Letter to the Acting Secretary of the Treasury Board - Concerns Regarding Methodology Used by TBS Regarding OIC's Collective Agreement Increase (May 2024)

May 14, 2024

Dominique Blanchard
Acting Secretary of the Treasury Board
90 Elgin Street
Ottawa, Ontario 
K1A 0R5

Subject: Concern Regarding Methodology Used by Treasury Board Secretariat Regarding OIC's Collective Agreement Increase

Dear A/Secretary Blanchard,

I am writing to you to raise some grave concerns of mine regarding the funding allocated to my office to cover salary increases resulting from new collective agreements, and to inform you of my intention to seek immediate redress of this unacceptable situation, which threatens the operational capacity of my organization. Given the severity of the funding shortfall I am now faced with as a result of flaws in the calculation of the Office of the Information Commissioner’s (OIC) collective agreement funding, I am considering making a request an off-cycle budget adjustment through the Minister of Justice. I may be obliged to take this course of action in order to ensure that I am able to continue to discharge my mandate.

By way of background, in 2019, amendments to the Access to Information Act resulted in new responsibilities for the OIC and an increase in my workload. Following a sustained increase in complaints to my office, in December 2020, the OIC received permanent funding for 27 additional Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) for a viable and sustainable investigations program. However, upon reviewing the recent funding allocation for the new Program and Administrative Services (PA) collective agreement, we discovered that the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) had omitted the FTEs added in 2020 from their calculations, resulting in a critical funding gap for the OIC. This omission impacts 21% of the OIC’s 128 FTEs, representing a shortfall of $350,000 for the 2024-25 fiscal year and a significant challenge for a small organization like mine.

During my March 26th meeting with Treasury Board Secretary Catherine Blewett, I took the opportunity to express my deep concern regarding the methodology employed by the TBS and the impacts I foresaw as a result of this situation. Since this meeting took place, my Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has also identified a discrepancy in the information provided by TBS related to the recently renewed collective agreement for legal counsel (LP). According to this information, it appears that at the time TBS took its snapshots for calculating the funding required for the LP group, not all the salary files of lawyers working at the OIC had been transferred within the Phoenix pay system, and were therefore not included in the calculation. As these lawyers continue to work for the OIC, this oversight, which I ask you to correct immediately, will result in an additional shortfall for the OIC of $350,000. Given that the payments related to the collective agreements have not yet been finalized, there is still a window of opportunity to address this specific issue, and I am confident that our officials can work collaboratively to resolve it.

I cannot overstate the seriousness of the situation I am currently faced with: As of May 2024, nearly all OIC positions are filled, leaving minimal room for internal reallocation within my organization. Additionally, only 14% of our budget is allocated to Operations and Maintenance (O&M), leaving limited flexibility to absorb funding reductions without impacting core functions. The current total funding shortfall of $700,000 equates to a reduction in my budget of approximately 5%, and will force me to cut 7 or 8 positions. For a small organization like the OIC, where every employee plays a critical role in achieving our objectives and fulfilling our mandate, even a small reduction in personnel will significantly strain our operational capacity at a time when the Access to Information system is under pressure like never before. 

As you know, the OIC was excluded from the 2023 Refocusing Government Spending initiative. This is, in my view, a reflection of the critical role I play as an independent agent of Parliament in ensuring that the right of access to information – a quasi-constitutional right –continues to be upheld. Because of the seriousness of this matter, I must also inform you that, in the interest of transparency, I intend to inform Parliament of my current situation at the earliest opportunity.

In closing, the OIC, which maintains a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility, has been put in this situation due to funding methodology decisions beyond our control and despite the OIC's demonstrably prudent management of financial resources. I hope you will agree that this cycle of calculations based on rigid formulas, which adversely affects small organizations like mine in a disproportionate way, needs to be broken. It is particularly galling that while TBS promptly addresses errors in their calculations that result in excess funding to government institutions, there seems to be a lack of similar diligence in promptly correcting oversights that result in underfunding. My CFO and DCFO have already met with several of your officials in an attempt to come up with solutions, but to no avail, which is why I now appeal to you directly.

As TBS is the employer responsible for allocating funding to institutions to cover collective agreements it has negotiated, I urge you to take swift action on my behalf by making the immediate correction requested above. This will ensure that the OIC receives at least part of the funding required to maintain its vital role while I explore the possibility of an off-cycle budget adjustment. I am available to discuss this matter further at your earliest convenience.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Caroline Maynard
Information Commissioner of Canada


Shalene Curtis-Micallef, Deputy Minister and 
Deputy Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice

Chris Forbes, Deputy Minister
Department of Finance

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