2019-2020 Annual Report to Parliament – Access to Information Act

1. INTRODUCTION

The Access to Information Act (hereinafter the Act) gives Canadian citizens, permanent residents and any individual or corporation present in Canada the right of access to records under the control of a government institution, subject to limited and specific exceptions. The Act further provides that decisions on the non-disclosure of information can be reviewed independently of government.

This report is prepared in accordance with section 94 of the Act, which requires that the head of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) prepare, for tabling in Parliament, an annual report on the administration of the Act. This report will be published on ACOA’s website.

ACOA’s mandate is to create opportunities for economic growth in Atlantic Canada by helping businesses become more competitive, innovative and productive, by working with diverse communities to develop and diversify local economies, and by championing the strengths of Atlantic Canada. Additional information is available on ACOA’s website (https://www.canada.ca/en/atlantic-canada-opportunities.html).

2. ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Directorate oversees the administration of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. It consists of a director (ATIP coordinator) and one support staff member located at ACOA’s head office in Moncton, N.B. The ATIP coordinator is responsible for processing all access and privacy requests, and for the development, coordination and implementation of effective policies, guidelines and procedures to manage the Agency’s compliance with the ATIP acts.

The ATIP coordinator also reviews various documents before publication to ensure that they do not contain information that would be subject to exemption or exclusion under the acts. During this reporting period, the ATIP Directorate reviewed records prepared in response to 99 written parliamentary questions.

The administration of the legislation within ACOA is also facilitated at the branch and regional levels. Each sector and corporate branch has a liaison officer (generally reporting to the deputy minister or an assistant deputy minister) who coordinates the records-retrieval process. In addition, a casual employee was hired to assist during the heavier workload periods in 2019-2020.

3. DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY

For the purpose of the Access to Information Act, the President delegated full authority to the Vice-President, Finance and Corporate Services and Corporate Secretary, and partial authority to the ATIP coordinator.

A copy of the signed delegation instrument for the Access to Information Act is attached (Annex A).

4. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE STATISTICAL REPORT

The following information is provided to assist the reader in interpreting the information reported in Annex B and Annex C.

Number of requests received and closed

The Agency received 108 requests in 2019-2020. This represents an increase of 315 per cent over the previous period. A total of 108 requests were closed in 2019‑2020. This represents an increase of 575 per cent over the previous period. Records were disclosed in full in response to 27 requests and in part in response to 63 requests. Electronic copies of the records were provided in response to 90 requests. Ten requests were abandoned, all documents were exempted in response to six requests, one request was transferred and the Agency had no records for the remaining request.

The following table shows the trend in the number of requests, by source, over the last 10 fiscal years. Approximately 55 per cent of requests received during the reporting period were submitted by requesters who identified themselves as members of the media.

SOURCE 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020
Media 11 28 20 8 7 0 5 5 9 61
Academia 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 1 0 1
Business 6 3 4 6 11 11 10 5 4 9
Organization 13 3 2 8 4 3 5 0 1 4
Public 16 4 10 6 18 11 11 12 8 5
Declined to identify 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 28
Total 46 39 36 28 42 25 32 23 26 108

Exemptions and exclusions

As in the last 10 fiscal years, the three major exemptions invoked were those related to the sections of the Act pertaining to personal information (section 19), third-party information (section 20) and the operations of government (section 21).

Paragraph 68(a) of the Act was invoked to exclude information already in the public domain in response to four requests.

Records relevant to two requests received this fiscal year contained or referred to Cabinet confidences; therefore, these records were excluded under section 69 of the Act.

Complexities

Processing the 106 access requests for which records were retrieved in 2019-2020 involved reviewing 3,002 pages of records. Of those pages, 1,998 were disclosed in part or in their entirety. The following table provides additional information regarding the pages disclosed.

Number of requests Number of pages processed Total pages disclosed
102 between 1 and 100 pages 1069
4 between 101 and 500 pages 929
0 between 501 and 1,000 pages 0
0 between 1,001 and 5,000 pages 0

Twenty eight requests required that the Agency initiate consultations, as described below.

