Annual Report on the Access to Information Act
For the period ending March 31, 2011
The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government agency, according to the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific, and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.
The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer became subject to the Access to Information Act on April 1, 2007, and this is its fourth annual report submitted to Parliament in accordance with section 72 of that Act. The report presents an overview of the agency's activities and describes how the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office carried out its responsibilities under the Access to Information Act during the reporting period of April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011.
1.1 Mandate of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer
The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, commonly known as Elections Canada, is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. Its mandate is to:
- be prepared at all times to conduct a federal general election, by-election or referendum
- administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act
- monitor compliance with and enforce electoral legislation
- conduct voter education and information programs
- provide support to the independent commissions in charge of adjusting the boundaries of federal electoral districts following each decennial census
- carry out studies on alternative voting methods and, with the approval of parliamentarians, test on-line voting processes for future use during electoral events
In fulfilling its mandate, Elections Canada appoints, trains and supports 308 returning officers, and retains the services of approximately 30 field liaison officers across Canada. It also maintains the National Register of Electors, which is used to prepare preliminary lists of electors at the start of electoral events, as well as electoral geography information, which provides the basis for maps and other geographic products used during electoral events.
The agency also:
- registers political entities, including political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, leadership contestants, third parties that engage in election advertising and referendum committees
- administers the allowances, reimbursements and subsidies paid to eligible candidates, registered political parties and auditors
- monitors compliance with the Canada Elections Act, including compliance with political financing rules, during and between elections
- discloses information on registered parties and electoral district associations, registered parties' nomination and leadership contestants, candidates, third parties and referendum committees, including their financial returns
- recommends to Parliament amendments for the better administration of the Canada Elections Act by submitting a recommendations report after general elections as well as by providing expert advice when Parliament studies electoral reform
In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer appoints the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Broadcasting Arbitrator. The role of the Commissioner is to ensure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced. The Broadcasting Arbitrator is responsible for allocating free and paid broadcasting time among political parties and for arbitrating disputes that may arise between parties and broadcasters.
1.2 Structure of the Access to Information and Privacy Office
The ATIP Office is part of the Legal Services Sector and is managed on a full-time basis by the agency's ATIP Coordinator, to whom the Chief Electoral Officer has delegated his authority under section 73 of the Access to Information Act. A copy of the delegation order setting out the responsibilities under that Act appears in Appendix I of this report.
The ATIP Office is responsible for the following activities:
- processing requests under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act
- responding to consultation requests from other government institutions
- providing ongoing legal and business advice as well as guidance to senior management and agency staff on ATIP legislation and related matters
- monitoring institutional compliance with the aforementioned Acts, regulations, relevant procedures and policies
- acting on behalf of Elections Canada in dealings with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the offices of the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner of Canada and other government institutions regarding the application of the above legislation as it relates to Elections Canada
- preparing annual reports to Parliament, in addition to other statutory reports and material that may be required by central agencies
- developing and delivering awareness training to Elections Canada managers and employees to ensure departmental responsiveness to the legal obligations imposed on them by both Acts and regulations
- coordinating the annual update of the descriptions of the agency's organization and its record holdings for inclusion in the Treasury Board of Canada publication Info Source
- representing Elections Canada by participating in ATIP community forums, such as the Treasury Board Secretariat's ATIP Community meetings
- providing advice regarding privacy issues and privacy impact assessments
- developing and implementing internal policies
In the course of the reporting period, Elections Canada prepared to consolidate functions related to information management, records management and ATIP under the Chief Information Officer Sector. This change, effective April 1, 2011, aims to raise the focus on information management and bring more coherence to it, including the management of personal information. A second delegation of authority, signed March 17, 2011, is part of this consolidation process (see Appendix I).