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2011-2012 - Annual Report to Parliament - Access to Information Act

Interpretation of the Statistical Report

Environment Canada’s Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act is included in Appendix A.

Due to the changes in the reporting requirements for the statistical and annual reports, Environment Canada used a combination of electronic and manual reporting this fiscal year to ensure compliance with the new requirements and that all data submitted was accurate. To compile statistics, the ATIP Secretariat used a combination of electronic reports generated by the ATIP systems, self-reporting by analysts, and manual research.

Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, Environment Canada received 1,421 requests under the Access to Information Act. There were 172 requests carried forward from the 2010-2011 reporting period, for a total of 1,593 active requests in the 2011-2012 reporting period. In 2011-2012, a total of 1,425 requests were completed and 168 were carried forward to the next reporting period.

The following is a percentage breakdown of the sources of access to information requests received in 2011-2012:

SourceNumberPercentage
Academia60.5%
Business93266.0%
Media24517.0%
Organization17812.5%
Public604.0%
Total1,421100%

Sources of Access to Information Requests 2011-2012

During the 2011-2012 reporting period 183 requests were abandoned by applicants for various reasons, including the requirement to pay additional fees. In addition to the abandoned requests, two requests were received by Environment Canada for records under the control of other departments and they were transferred to the organizations concerned.

There were 812 requests for information for which there was no record. Environment Canada receives a number of requests each year for documents pertaining to the environmental compliance of properties. Most of these no-record requests consisted of environmental compliance requests where no records were located concerning the properties in question.

In 2011-2012, there was a substantial increase in the number of access to information requests received by Environment Canada. The 1,421 access to information requests received in the 2011-2012 reporting period represents a 26% increase over the previous reporting period. In addition, the number of access requests completed during the 2011-2012 fiscal year increased by 22% compared with the previous reporting period.

The following graph displays the number of access to information requests that were received by the ATIP Secretariat from 2006-2007 to 2011-2012:

Access Requests Received Access to Information Act 2006 - 2012

This next graph displays the number of access to information requests that were closed by the ATIP Secretariat from 2006-2007 to 2011-2012:

Access Requests Closed Access to Information Act 2006 - 2012

The number of pages processed in response to access to information requests during the 2011-2012 reporting period was slightly higher than in the 2010-2011 reporting period: 164,777 pages processed compared with 163,273 pages during the previous period. This is an increase of 1%.

The following graph displays the number of pages processed by the ATIP Secretariat in processing access to information requests under the Access to Information Act from 2006-2007 to 2011-2012:

Pages Processed for Access Requests Access to Information Act 2006 - 2012

Exemptions and Exclusions

The Access to Information Act prescribes a number of exemptions and exclusions which allow or require the Department to refuse to disclose certain types of information. The two most common exemptions invoked by Environment Canada in 2011-2012 were for personal information (section 19) and government operations (section 21). In 2011-2012, exemptions and/or exclusions were cited in 20% of the completed requests.

Time Limitations

During the 2011-2012 reporting period, 1,095 (77%) of the completed requests were processed within the initial 30-day period. This included 883 completed in the first 15 days, and 212 completed between 16 and 30 days.

The following graph displays the breakdown of completion times for requests completed during the 2011-2012 reporting period:

Completion Time for Access Requests 2011 - 2012

A total of 125 requests were completed beyond the legislated deadline. Of the 125 late requests, 77 requests were late as a result of the need to conduct external consultations.

Extension of Time Limits

Section 9 of the Access to Information Act allows government institutions to extend the deadline for responding to a request if the request requires the institution to search a large number of records, to consult with other government institutions, or to communicate with third parties.

In 2011-2012, 51 requests required extensions of 30 days or less, 148 required an extension of between 31 and 60 days, 129 required an extension of between 61 to 120 days, and 14 required an extension of 121 days or more. In total, 342 requests required an extension past the original deadline of 30 days. The main reason for extensions was due to the large volume of records involved in completing requests.

Complexity of Files

A number of files were considered complex for various reasons. Out of the 1,425 requests closed during the 2011-2012 reporting period, 234 were considered to be complex.  One hundred and ninety-two (192) requests were complex due to the need to conduct consultations, 17 requests were considered complex due to the assessment of fees, nine requests required legal advice, and 16 requests were classified in the “other” category. The “other” category consists of files containing high-profile subject matter, records held in a region or another country, or records that are in a language other than French or English.

Consultations

As an integral part of departmental processing procedures, other government institutions are consulted if access requests contain issues of interest to them. Although formal consultations are undertaken in writing, additional discussions between ATIP offices are initiated as required in order to facilitate the completion of each case. Consultations are also regularly undertaken with third parties and other levels of government.

In 2011-2012, Environment Canada received 227 access to information consultations from other federal government institutions. This constitutes a 43% increase relative to the previous reporting period. In addition, 219 access consultations were completed during the 2011-2012 reporting period, an increase of 39% compared with the previous reporting period. There were four access consultations outstanding from the previous reporting period and 12 access consultations were carried forward to the next reporting period.

The following graph displays the number of access to information consultations that were received by the ATIP Secretariat from 2006-2007 to 2011-2012:

Access Consultations Received Access to Information Act 2006 - 2012

This next graph displays the number of access to information consultations that were closed by the ATIP Secretariat from 2006-2007 to 2011-2012:

Access Consultations Closed Access to Information Act 2006 - 2012

The number of pages processed in response to access to information consultations during the 2011-2012 reporting period increased significantly over the 2010-2011 reporting period: 12,671 pages were processed for consultations compared to 6,367 pages during the previous period. This is an increase of 99%.

The following graph displays the number of pages processed by the ATIP Secretariat in response to access to information consultations received from 2006-2007 to 2011-2012:

Pages Processed for Access Consultations Access to Information Act 2006 - 2012

During the 2011-2012 reporting period, 186 (89%) of the completed access consultations were processed within the initial 30-day period. This included 95 completed in the first 15 days, and 91 completed between 16 and 30 days.

Environment Canada undertook 79 consultations with Privy Council Office, Legislation and House Planning in 2011-2012. Fifty-Nine (59) responses received in 2011-2012 were received past the deadline. This resulted in delays of up to more than 365 days to complete the processing of a request.

Informal Requests

Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, Environment Canada received 155 informal access to information requests. There were two informal requests carried forward from the 2010-2011 reporting period, for a total of 157 active informal requests in the 2011-2012 reporting period. In 2011-2012, a total of 143 informal requests were completed and 14 were carried forward to the next reporting period.

This represents a significant increase in the number of informal requests received compared to the 2010-2011 reporting period when only 30 informal requests were received. This increase resulted from Environment Canada’s publication of completed access to information request summaries on the Department’s external website which began in January 2012.

Fees

In the 2011-2012 reporting period, total fees of $12,818 were collected for the processing of 1,422 requests. This consisted of search fees in the amount of $5,883 and application fees totaling $6,935. No other fees were charged for production, preparation or reproduction.

In accordance with Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines, Environment Canada waived fees which individually amounted to $25 or less, although no waiver is granted for the initial $5 application fee.

Costs

The cost involved in administering the Access to Information Act was $737,200 for salary and $370,000 for goods and services ($300,000 for professional service contracts, and $70,000 for other costs). This brings the total cost to $1,107,200.

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