Summary of the evaluation of proactive publication under the Access to Information Act

Program description

The Access to Information Act (ATIA) provides Canadian citizens, permanent residents, individuals and corporations with the right to access records under the control of government institutions. As of 2019, the ATIA required institutions to proactively publish specific information known to be of interest to the public in order to provide greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

Evaluation approach, methodology and scope

The evaluation used multiple lines of evidence to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of proactive publication. Given that proactive publication is a new requirement, we focused on testing for the achievement of immediate outcomes. Specifically, the evaluation assessed whether institutions:

  • had improved their ability to efficiently implement the legislation
  • had improved their processes
  • monitored their proactive publication performance

The evaluation was requested by the Office of the Chief Information Officer to support a broad review of the ATIA that was already underway. Accordingly, this evaluation was undertaken between January and August 2021 and covered the period from 2019–20 to 2021–22.

What the evaluation found

  • The roles within TBS are clear. No gaps or redundancies were identified.
  • Proactive publication activities are efficient within TBS. Using the Open Government portal is efficient as it provides an economy of scale for publishing.
  • Institutions monitor practices inconsistently; centrally, there is no monitoring for compliance or performance.
  • Institutions are better able to implement proactive publication efficiently; there is room for TBS to improve its support.
  • Institutions are improving their proactive publication processes. Transparency and user accessibility can still be enhanced.


It is recommended that program officials:

  1. Foster institutional monitoring by:
    1. considering how the access to information policy instruments can cover proactive publication and consulting institutions on ways to improve, and
    2. promoting the use of the Open Government portal
  2. Better support institutional operations by:
    1. developing service standards
    2. learning what prevents institutions from using the portal rather than their own website and addressing these issues where possible
    3. sharing best practices
    4. providing ongoing training that offers some institutional context and examples
    5. better adapting policy guidance
  3. Strengthen communication with institutions by engaging with proactive publication stakeholders beyond the access to information community meetings
  4. Engage users in order to gain insight into the relevance of proactive publications to users, as well as gain insight into user needs today, and in the future.

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