Extensions

The statutory time limit to respond to requests was extended 44 times, as follows:

Number of requests Length of extension
18 30 days or less
19 31 to 60 days
6 61 to 120 days
1 121 to 180 days

Extensions were taken pursuant to paragraphs:

Legislated timelines

One request was closed late in 2019-2020 due to interference with the operations of government and workload. One hundred seven requests were closed within the legislated timelines. The percentage of requests closed on time this year decreased to 99 per cent, from 100 per cent in 2018-2019.  The following table provides details on the response times for the past 10 years:

Fiscal year No. of responses on time / Total no. of requests Percentage of responses provided on time
2010-2011 27/46 59%
2011-2012 19/39 49%
2012-2013 22/36 61%
2013-2014 16/28 57%
2014-2015 36/42 86%
2015-2016 20/25 80%
2016-2017 29/32 91%
2017-2018 19/23 83%
2018-2019 16/16 100%
2019-2020 107/108 99%

Fees

The Access to Information Act authorizes the collection of a $5 application fee. The Agency collected a total of $15 to cover the application fees for 3 requests closed during the reporting period. The Agency waived the fee for 46 requests, and the other application fees were collected by the Treasury Board of Canada Secertariat through its Access to Information and Privacy Online Request Service.

In accordance with the Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act, issued on May 5, 2016, and the changes to the Access to Information Act that came into force on June 21, 2019, ACOA waives all fees prescribed by the Act and Regulations, other than the $5 application fee set out in paragraph 7(1)(a) of the Regulations.

Consultations

In 2019-2020, the Agency responded to 59 consultations received from other federal government institutions and provincial governments (an increase of approximately 30 per cent over the previous reporting period). These consultations involved the review of 964 pages and were completed within the required timelines.

Costs

In 2019-2020, the total cost of administering the Access to Information Act was $210,144. This amount includes $195,982 in salary costs and $14,162 in operations and maintenance costs (e.g. licenses for systems, travel and training). Compared to the previous reporting period, this represents an increase of $22,090.

5. TRAINING AND AWARENESS ACTIVITIES

Awareness sessions on the requirements of the Access to Information Act are made available to all employees of the Agency upon request. Training sessions were delivered in all ACOA regional offices throughout 2019-2020. The total number of participants is estimated at 170 employees. As well, many informal briefings were provided to Agency employees who requested information on the requirements of the Act during the reporting period.

6. POLICIES, GUIDELINES, PROCEDURES AND INITIATIVES

The Agency did not implement any new or revised access to information policies, guidelines or procedures during the reporting period.

7. COMPLAINTS AND AUDITS

Requesters may register a complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner regarding any matter related to the processing of their request.

Two complaints were initiated in 2019-2020. One complaint dealt with the exemptions applied to the relevant records and was discontinued by the complainant. The other complaint dealt with the failure to disclose all records responsive to the request and is still ongoing.

No audits were conducted during the reporting period.

8. MONITORING

No monitoring was conducted during the reporting period.

ANNEX A

signed delegation order by president

ACCESS TO INFORMATION ACT DELEGATION INSTRUMENT
Sections of the Access to Information Act Vice-President, Finance and Corporate Services and Corporate Secretary Coordinator Access to Information and Privacy
4(2.1) Responsibility of government institution X X
7(a) Notice where access requested X X
7(b) Giving access to record X  
8(1) Transfer of request to another institution X X
9 Extension of time limits X X
11(2), (3), (4), (5), (6) Additional fees X X
12(2)(b) Language of access X X
12(3)(b) Access in an alternative format X X
13 Exemption – information obtained in confidence X  
14 Exemption – Federal-Provincial affairs X  
15 Exemption – International affairs and defence X  
16 Exemption – Law enforcement and investigations X  
17 Exemption – Safety of individuals X  
18 Exemption – Economic interests of Canada X  
19 Exemption – Personal information X  
20 Exemption – Third party information X  
21 Exemption – Advice X  
22 Exemption – Testing procedures, tests and audits X  
23 Exemption – Solicitor/client privilege X  
24 Exemption – Statutory prohibitions X  
25 Severability X  
26 Exception – Information to be published X  
27(1), (4) Third party notification X X
28(1)(b), (2), (4) Third party notification X X
29(1) Where the Information Commissioner recommends   disclosure X X
33 Advising the Information Commissioner of third-party involvement X X
35(2)(b) Right to make representations X X
37(4) Access to be given to complainant X  
43(1) Notice to third party (application to Federal Court for       review) X X
44(2) Notice to applicant (application to Federal Court by third party) X X
52(2)(b), (3) Special rules for hearings X X
71(1) Facilities for inspection of manuals X X
72 Annual report to Parliament X X
Sections of the Access to Information Regulations    
6(1) Transfer of request X X
7(2) Search and preparation fees X X
7(3) Production and programming fees X X
8 Providing access to record(s) X  
8.1 Limitations in respect of format X X

