release of information. We will closely monitor the effects of this new approach to ensure institutions continue to apply exemptions and sever information properly. We will discuss this issue further in our report on the results of the systemic investigation into the causes of delay, to be released in 2012–2013.

Finally, we recommended that TBS focus, urgently, on developing an integrated human resources plan to address the shortage of access to information staff. Among other activities, TBS consulted in the fall of 2011 with institutions about their challenges, strengths and resulting training needs. This input informed the new training plan for 2012–2013. Other recruitment, retention and training initiatives continue while TBS works to establish a collective staffing process.

Appendix A contains our original recommendations and TBS's complete response from the last two reporting periods.

Office of the Information Commissioner commitments

In our report on the 2008–2009 report card exercise, we made four commitments to provide guidance and tools to support institutions. Below is a summary of our subsequent work.

Commitment 1

Publish a practice direction (advisory notice) on time extensions under paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Access to Information Act.

We published this notice on our website in 2011.

Commitment 2

Develop and implement by the end of 2010–2011 a template for the notification of time extensions, and explore electronic tools to facilitate submission of these notices.

We have developed an electronic template for institutions to use to notify us, as required, of time extensions they take for more than 30 days. The electronic template includes information such as the date of the access request, the institution's file number, the text of the request, the date the notification of the extension was sent to the requester, the reason for the extension (under paragraphs 9(1)(a), (b) or (c) of the Access to Information Act), the length of the extension and whether the notice of the right to complain to us was included. A copy of the draft electronic template can be viewed on our website. Please note that the template has not yet been finalized due to the potential that the Treasury Board Secretariat may develop an electronic access to information system that would be common to all government institutions. We will follow the progress of this project closely with our TBS colleagues to see whether any proposed system might include an extension notification function. Our own system will proceed should no similar function be developed by TBS in the near future.

Commitment 3

Publish a practice direction (advisory notice) on time extension notification procedures under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act.

We published this notice on our website in 2011.

Commitment 4

Assign an official to review and assess the extension notices and undertake follow-up actions.

We completed a review and analysis of the subsection 9(2) extension notices for the first three months of 2011 and the work on the notices from the rest of the year is well under way. Some of the trends we have seen are being examined as part of the systemic investigation regarding time extensions and consultations. Information about some trends was shared with our investigative branch to help develop and coordinate investigative strategies. We are also considering expanding the analysis of the extension notices to delve into even greater detail in 2012.

Compliance

What we learned

A combination of factors, including the right attitude toward openness, leadership, the right tools and sufficient resources, tends to result in greater compliance with the Act.

Nearly three quarters (13 out of 18) of the institutions we assessed in 2010–2011 improved their compliance with the Act and received a higher grade in 2010–2011 than in 2008–2009. Two of the remaining five institutions received the same grade as they did in 2008–2009, while three performed worse.

Compliance with the Access to Information Act involves more than just timeliness; rather, it comprises how well an institution meets its obligations under the Act, as well as its overall access to information culture. We found that a combination of elements tended to result in greater compliance with the Act in both 2008–2009 and 2010–2011, when we looked at institutions that had been subject to the Act for a number of years, and in 2009–2010, when we studied Crown corporations and Agents of Parliament, who had only been subject to the Act since 2007. As we noted in our 2009–2010 report, "For the institutions with records of good performance, it is clear that optimal compliance with the Access to Information Act is possible. It starts with the right attitude toward openness, which is intrinsically linked to leadership at the highest institutional level, the right tools and sufficient resources, and continues with a sound approach to responding to access to information requests."

Results

The 2010–2011 report cards focus only on those at-risk institutions that received an "average" rating ("C" grade) or below in 2008–2009. The top six performers that received "above average" and "outstanding" ratings were excused from further review to reduce their reporting burden.

The 2010–2011 results, similar to those from other years, feature both improved and diminished performance (Figure 5). The majority—13 of the 18 institutions—received a higher grade than in 2008–2009, and seven performed above average or better. Two of the remaining five institutions received the same grade as they did in 2008–2009, while three performed worse.


Figure 5 : Overall performance ratings, 18 institutions, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Institutions

2008–2009 grade

2010–2011 grade

2010–2011 overall performance

Canadian Security Intelligence Service D A Outstanding
Fisheries and Oceans Canada C A Outstanding
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada C A Outstanding
Canadian International Development Agency F B Above average
National Defence D B Above average
Privy Council Office D B Above average
Public Safety Canada C B Above average
Environment Canada F C Average
Health Canada D C Average
Natural Resources Canada F C Average
Royal Canadian Mounted Police C C Average
Canada Revenue Agency D D Below average
Canadian Heritage F D Below average
Correctional Service of Canada F D Below average
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada Red alert D Below average
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern
Development Canada
C F Unsatisfactory
Canadian Food Inspection Agency D F Unsatisfactory
Transport Canada D F Unsatisfactory