Annual report to parliament on the application of the Access to Information Act 2011-2012

Place du Centre
200 Promenade du Portage
4th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1K8

The Honourable Peter Penashue, P.C., M.P.
President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Honourable Minister:

In accordance with section 72 of the Access to Information Act, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada is pleased to submit to Parliament this report on its activities relating to the application of the Act for the period 01 April 2011 to 31 March 2012.

Sincerely,

The original version was signed by

Wendy A. Tadros


© Minister of Public Works and Government Services 2012
Cat. No. TU1-4/1-2012E


Table of contents


1.0 Introduction

Pursuant to section 72 of the Access to Information Act, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is pleased to table in Parliament this report on its activities relating to the application of the Act. The report covers the period from 01 April 2011 to 31 March 2012.

The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of government institutions such as the TSB.

The Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act provides the legal framework that governs TSB activities. Our mandate is to advance transportation safety in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation by:

  • conducting independent investigations, including public inquiries when necessary, into selected transportation occurrences in order to make findings as to their causes and contributing factors;
  • identifying safety deficiencies, as evidenced by transportation occurrences;
  • making recommendations designed to eliminate or reduce any such safety deficiencies; and
  • reporting publicly on our investigations and on the findings in relation thereto.

More information on the TSB is available at www.bst-tsb.gc.ca.

The TSB's administration of its Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) activities is in accordance with the government's stated principles that government information should be available to the public with only specific and limited exceptions. Furthermore, the TSB treats personal information in compliance with the code of fair information practices expressed in the Privacy Act.

2.0 ATIP office organization

The ATIP Office operates within the Information Management (IM) Division of Corporate Services. This ensures effective integration of ATIP requirements into IM planning, policy development, records management systems and practices, and training and awareness activities. The office consists of four full-time permanent employees: the coordinator, who is also responsible for the information management function and dedicates approximately half of his time to ATIP, two analysts, and one administrative assistant to support the program.

The ATIP Office administers both formal requests made pursuant to the Act and informal requests, and provides functional advice and guidance to managers and employees concerning the release of information and protection of privacy. In addition, ATIP analysts are required to exhibit strong consultative and negotiating skills when meeting with requesters, TSB personnel and representatives of the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The majority of access to information requests made to the TSB pertain to transportation occurrences. Such requests present many challenges to the TSB ATIP Office. In many cases, for example, requests are for a copy of the complete investigation file. Depending on the nature and scope of the investigation, there may be many thousands of often complex records in a variety of media. In addition, the status of the investigation itself may affect the availability of records – for example, early on in the investigation when investigators are still in the field collecting information. As well, the status of the investigation can also affect when certain information may be released under the Act. As considerable expertise is required in the processing of requests, the TSB ATIP function is organized so that ATIP analysts are responsible for centrally reviewing and severing all records. This requires that the analysts establish and maintain good working relationships with the offices of primary interest (OPI) for each request and to remain current with the operations of the various Investigative Modes and their particular activities.

3.0 Delegation of authority

As required by the legislation, a delegation of authority is in place. For the purposes of the Access to Information Act, the “head of the institution” as defined in section 3 of the Act is the Chair. The Chief Operating Officer, the Director General Corporate Services and the Manager, Information Management Division have been delegated powers by the Chair deemed appropriate for the effective administration of the Act and to ensure that the TSB meets all its obligations fairly and consistently.

A copy of the Delegation Order is attached as Appendix A.

4.0 Disposition of requests

4.1 Formal requests

Sixty-four (64) new requests were received under the Access to Information Act in 2011-12 and twenty-eight (28) requests were brought forward from the previous fiscal year, for a total of ninety-two (92) active requests. Of these, fifty-five (55) requests were completed during the current reporting period, and thirty-seven (37) were carried forward to the next fiscal year.

Of the fifty-five (55) requests completed during the current reporting period, records were fully disclosed to eight (8) applicants. Records pertaining to thirty-two (32) requests were released with some portions exempted under sections 13(1)(a), 16(1)(c) and 19(1); Sections 20(1)(a), (b), (c) and (d), Section 21(1)(a) and (b), and Section 24 of the Act.  Records were all exempted in the case of four (4) requests. Records did not exist for three (3) requests, while eight (8) requests were abandoned by their requester. No request was transferred to another federal government institution.

4.2 Clients

The majority of new requests, thirty-three (33) came from business/legal firms representing clients affected by or involved in transportation occurrences. Twelve (12) requests were received from media sources. Seventeen (17) requests were received from members of the public and two (2) from other organizations.

4.3 Processing of requests

The number of new requests received by the ATIP Office in 2011–12 decreased by eight (8) or 11% compared with the number received in 2010–2011. The number of completed requests in 2011-12 decreased by nine (9) or 14%compared with 2010–11.

The ATIP Office makes every possible effort to process requests within the 30-day time limit as required by the legislation. However, many of the requests received by the TSB involve a large volume of records and also pertain to third-party information, which requires consultation with the third parties before the information can be released. In addition, the ATIP office has faced organizational challenges during the past two years due to staff turnover.  During 2011-12, the TSB engaged temporary staff to reduce the backlog of requests carried forward from 2010-11. A considerable amount of training and oversight was required during 2011-12 in order to ensure that requests were handled appropriately and consistently by the temporary staff as well as a new ATIP analyst. These measures significantly reduced the productivity in the ATIP Office given the learning curve relevant to TSB operations.

