Annual Report on the Access to Information Act for the period ending March 31, 2015
The Access to Information Act (the Act) extends to Canadians and individuals present in Canada the right to access information in records that are under the control of a government agency. According to the principles of the Act, government information should be available to the public, necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific, and decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of the government.
Section 72 of the Act requires that the head of every institution subject to the Act prepare an annual report for tabling in Parliament. This report describes how Elections Canada administered its responsibilities under the Act during the reporting period from April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015.
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 to conduct a federal general election, by-election or referendum;
- administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act;
- monitor compliance with electoral legislation;
- conduct public information campaigns on voter registration, voting and becoming a candidate;
- conduct education programs for students on the electoral process;
- 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 alternative voting processes for future use during electoral events; and,
- provide assistance and co-operation in electoral matters to electoral agencies in other countries or to international organizations.
In fulfilling its mandate, Elections Canada also has the responsibility to:
- appoint, train and support returning officers and retain the services of field liaison officers across Canada;
- maintain the National Register of Electors, which is used to prepare preliminary lists of electors at the start of electoral events;
- maintain electoral geography information, which provides the basis for maps and other geographic products used during electoral events;
- register political entities, including political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, leadership contestants, third parties that engage in election advertising, as well as referendum committees;
- administer the reimbursements and subsidies paid to eligible candidates, registered political parties and auditors;
- disclose information on registered parties and electoral district associations, registered parties' nomination and leadership contestants, candidates, third parties and referendum committees, including their financial returns;
- refer to the Commissioner of Canada Elections information concerning possible offences under the Canada Elections Act;
- consult the Advisory Committee of Political Parties to receive advice and recommendations;
- issue written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes on the application of the Canada Elections Act to political entities;
- appoint the Broadcasting Arbitrator, who is responsible for allocating free and paid broadcasting time among political parties and for arbitrating disputes that may arise between parties and broadcasters; and,
- recommend to Parliament amendments for the better administration of the Canada Elections Act by submitting a recommendations report after a general election as well as by providing expert advice and other special reports.
1.2 Structure of the Access to Information and Privacy Office
The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office reports to the Information Management Division within the Chief Information Officer Branch of the Integrated Services, Policy and Public Affairs Sector of Elections Canada. It 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 Privacy Act. A copy of the delegation order identifying the responsibilities under that Act appears in Appendix I of this report. The ATIP Office consists of three additional full-time staff, two part-time consultants, and a full time summer co-op student.
The ATIP Office is responsible for the following activities:
- processing requests under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (the Acts);
- responding to consultation requests from other government institutions;
- providing advice and guidance to senior management and staff of Elections Canada on privacy issues and privacy impact assessments (PIAs);
- developing and delivering awareness training to Elections Canada managers and employees on how to fulfill their obligations under the Acts;
- developing policies, procedures and guidelines in support of ATIP legislation and central agency requirements;
- monitoring institutional compliance with the Acts, procedures and policies;
- acting on behalf of Elections Canada in dealings with the Treasury Board Secretariat, the offices of the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner of Canada and other government institutions regarding ATIP affairs;
- preparing annual reports to Parliament, in addition to other statutory reports and material that may be required by central agencies;
- preparing and publishing the annual update of Elections Canada's chapter of Info Source, describing the agency's record holdings and personal information banks; and,
- representing Elections Canada by participating in ATIP community forums, such as the Treasury Board Secretariat's ATIP Community meetings.