Access to Information Act
Annual Report 2009–2010
About the Organization
History of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying
On February 6, 2006, the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists (ORL) was transferred from the Department of Industry Canada to the Treasury Board portfolio as an independent department for purposes of the Financial Administration Act. On December 12, 2006, the Federal Accountability Act, also known as Bill C-2, which amended the Lobbyists Registration Act (LRA) and other statutes, received Royal Assent, as S.C. 2006, c. 9. The modified LRA, renamed the Lobbying Act (LA), came into force simultaneously with the Lobbyist Registration Regulations and the Designated Public Office Holder Regulations, on July 2, 2008. The Lobbying Act created the position of Commissioner of Lobbying, who reports directly to Parliament.
The changes brought to the LA provided the Commissioner with enhanced powers of investigation and an education mandate. Other significant changes included a five-year prohibition on lobbying by former designated public office holders, as well as the obligation for lobbyists to report prescribed communications with designated public office holders on a monthly basis. Additionally, there is a prohibition on the payment of contingency fees to lobbyists and the receipt of these fees by lobbyists.
Responsibility for Information Rights / Delegation of Authority
The Access to Information Act provides the authority to exercise full powers to the Commissioner of Lobbying and to the OCL's Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator via Delegation Order, of which a copy is attached in Annex A. The OCL has two persons who comprise its ATIP Office, the ATIP Coordinator and the ATIP Advisor.
The Deputy Commissioner, as the ATIP Coordinator, is responsible for the development, coordination and implementation of effective policies, guidelines and procedures to manage the OCL's compliance with the AIA. The Coordinator makes decisions on the disposition of access requests, promotes awareness of the legislation to ensure organizational responsiveness to the obligations imposed on the government, monitors and advises on compliance with the AIA, regulations, procedures and policies, and acts as spokesperson for the OCL in dealings with the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Information Commissioner, and other government departments and agencies. The ATIP Coordinator is also responsible for conducting consultations with other governments within Canada and other federal organizations.
The OCL also has one ATIP Advisor, who is responsible for processing the requests received under the AIA and making recommendations to the ATIP Coordinator on the disposition of any requests received. The OCL will undertake appropriate notification and consultation procedures with third parties before disclosing any records.
Under the LA, the OCL collects information from registrants and lobbyists and the disclosures filed by registrants are accessible on the OCL's Website at the following address: http://www.ocl-cal.gc.ca
In the event of requests for information related to possible administrative reviews and investigations conducted under the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, in accordance with the LA, the OCL is required to conduct investigations in private and will therefore not confirm or deny that an investigation is taking place.
Reports on investigations that are completed are required to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament and are then posted on the OCL Website for the public to view.
Introduction / Highlights
During the last fiscal year, the OCL received three requests under the Access to Information Act (AIA). Two of the requests submitted to the OCL under the AIA, originated from the media. The OCL disclosed all of the requested information in its first media request and it was completed within the 30 days allowed under the AIA. With respect to the second request, the OCL invoked subsection 19(1) concerning private or personal information of third parties. As a result, third party consultations were required in order to release the information, relating to section 3 of the Privacy Act. The third parties subsequently refused to allow disclosure of the information and the file was completed within the 60 days allowed under the AIA.
The third request, which originated from the public, concerned the disclosure of confidential or personal information under the AIA and the OCL once again invoked subsection 19(1) concerning this information. The OCL sent a letter to the applicant stipulating that the confidential or personal information cannot be disclosed without the consent of the third parties involved. However, the applicant subsequently communicated with the OCL by telephone and expressed disagreement with this approach. Several attempts were made by the OCL's ATIP Coordinator to reach the applicant by telephone, in order to further explain this approach. Our Office has not received a reply as of March 31, 2010.
There was one outstanding complaint filed with the Information Commissioner that originated from a request under the ATIP in 2005. The complainant alleged that the exclusion invoked by the former ORL, related to subsection 68(a) of the AIA, concerning published material or material available for purchase by the public, was not properly applied. The ORL (now OCL) had refused to provide a copy of the registration database for a certain period of time specified in the request in an alternative format. There was an investigation by the Office of the Information Commissioner and after several meetings with the Information Commissioner's Office, the last on November 18, 2009, the OCL agreed to resolve the complaint by asking the Information Technology (IT) programmers to create an alternative format in the form of a compact disc of the data that was being sought by the complainant. In a letter dated February 4, 2010, received by the OCL from the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, this complaint was recorded as having been resolved.
The OCL incurred a total of $13,121 in costs associated with the AIA and utilized approximately 0.05 person years towards its implementation in the last fiscal year.
The Access to Information Act (AIA) authorizes fees for certain activities related to the processing of formal requests under the AIA. In addition to a $5 application fee, charges may also apply for search, preparation and reproduction of documents. The current fee structure is specified in the Access to Information Regulations. No fees are imposed for reviewing records, overhead or shipping costs. Moreover, in accordance with section 11 of the AIA, no fees are charged for the first five hours required to search for a record or to prepare any part of it for disclosure.
The Access to Information Act permits the waiving of fees when deemed to be in the public interest. In accordance with Treasury Board guidelines, the OCL will consider waiving fees under $25.
For fees over $25, the organization will examine fee waiver requests on a case-by-case basis. In considering such requests, the organization will take into account costs in processing each access application and the degree of public benefit to be derived from the release of the accessible information.
The OCL is responsible for providing a full accounting of information holdings to the Treasury Board Secretariat and ensuring that updates are provided on a timely basis for inclusion in the Info Source publications.
The Info Source publications contain a description of the classes of institutional records held by the OCL. The OCL does not have any exempt banks. For 2009–2010, information may be found in the following publication:
2009–2010 Info Source – Sources of Federal Government Information
Info Source can be obtained through public or academic libraries or it may be viewed online on the Treasury Board Secretariat's Website at: http://www.infosource.gc.caInfo Source website
The OCL's Website at: http://www.ocl-cal.gc.ca, allows the user to access and search the Registry of Lobbyists, as well as to obtain reports, including the OCL's annual reports on Access to Information and Privacy and other information on lobbying. It also contains links to various organizations of interest.
A reading room is available at the OCL's office, situated on the 10th Floor at 255 Albert Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0R5.