The Updated Access to Information Act: What You Need to Know

The Access to Information Act (ATIA) is divided into 2 parts: PART 1: The Request System and PART 2: Proactive Publication

KEY CHANGES

PART 1: The Request System

Request Processing

Fees section 11

Requesters will pay only the $5 application fee; all other fees are eliminated

Decline to Act section 6.1

Institutions may seek the Information Commissioner’s approval to decline to act on requests that are vexatious, made in bad faith or otherwise an abuse of the right of access

Personal Info section 3(j.i) Privacy Act

Names and titles of ministerial staff will no longer be considered personal information for the purposes of administering the ATIA and the Privacy Act. This change applies to records created on or after the day of royal assent

Sharing Resources sections 96, 97 ATIA; 73.1, 73.2 Privacy Act

Institutions can now partner with other institutions in the same ministerial portfolio to share request-processing services

Complaints Process

Order Making Power sections 36 to 41

Information Commissioner has the power, following the investigation of a complaint, to make binding orders in relation to access requests, including ordering the release of government records

Institutions, requesters, third parties, and the Privacy Commissioner may seek review by the court

Establishing a Body of Precedents section 37

Information Commissioner’s final reports and orders may be published, to establish a body of precedents

No Investigation section 30(4), (5)

Information Commissioner may refuse or cease to investigate a complaint the Information Commissioner deems trivial, frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith

Solicitor-Client Privilege sections 23, 36(2), (2.1), (2.2) ATIA; 27, 34(2), (2.1), (2.2) Privacy Act

Clarifies that Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner may see information subject to solicitor-client privilege and litigation privilege, and this sharing does not constitute a waiver of privilege

Reports

  • Annual Reports (section 94 ATIA, section 72 Privacy Act) Institutions’ annual reports to be tabled in Parliament in the first 15 sitting days after September 1
  • “Info Source” (section 5) Requirements to publish information about information holdings remain in place

PART 2: Proactive Publication

Requirements for Ministers’ Offices, Government Departments, and Agencies

Mandate Letters section 73

New or revised mandate letters for ministers (published by the Office of the Prime Minister)

Memoranda, section 74, 88

Titles and tracking numbers of memoranda received by ministers and deputy heads

Briefing Packages section 74, 88

Briefing packages prepared for new or incoming ministers and deputy heads

Briefing packages for Parliamentary Committee appearances for ministers, deputy heads

QP Notes section 74

Question Period notes in use on the last sitting day in June and December

Tabled Reports section 84

Reports tabled in Parliament pursuant to a statutory requirement

Ministers’ Offices Expenses section 78

Annual report of all expenses incurred by a minister’s office

Travel and Hospitality sections 75, 76, 82, 83

Expenses related to travel and hospitality: ministers’ offices, senior officials

Contracts sections 77, 86

Contracts over $10,000, amendments that increase the value of contracts to over $10,000, and amendments over $10,000: ministers’ offices, institutions

Grants and Contributions section 87

Grants or contributions over $25,000, and any amendments

Reclassification of Positions section 85

All reclassifications

Part 2 also sets out proactive publication requirements for senators, members of Parliament, administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts, Crown corporations, and other institutions such as Port Authorities. Requirements for senators, members of Parliament and administrative institutions that support Parliament and the Courts will come into force one year after royal assent.

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