Of the fifty-five (55) requests processed during the reporting period, seventeen (17) were completed within the 30-day limit, six (6) were completed within 31 to 60 days, nine (9) were completed within 61 to 120 days, six (6) were completed within 121 to 180 days, five (5) were completed within 181 to 365 days and twelve (12) were completed in over 365 days. The average time taken to process a request during the 2011–12 reporting period was 164.8 calendar days, compared with last year's average of 86.8 calendar days. This processing time is primarily explained by the relatively high number of complex requests, twenty-eight (28), from previous years that were completed in 2011-12.

During this period, the ATIP Office was involved in the search, preparation and review of 61,483 pages of information and the reproduction and release of 23,902 pages of information, including reprints of photographs, videotapes and CD-ROM disks containing photographs. Last year, 73,830 pages were reviewed and 56,064 pages were released.

4.4 Fees and costs

In accordance with the TSB ATIP fee policy implemented on January 1, 2001, the TSB collected $280.00 in fees during 2011–12. The TSB maintains the right to waive fees, and the decision to reduce or waive fees is made on a case-by-case basis according to the criteria outlined in its ATIP fees policy. Like most departments, the TSB waives the requirement to pay fees, other than the application fee, if the amount payable is less than $25.00.

During 2011–12, the ATIP Office incurred an estimated $388,485 in costs to administer the Access to Information Act. These costs include salaries, overtime, goods and services, and professional services contracts for temporary help staff but do not include the resources expended by other areas of the TSB to meet the requirements of the Act.

4.5 Other requests

The ATIP Office received sixteen (16) consultation requests from other departments involving TSB records in 2011-12 compared with twenty-six (26) in 2010–11.

One hundred and four (104) informal requests were received during the reporting period, compared with one hundred and twenty-nine (129) last year. The ATIP Office reviewed 13,747 pages of information and released 12,441 pages to requesters, compared with 11,910 pages reviewed and 11,826 pages released last year. These figures do not include other information requests responded to directly by the Communications Branch, the Macro-Analysis group in the Operational Services Branch, and other areas of the TSB at Head Office and in the regional offices.

In addition, many publications—such as investigation reports, safety studies, statistical reports, communiqués, investigation updates, and annual reports, including ATIP reports to Parliament—are available on the TSB website.

5.0 Training and education

Given the responsibilities and knowledge requirements of the TSB ATIP Office, there is a long learning curve for its staff. Continuous on-the-job training is provided to ATIP staff to ensure sound and current knowledge of ATIP requirements and procedures, as well as TSB operations.

In terms of external training activities, ATIP staff attended the annual Canadian Access and Privacy Association workshop, as well as various workshops organized by the Treasury Board Secretariat throughout the fiscal year. These workshops provided ATIP staff with valuable information on trends and best practices within the ATIP community, updates on recent complaints and court cases, and tools to help improve service standards within the field.

In addition, the TSB has an orientation program in place for new employees. The ATIP Office prepared and delivered two (2) ATIP awareness sessions in 2011-12 to twenty-five (25) employees. The ATIP office also provides advice and guidance upon request to individuals and groups of employees on an informal basis.

6.0 Policies, guidelines and procedures

There were no significant revisions to access to information policies or guidelines implemented by the TSB during the reporting period. However, in response to advice from the Information Commissioner, the TSB has documented and implemented a more systematic approach for the handling of witness statements sought under access to information requests.

7.0 Complaints and investigations

Two complaints with the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) from years 2009-10 and 2010-11 are still outstanding.

The first complaint concerns the TSB's decision to withhold some records pursuant to Section 16(1) and Section 19(1) of the Access to Information Act, (Act) in response to a request for copies of the reports made and documents concerning an occurrence still under investigation. Following a meeting with the OIC, the TSB consulted with various witnesses pursuant to Section 19(2) of the Act in order to obtain their permission to release their statements. TSB has yet to receive responses to these consultations.

The second complaint relates to a list of requested documents concerning an occurrence in 1996. The requester alleges that certain documents should have been made available by the TSB. After meeting with the OIC investigator, an exhaustive search was conducted, wherein additional documents were identified which had been withheld pursuant to Section l9(l) of the Act. Subsequently it was advised by the OIC that pursuant to Section l9(2) of the Act, an effort should be made to obtain permission for the release of the witness statements. A response has been prepared by the TSB's Legal Services and forwarded to the OIC. TSB is waiting for comments from the OIC investigator in charge of this complaint.

One new complaint was received from the OIC in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The complaint alleges that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has improperly applied exemptions, so as to unjustifiably deny access to records, or portions thereof, requested under the Access to Information Act; and that the institution failed to provide all records responsive to the request. The OIC has not yet assigned an investigator nor requested any documentation related to this complaint. The TSB has contacted the OIC for further instruction and has been advised to await further action pending assessment by the OIC.

8.0 Appeals to the courts

There were no appeals before the Courts in the current reporting period.

9.0 Statistics required by Treasury Board

The statistics required by the Treasury Board Secretariat are found in Appendix B.

Appendix A – Delegation order

Designation orders

Access to Information Act

The Chair of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, pursuant to Section 73 of the Access to Information Act, hereby designates the persons holding the positions of Chief Operating Officer, Director General, Corporate Services and Manager, Information Management Division, Corporate Services, or the persons occupying on an acting basis those positions, to exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Chair as the head of a government institution under the Act.


The original version was signed by

Wendy A. Tadros
Chair

Date: January 25, 2010

Appendix B – Statistical report

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