ANNEX B

Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act

Name of Institutions: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-31

Section 1: Requests Under the Access to Information Act

1.1  Number of requests

  Number of Requests
Received during reporting period 108
Outstanding from previous reporting period 10
Total 118
Closed during reporting period 108
Carried over to next reporting period 10

1.2  Sources of requests

Source Number of Requests
Media 61
Academia 1
Business (private sector) 9
Organization 4
Public 5
Decline to Identify 28
Total 108

1.3  Informal requests

Completion Time
1 to 15 Days 16 to 30 Days 31 to 60 Days 61 to 120 Days 121 to 180 Days 181 to 365 Days More Than 365 Days Total
47 3 3 0 0 0 0 53

Note: All requests previously recorded as “treated informally” will now be accounted for in this section only.

Section 2: Decline to act on vexatious, made in bad faith or abuse of right requests

  Number of Requests
Outstanding from previous reporting period 0
Sent during reporting period 0
Total 0
Approved by the Information Commissioner during reporting period 0
Declined by the Information Commissioner during  reporting period 0
Carried over to next reporting period 0

Section 3: Requests Closed During the Reporting Period

3.1  Disposition and completion time

Disposition of Requests Completion Time
1 to 15 Days 16 to 30 Days 31 to 60 Days 61 to 120 Days 121 to 180 Days 181 to 365 Days More Than 365 Days Total
All disclosed 0 20 5 2 0 0 0 27
Disclosed in part 0 32 17 12 1 1 0 63
All exempted 0 3 3 0 0 0 0 6
All excluded 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
No records exist 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Request transferred 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Request abandoned 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 10
Neither confirmed nor denies 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Decline to act with the approval of the Information Commissioner 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 11 56 25 14 1 1 0 108

3.2 Exemptions

Section Number of Requests Section Number of Requests Section Number of Requests Section Number of Requests
13(1)(a) 0 16(2) 0 18(a) 0 20.1 0
13(1)(b) 0 16(2)(a) 0 18(b) 3 20.2 0
13(1)(c) 2 16(2)(b) 0 18(c) 0 20.4 0
13(1)(d) 0 16(2)(c) 1 18(d) 4 21(1)(a) 15
13(1)(e) 0 16(3) 0 18.1(1)(a) 0 21(1)(b) 43
14 0 16.1(1)(a) 0 18.1(1)(b) 0 21(1)(c) 26
14(a) 4 16.1(1)(b) 0 18.1(1)(c) 0 21(1)(d) 0
14(b) 0 16.1(1)(c) 0 18.1(1)(d) 0 22 0
15(1) 2 16.1(1)(d) 0 19(1) 38 22.1(1) 0
15(1) - I.A.* 0 16.2(1) 0 20(1)(a) 0 23 3
15(1) - Def.* 0 16.3 0 20(1)(b) 21 23.1 0
15(1) - S.A.* 0 16.31 0 20(1)(b.1) 0 24(1) 0
16(1)(a)(i) 0 16.4(1)(a) 0 20(1)(c) 20 26 2
16(1)(a)(ii) 0 16.4(1)(b) 0 20(1)(d) 19    
16(1)(a)(iii) 0 16.5 0        
16(1)(b) 0 16.6 0        
16(1)(c) 0 17 0        
16(1)(d) 0            

* I.A.:  International Affairs    Def.:  Defence of Canada    S.A.:  Subversive Activities

