Annual Report on the Access to Information Act for the period ending March 31, 2017
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 2016–2017 fiscal year are provided in the attached statistical report (see Appendix II).
3.1. Number and origin of formal requests
Elections Canada received 92 new formal requests for information under the Act during the period from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017. This number is up 100 percent from the previous year. The higher volume in requests can be attributed to greater interest in Elections Canada programs and activities, notably political financing.
Including 13 requests that were carried over from the previous fiscal year, a total of 105 requests required action in 2016–2017. As the graph below demonstrates, 84 of those requests were closed during the reporting period. This is up 56 percent in comparison to the results in 2015–2016. Twenty-one requests were carried over into the next reporting period.
These requests were initiated by organizations (6), the media (8), private businesses (12), the general public (21), academia (6) and requesters who declined to identify themselves (39). Organizations may include associations, unions, non-profit or non-governmental organizations, offices of members of Parliament and political parties.
3.2. Disposition of completed requests
Eighty-four requests were completed during the reporting period, 20 (24 percent) of which resulted in full disclosure, up from 15 percent in the previous year. Thirty-nine requests resulted in a partial disclosure of information and one request was fully exempted. The ATIP Office was unable to process 20 requests (24 percent) as the records requested either did not exist or there was insufficient information to locate them. Records were partially disclosed 47 percent of the time, a lower number in comparison to the 57 percent in 2015–2016. 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 2016–2017, a total of 43 requests (51 percent) were completed within 30 days, compared to 54 percent in the previous fiscal year. Fifteen requests (18 percent) were closed within 31 to 60 days, 17 requests (20 percent) within 61 to 120 days, 4 requests (5 percent) within 121 to 180 days, and 5 requests (6 percent) within 181 to 365 days. No request took longer than a year to complete.
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 internal or external parties, and requests that are broad in scope and involve sensitive records related to advice or recommendations developed by or for a government institution, or with information that is subject to solicitor–client privilege.
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 2016–2017 reporting period, there was an increase in the number of request packages released informally in comparison to the previous year. The ATIP Office released 89 packages informally in 2016–2017, up 19 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 seven exemptions applied most frequently during the 2016–2017 fiscal year.
As in previous years, the most common exemption applied was under subsection 19(1) of the Act. In 2016–2017, it was used to protect personal information for 35 requests. Paragraph 16(2)(c) permits heads of government institutions to withhold information that could reasonably be expected to facilitate the commission of an offence. Elections Canada invoked paragraph 16(2)(c) for 3 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 8 requests. Paragraph 20(1)(c) was applied for 13 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 staff. These subsections of the Act were used for 11 and 10 requests, respectively. Lastly, records were exempted for 9 requests under section 23 as being subject to solicitor–client privilege.
3.6. Extensions of the time limit
Elections Canada took 39 extensions during the reporting period, 28 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. Six 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. Five extensions were taken under paragraph 9(1)(c) for the notification of third parties.
The majority of these extensions did not exceed 60 days (a total of 35). The time limit of two requests was extended by 61 to 120 days and two extensions were taken for a period between 121 and 180 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 7 formal consultations from other government institutions in 2016–2017, all of which were responded to in fewer than 30 days.
3.8. Fees and costs
The ATIP Office collected $453 in fees during the 2016–2017 fiscal year.
During this reporting period, the ATIP Office expended $180,794 to administer the Act. Salaries accounted for $165,731 of this total, whereas spending on goods and services amounted to $15,063 (including consultant services).