Annual Report on the Access to Information Act for the period ending March 31, 2014
3. Statistical Report on Requests Under the Access to Information Act
This section provides an interpretation of select statistics on the processing of requests made to Elections Canada under the Access to Information Act. The full figures for the 2013–2014 fiscal year are provided in the attached statistical report and supplementary statistical report (see appendices II and III).
3.1 Number and Origin of Formal Requests
Elections Canada received 61 new formal requests for information under the Access to Information Act during the period of April 1, 2013, to March 31, 2014. This was down 40 percent from the previous year, which was itself a decrease from the peak of 2011–2012, the year of the last federal general election. Interest in Elections Canada's activities is higher around election time. Greater volumes of requests are expected for the next two years, in anticipation of a 2015 general election.
With 19 requests carried over from the previous reporting period, a total of 80 requests required action in 2013–2014. Sixty-six of these were closed during the reporting period, 43 percent fewer than in the previous year. This decrease was proportional to the drop in the number of requests received. Most of the 14 requests carried over into 2014–2015 were received less than 30 days prior to the end of 2013–2014.
Almost half of the new requests (27) were initiated by individuals associated with various organizations. Organizations may include associations, unions, non-profit or non-governmental organizations, offices of members of Parliament, and political parties. Other requests came from the general public (16), the media (14) and, lastly, private business (4).
3.2 Disposition of Completed Requests
Of the 66 requests completed during the reporting period, 8 resulted in full disclosure, or 12 percent. Forty-three requests (65 percent) resulted in partial disclosure of the information requested. One request (2 percent) resulted in records being totally exempted. Four requests (6 percent) were for information that was already published on the Elections Canada website and was therefore excluded under paragraph 68(a) of the Access to Information Act; requesters were instead provided with a direct link to the material. The ATIP Office was unable to process 10 requests (15 percent) because the records requested did not exist. The share of requests completed under each final disposition is largely unchanged from the previous year.
3.3 Completion Time
In 2013–2014, a total of 39 requests (59 percent) were completed within 30 days, compared to 56 percent in the previous fiscal year. Sixteen requests (24 percent) were closed within 31 to 60 days, 4 requests (6 percent) within 61 to 120 days, 2 requests (3 percent) within 121 to 180 days, and 3 requests (5 percent) within 181 to 365 days. Two requests (3 percent) were closed more than a year after being received.
The longer completion times in 2013–2014 are attributed to particular requests outstanding from 2012–2013 that were broad in scope and involved sensitive records related to investigations and audits being conducted under the Canada Elections Act.
3.4 Exemptions to the Release of Information
The attached statistical report (Appendix II) includes the number of requests for which Elections Canada invoked specific types of exemptions and provides details on these exemptions. If an exemption is invoked several times in the same request, it is reported only once. The graph below includes the five exemptions applied most frequently during 2013–2014.
As in previous years, the most common exemption applied was under subsection 19(1) of the Access to Information Act. It was used to protect personal information for 33 requests. Elections Canada invoked section 16.3 for 13 requests. This exemption allows the Chief Electoral Officer to withhold information obtained or created in the course of investigations, examinations or reviews conducted under the Canada Elections Act. Paragraph 20(1)(c) was applied for 11 requests in order to protect third party information. Paragraph 21(1)(b) allows the exemption of accounts of consultations among government officials or employees and was invoked for 10 requests. For 9 requests, records were exempted under section 23 as being subject to solicitor-client privilege.
3.5 Extension of the Time Limit
Paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Access to Information Act allows an extension if a request is for a large volume of records and unreasonably interferes with the operations of the institution. Elections Canada took 14 extensions during the reporting period, less than half the number required the previous year. All of these extensions were taken under paragraph 9(1)(a).
It is the practice of the ATIP Office to provide partial preliminary release of records before the extended due date whenever possible.
3.6 Informal Releases of Records
Each month, Elections Canada publishes online summaries of all recently completed, formal access to information requests as required by the Treasury Board Secretariat. The published summaries allow individuals to informally request copies of records previously released under the Access to Information Act. The number of request packages released informally has increased steadily since Elections Canada began publishing summaries in 2011–2012. The ATIP Office released 189 packages informally in 2013–2014, up 47 percent from the previous year.
Elections Canada also informally released 9,346 pages of submissions from public hearings conducted across Canada by the independent commissions charged with the decennial redrawing of federal electoral districts.
The ATIP Office responded to 19 formal consultations from other government institutions, 73 percent more than in the previous year. Each response was delivered in fewer than 30 days.
3.8 Fees and Costs
The ATIP Office collected application fees of $325 during the fiscal year. The budget for salaries of the employees assigned to the administration of the Access to Information Act totalled $147,625, while the cost of goods and services (including consultant services) came to $230,262, for a total cost of $377,887.