3.3 Exclusions

Section Number of Requests Section Number of Requests Section Number of Requests
68(a) 4 69(1) 0 69(1)(g) re (a) 2
68(b) 0 69(1)(a) 0 69(1)(g) re (b) 0
68(c) 0 69(1)(b) 0 69(1)(g) re (c) 0
68.1 0 69(1)(c) 0 69(1)(g) re (d) 0
68.2(a) 0 69(1)(d) 0 69(1)(g) re (e) 0
68.2(b) 0 69(1)(e) 0 69(1)(g) re (f) 0
    69(1)(f) 0 69.1(1) 0

3.4  Format of information released

Paper Electronic Other Formats
0 90 0

3.5  Complexity

3.5.1  Relevant pages processed and disclosed
Number of Pages Processed Number of Pages Disclosed Number of Requests
3002 1998 106
3.5.2  Relevant pages processed and disclosed by size of requests
Disposition Less Than 100 Pages Processed 101-500 Pages Processed 501-1,000 Pages Processed 1,001-5,000 Pages Processed More Than 5,000 Pages Processed
Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed
All disclosed 25 373 2 616 0 0 0 0 0 0
Disclosed in part 61 696 2 313 0 0 0 0 0 0
All exempted 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
All excluded 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Request abandoned 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Neither confirmed nor denied 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 102 1069 4 929 0 0 0 0 0 0
3.5.3  Other complexities
Disposition Consultation Required Assessment of Fees Legal Advice Sought Other Total
All disclosed 6 0 0 0 6
Disclosed in part 22 0 0 0 22
All exempted 0 0 1 0 1
All excluded 0 0 0 0 0
Request abandoned 0 0 0 0 0
Neither confirmed nor denied 0 0 0 0 0
Total 28 0 1 0 29

3.6  Closed requests

3.6.1  Number of requests closed within legislated timelines
  Requests closed within legislated timelines
Number of requests closed within legislated timelines 107
Percentage of requests closed within legislated timelines (%) 99.1

3.7  Deemed refusals

3.7.1  Reasons for not meeting legislated timelines
Number of Requests Closed Past the Legislated Timelines Principal Reason
Interference with Operations/ Workload External Consultation Internal Consultation Other
1 1 0 0 0
3.7.2  Requests closed beyond legislated timelines (including any extension taken)
Number of Days Past Legislated Timelines Number of Requests Past Legislated Timeline Where No Extension Was Taken Number of Requests Past  Legislated Timeline Where an Extension Was Taken Total
1 to 15 days 0 1 1
16 to 30 days 0 0 0
31 to 60 days 0 0 0
61 to 120 days 0 0 0
121  to 180 days 0 0 0
181 to 365 days 0 0 0
More than 365 days 0 0 0
Total 0 1 1

3.8  Requests for translation

Translation Requests Accepted Refused Total
English to French 0 0 0
French to English 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0

Section 4: Extensions

4.1  Reasons for extensions and disposition of requests

Disposition of Requests Where an Extension Was Taken 9(1)(a) Interference With Operations 9(1)(b)
Consultation
9(1)(c) Third-Party Notice
Section 69 Other
All disclosed 2 0 1 4
Disclosed in part 6 2 14 13
All exempted 0 0 2 0
All excluded 0 0 0 0
No records exist 0 0 0 0
Request abandoned 0 0 0 0
Total 8 2 17 17

4.2  Length of extensions

Length of Extensions 9(1)(a)
Interference With Operations
9(1)(b)
Consultation
9(1)(c)
Third-Party Notice
Section 69 Other
30 days or less 5 0 9 4
31 to 60 days 2 1 6 10
61 to 120 days 1 1 2 2
121 to 180 days 0 0 0 1
181 to 365 days 0 0 0 0
365 days or more 0 0 0 0
Total 8 2 17 17

Section 5: Fees

Fee Type Fee Collected Fee Waived or Refunded
 Requests Amount Requests Amount
Application 3 $15 46 $230
Other fees 0 $0 0 $0
Total 3 $15 46 $230

Section 6: Consultations Received From Other Institutions and Organizations

6.1  Consultations received from other Government of Canada institutions and organizations

Consultations Other Government of Canada Institutions Number of Pages to Review Other Organizations Number of Pages to Review
Received during reporting period 53 723 6 241
Outstanding from the previous reporting period 0 0 0 0
Total 53 723 6 241
Closed during the reporting period 53 723 6 241
Pending at the end of the reporting period 0 0 0 0

