Annual Report on the Access to Information Act for the period ending March 31, 2015
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 Act. All figures and data for the 2014–2015 fiscal year are provided in the attached statistical report (see Appendix II).
3.1 Number and Origin of Formal Requests
Elections Canada received 106 new formal requests for information under the Act during the period from April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015. This number is up 74 percent from the previous year. The higher volume in requests can be attributed to interest in electoral reform and in the anticipated 2015 general election.
Including 14 requests that were carried over from the previous fiscal year, a total of 120 requests required action in 2014–2015. As the graph below demonstrates, 99 of those requests were closed during the reporting period. This is up 50 percent in comparison to the results in 2013–2014. Twenty-one requests were carried over into the next reporting period, 17 of which were received in the last quarter of 2014–2015. Nine of the requests carried over into 2015–2016 were from the same requestor.
In large part, these requests were initiated by private businesses (34), closely followed by organizations (33). Organizations may include associations, unions, non-profit or non-governmental organizations, offices of members of Parliament, and political parties. Other requests were received from the media (22) as well as the general public (17).
3.2 Disposition of Completed Requests
Ninety-nine requests were completed during the reporting period, 21 (21 percent) of which resulted in full disclosure, up from 12 percent in the previous year. Sixty-one requests resulted in a partial disclosure of information and zero requests were fully exempted or excluded. The ATIP Office was unable to process 16 requests (16 percent) as the records requested either did not exist or there was insufficient information to locate them. Records were partially disclosed 62 percent of the time, largely unchanged in comparison to the 65 percent in 2013–2014. The share of requests completed under each final disposition is relatively similar to the results from previous years.
3.3 Completion Time of Requests
In 2014–2015, a total of 64 requests (65 percent) were completed within 30 days, compared to 59 percent in the previous fiscal year. This rise is proportional to the increased amount of requests received by Elections Canada in 2014–2015. Moreover, 11 requests (11 percent) were closed within 31 to 60 days, 14 requests (14 percent) within 61 to 120 days, 2 requests (2 percent) within 121 to 180 days, and 5 requests (5 percent) within 181 to 365 days. Three requests (3 percent) were closed more than a year after being received.
Longer completion times in requests received by Elections Canada can be explained by a variety of factors. They are most commonly attributed to outstanding requests from previous years, requests that require consultations with other organizations, and requests that are broad in scope and involve sensitive records related to investigations and audits conducted under the Canada Elections Act.
3.4 Informal Releases of Records
Elections Canada publishes monthly 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 Act. In the 2014–2015 reporting period, there was a sharp decline in the number of request packages released informally in comparison to previous years. The ATIP Office released 31 packages informally in 2014–2015, down 84 percent from the preceding year.
3.5 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 six exemptions applied most frequently during the 2014–2015 fiscal year.
As in previous years, the most common exemption applied was under subsection 19(1) of the Act. In 2014–2015, this exemption was exercised almost twice as much than the previous year; it was used to protect personal information for 53 requests. Section 16.3 of the Act allows the Chief Electoral Officer to refuse the disclosure of information obtained or created during investigations, examinations or reviews conducted under the Canada Elections Act. Elections Canada invoked section 16.3 for 12 requests. Paragraph 20(1)(c) was applied for 21 requests in order to protect third party information. Paragraph 21(1)(a) permits heads of government institutions to withhold information that contains advice or recommendations developed by or for government officials, whereas 21(1)(b) allows the exemption of accounts of consultations and deliberations among government personnel. These subsections of the Act were used for 10 and 9 requests, respectively. Lastly, records were exempted for 11 requests under section 23 as being subject to solicitor-client privilege.
3.6 Extensions of the Time Limit
Elections Canada took 34 extensions during the reporting period, 29 (85 percent share) of which were taken under paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Act. Paragraph 9(1)(a) allows an extension if a request is for a large volume of records and unreasonably interferes with the operations of the institution. Four extensions were taken under paragraph 9(1)(b) which states that if a request requires consultations that cannot be reasonably completed by the statutory deadline, an extension is permitted. One extension was taken under paragraph 9(1)(c) for the notification of third parties.
The majority of these extensions did not exceed 30 days (a total of 25). The time limits of six requests were extended by 31 to 60 days and three extensions were taken for periods between 61 and 120 days.
It is the practice of the ATIP Office to provide partial preliminary release of records before the extended due date whenever possible.
The ATIP Office received 15 formal consultations from other government institutions in 2014–2015, 14 of which were responded to in fewer than 30 days. One consultation remained pending at the end of the reporting period and was carried over into 2015–2016.
3.8 Fees and Costs
The ATIP Office collected $520 in fees during the 2014–2015 fiscal year.
The budget assigned to the administration of the Act totaled $396,887. Employee salaries accounted for $231,902 of this sum and the cost of goods and services (including consultant services) came to $164,985.