Letter to Chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO)

March 6, 2024

Kelly McCauley, M.P.
Chair of the Standing Committee on
Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO)
Sixth Floor, 131 Queen Street
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Chair:

I am writing to follow up on a number of items mentioned during my appearance at OGGO on February 21, 2024. I am thankful for the committee’s interest in access to information and government transparency.

Since April 1, 2021, my office has observed a significant increase in delay complaints made against the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), alleging the institution is not responding to access requests within legislated time limits. Between 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, this represented a 900% increase. As I mentioned during my appearance, the increase in requests and related complaints are mainly for requests for immigration application files.

In February 2023, to better understand and address the root cause of the growing number of access requests made to CBSA for immigration application files and the increased delay in responding to them, I initiated a systemic investigation. I plan to table a special report in Parliament regarding this investigation. More information about complaints against CBSA can be found in my 2022-2023 Annual Report.

More recently, I initiated an investigation into matters related to requesting and obtaining access to records regarding ArriveCAN between March 2020 and February 2024, based on allegations related to the destruction of records that were the subject of access to information requests.

During my appearance, members also asked about complaints related to contracting of services. Subsection 20(1) of the Access to Information Act requires institutions to refuse to disclose certain third party information. As of February 27, 2024, my office has 221 open investigations related to third party information. I have closed 131 such investigations this fiscal year.

In addition, a member asked how Canada compares to other jurisdictions. To delve deeper into this topic on the international scene, I invite you to consult the Centre for Law and Democracy’s Global Right to Information Rating, which assessed Canada’s legislation. To give you an understanding of access in the domestic context, I canvassed my provincial and territorial counterparts to understand what their volume of complaints was compared to requests. I have included a table as an annex to this letter, which provides a snapshot of the responses received as of March 5, 2024.

Finally, during my appearance, members sought my insights on how to improve the access system. My recommendations, including a legislated duty to document, were outlined in my January 2021 submission to the government’s review on access to information regime. I also encourage you to consult the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics’ report on the access to information system tabled in June 2023.

Many of its recommendations are in line with those found in my submission, and one of them, Recommendation 38, pertains to a topic I have raised on multiple occasions: That the Government of Canada establish an independent funding mechanism for the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada and other Agents of Parliament who do not have access to such mechanism.

On the topic of funding, I also wish to clarify a statement I made during my testimony to the effect that my office had not been subject to budgetary cuts. While it is true that I was not asked by the government to reduce my overall operating budget, the funding I have received to cover salary increases under new collective agreements is based on a snapshot of the number of Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) taken prior to the hiring of an additional 27 FTEs, for which I received permanent funding in December 2020. I’m told this formula was applied to all government institutions by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

The result of the rigid application of this formula is that, at a time when my office is seeking additional funding, we will instead need to find internal savings of $300,000 to fund salary increases for employees hired after April 2021.

This represents a budget reduction of approximately 3%, or the equivalent of three (3) to four (4) FTEs that I will not be able to afford. Essentially, it amounts to a reduction in staff, which is basically equivalent to a cut. For a small organization like mine, this translates to a strain on our operational capacity. Every FTE plays a vital role, and losing even a few can deeply impact my office’s ability to meet objectives and fulfill my mandate.

I believe that this is one further example illustrating the need to adopt a more flexible funding model for my office that reflects my independence as Agent of Parliament.

Should you and the other members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates have any questions following this letter, please have the committee staff contact Manon Côté, my Manager of Parliamentary and Stakeholders Relations, by email (manon.cote@oic-ci.gc.ca).


Caroline Maynard
Information Commissioner of Canada

c.c.: Mr. Majid Jowhari, First Vice-Chair
       Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates

       Ms. Julie Vignola, Second Vice-Chair
       Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates

       Mr. Thomas Bigelow, Clerk
       Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates

Comparison of access requests versus complaints in provincial and territorial jurisdictions

Comparison of access requests versus complaints in provincial and territorial jurisdictions


Access Requests (2023)

Complaints (2023)



Federal (access)




*If Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada requests are excluded, approximately 5% of requests result in a complaint to the OIC.

Newfoundland and Labrador





Prince Edward Island




Prince Edward Island only receives statistics from 36 of the 88 or so public bodies under their Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Nova Scotia





New Brunswick




Involving provincial departments that have been the subject of complaints to their Office. Unfortunately, they are unable to obtain a figure for the total amount of access to information requests made to all public bodies subject to the Act, as this data is not available.





Represents requests from all public sector institutions in Ontario subject to access to information laws.










Partial statistics only, as statistics are not kept for local authorities or trustees in Saskatchewan.






British Columbia










Northwest Territories




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