6.2  Recommendations and completion time for consultations received from other Government of Canada institutions

Recommendation Number of Days Required to Complete Consultation Requests
1 to 15 Days 16 to 30 Days 31 to 60 Days 61 to 120 Days 121 to 180 Days 181 to 365 Days More Than 365 Days Total
Disclose entirely 43 5 0 0 0 0 0 48
Disclose in part 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 4
Exempt entirely 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Exclude entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Consult other institution 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Other 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 46 6 1 0 0 0 0 53

6.3  Recommendations and completion time for consultations received from other organizations

Recommendation Number of Days Required to Complete Consultation Requests
1 to 15 Days 16 to 30 Days 31 to 60 Days 61 to 120 Days 121 to 180 Days 181 to 365 Days More Than 365 Days Total
Disclose entirely 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 5
Disclose in part 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Exempt entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Exclude entirely 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Consult other institution 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Other 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 6

Section 7: Completion Time of Consultations on Cabinet Confidences

7.1  Requests with Legal Services

Number of Days Fewer Than 100 Pages Processed 101-500 Pages Processed 501-1,000 Pages Processed 1,001-5,000 Pages Processed More Than 5,000 Pages Processed
Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed
1 to 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
16 to 30 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
31 to 60 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
61 to 120 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
121 to 180 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
181 to 365 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
More than 365 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

7.2  Requests with Privy Council Office

Number of Days Fewer Than 100 Pages Processed 101‒500 Pages Processed 501-1,000 Pages Processed 1,001-5,000 Pages Processed More Than 5,000 Pages Processed
Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed Number of Requests Pages Disclosed
1 to 15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
16 to 30 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
31 to 60 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
61 to 120 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
121 to 180 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
181 to 365 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
More than 365 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Section 8: Complaints and Investigations

Section 32 Notice of intention to investigate Subsection 30(5) Ceased to  investigate Section 35 Formal representations Section 37 Reports of finding received Section 37 Reports of finding containing recommendations issued by the Information Commissioner Section 37 Reports of finding containing orders issued by the Information Commissioner
2 0 0 0 0 0

Section 9: Court Action

9.1 Court actions on complaints received before June 21, 2019 and on-going

Section 41 (before June 21, 2019) Section 42 Section 44
0 0 0

9.2 Court actions on complaints received after June 21, 2019

Section 41 (after June 21, 2019)
Complainant (1) Institution (2) Third Party (3) Privacy Commissioner (4) Total
0 0 0 0 0

Section 10: Resources Related to the Access to Information Act

10.1  Costs

Expenditures Amount
Salaries $195,982
Overtime $0
Goods and Services $14,162
     • Professional services contracts    
     • Other $14,162
Total $210,144

10.2 Human Resources

Resources Person Years Dedicated to Access to Information Activities
Full-time employees 2.00
Part-time and casual employees 0.50
Regional staff 0.00
Consultants and agency personnel 0.00
Students 0.00
Total 2.50

ANNEX C

2019-2020 Supplemental Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act – Requests affected by COVID-19 measures

The following table reports the total number of formal requests received during two periods; 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-13 and 2020-03-14 to 2020-03-31.

Table 1 – Requests Received

  Number of requests
Received from 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-13 106
Received from 2020-03-14 to 2020-03-31 2
Total 108

The following table reports the total number of requests closed within the legislated timelines and the number of closed requests that were deemed refusals during two periods 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-13 and 2020-03-14 to 2020-03-31.

Table 2 – Requests Closed

  Number of requests closed within the legislated timelines Number of requests closed past the legislated timelines
Received from 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-13 and outstanding from previous reporting periods 107 1
Received from 2020-03-14 to 2020-03-31 0 0
Total 107 1

The following table reports the total number of requests carried over during two periods; 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-13 and 2020-03-14 to 2020-03-31.

Table 3 – Requests Carried Over

  Number of requests
Requests received from 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-13 and outstanding from previous reporting period that were carried over to the 2020-2021 reporting period 8
Requests received from 2020-03-14 to 2020-03-31 that were carried over to the 2020-2021 reporting period 2
Total 10
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