Canadian Commissioner Sees Performance Improvement

18 September 2012

Canada’s Information Commissioner in her annual report (And in French) reports “for the first time in 10 years, a reversal of the declining performance of federal institutions in their fulfillment of their obligations under the Access to Information Act.”

Suzanne Legault wrote, “Although this improvement was only slight, and the access to information system remains fragile, it is nonetheless noteworthy.”

“I attribute this improvement, which has been one of my main goals as Commissioner, to many factors, including the successful implementation of our report card recommendations, both by the Treasury Board Secretariat and by institutions, and the scrutiny of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information Privacy and Ethics, the media and Canadians,” she said, continuing, “Most importantly, however, the enhanced performance is the direct outcome of willingness and commitment among those at the most senior institutional levels to actually achieve better results, and of the continued commitment of access professionals to respond to requesters.”

The changing caseload is now “almost exclusively composed of complex files,” according to the commissioner. “Three key categories of these necessitated specific action this year: cases dealing with national security, defence and international affairs (17 percent of the total at the start of the year), complaints against the Canada Revenue Agency (15 percent) and complaints against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (20 percent).”

“As this report shows, we developed or enhanced a number of strategies to effectively investigate these complaints. I also increased our legal capacity in support of our investigative function. Through these efforts, we completed close to 1,500 files,” Legault said.

Looking ahead she expressed concern about budget cuts that “have required me to do a complete review of my office’s corporate and investigative functions” and will result in a reducing the overall staff complement by 11 percent by the end of 2013. “This will, without a doubt, have an impact on my ability to carry out my mandate,” she said. 

The commissioner this year began an effort to review the act and said she intends to make recommendations to Parliament. (See previous report.)

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