Good morning everyone. This is the 15th meeting of our committee and the last full day of witnesses for our review of access to information. I will remind colleagues that on Thursday we have the commissioner coming back for one more hour, and then we will be spending the last hour or so providing drafting instructions to our analyst. We are getting near the end.
We are really pleased to have with us today Mr. Robert Marleau, former Information Commissioner of Canada. We certainly appreciate your being here, sir.
The committee asked to hear from ATIP coordinators from various departments. We see that we have, from the CBSA, Mr. Dan Proulx, who has brought Mr. Mundie with him. From Shared Services Canada, we have Monique McCulloch, and from the CRA, we have Marie-Claude Juneau. Thank you very much. From the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada—it used to be HRSDC—we have Cheryl Fisher. From the Department of Justice, we have Francine Farley. Thank you, Francine. She has also brought Marie-Josée Thivierge, who is no stranger to committees at all.
We thank you all for being here this morning.
We are going to start with Mr. Marleau and his opening comments. Normally, we would have 10 minutes, but in this particular case, because we have so many witnesses at the table today.... Mr. Marleau, you have up to 10 minutes if you like, sir, and then for each of the ATIP coordinators who were asked to come here, if you could keep your remarks to somewhere in the two- to five-minute ballpark, I think that's what was requested. Then we will proceed to our rounds of questioning to elicit the great debate that we all want.
Mr. Marleau, please, the floor is yours.
Thank you for your invitation, Mr. Chair. I'm delighted to be with you this morning, and particularly pleased that my tenure as Information Commissioner of Canada, and in the House of Commons, is remembered here.
I have a very brief overview of the recommendations I made to this committee in 2009. I believe the clerk has circulated that statement to you. I will just cover those very briefly and leave it up to you for questions.
In March 2009 I tabled before the committee a report with 12 recommendations. Why 12 instead of 80-something, such as are in the current report by the current commissioner? It was because it was a minority Parliament. It was going to be a short time frame, and these were also identified, as part of the stakeholder consultations that we had done in the office, as the quick hits. What could we fix quickly to move the legislation along from its aging situation? These 12 recommendations were reviewed by the committee, 11 of which were adopted and recommended to the government in the report to the House. One was recommended for further study. I'll just go very, very quickly.
All of these recommendations and variations thereof are in the current report that you're considering from Commissioner Legault. First, there was that the call that the committee support the recommendation suggesting first and foremost that the government proceed with amendments to the legislation, and that access be given to all persons whether they're citizens or not. The committee supported that.
Order-making powers for the commissioners were also recommended, but we only went half way, or I only went half way, only for administrative matters. There was great reluctance—and there probably still is great reluctance within certain circles of government—to see the commissioner having order-making powers, despite the practices in all of the provinces, particularly B.C., Alberta, and Ontario. So we thought we would experiment with order-making powers on the basis of the administrative matters, things like fees, translation, delays, and those kind of issues.
Another one was to try to grant the commissioner some discretion in looking at investigating complaints, things like vexatious frivolous complaints and large volume complaints. They give the commissioner some discretion in evaluating those. It was somewhat resisted by stakeholders, and probably still is today.
We also felt that the commissioner should have an education and research mandate parallelling what goes on for PIPEDA in the privacy office. It cannot just be left to Treasury Board Secretariat to promote and inform on this statute.
Also an advisory mandate for the commissioner was recommended and approved by the committee to look at proposed legislative initiatives and, in part, that came out of the privacy impact assessment experience in the privacy office.
I also recommended, as the previous commissioner had recommended before me, that the act cover the general administration of Parliament and the courts.
Recommendation eight was the one that the committee did not support by way of recommendation but asked the government to look into further, and that is that the act apply to cabinet confidences. I'm sure you'll have questions about that.
Recommendation nine was that the commissioner be given the authority to approve extensions beyond sixty days. Extensions were a big issue and continue to be an issue under the statute as it is now.
Recommendation ten was that the act specify certain time frames for completing administrative investigations. The substantive investigations are a different category, but for administrative purposes, they should be done within, say, 120 days.
Also, as called for by a large number of stakeholders, I recommended that the complainant be given direct access to the Federal Court. As it is now, as it was then, before a Federal Court can be seized of a file, the commissioner has to complete his investigation, which sometimes can be quite lengthy. For certain requesters, they wanted that direct access for quicker resolution before the courts.
Finally, I recommended that the commissioner be allowed to look at and combine some of the multiple simultaneous requests, particularly those where we allowed for some time extensions.
There is a strategy among certain requesters to flood an organization from time to time, with a large numbers of requests and give the commissioner some discretion on how to manage that. The act requires the commissioner to investigate complaints—it says, “shall receive and investigate complaints”. It didn't tell me when to investigate, and so depending on the nature of those kinds of complaints, I took the position back then that they might be moved around in the queue, using a discretion that's technically not there in the legislation, but one that I did exercise.
By way of closing, Mr. Chair, I'd like to comment on four of the components in the existing act that Commissioner Legault has underlined.
The concept of reforming the access model from one that eliminates exclusions and goes strictly to an exemptions model, with an injury test, I think, would be a good move forward. Full order-making powers for the commissioner, I think, are long overdue. There is plenty of practice in B.C., Alberta, Ontario, that supports this as being a very positive model, particularly given that over time, you do build a certain amount of jurisprudence that becomes a reference on what to release and when to release it for the ATIP coordinators sitting around me.
The duties document, I think, is a concept that goes hand in hand with the duty to assist that was introduced in the act in 2006 with the FAA. It's overdue as a concept. There are provisions that should deal with destruction of documents and that sort of thing. I think when we look at the context of instant messaging, it's an issue, but there could be some situations that occur where we deliberately do not create documents, which I think has to be addressed in the legislation. Of course, extending the coverage to ministers' offices, and Parliament, and the courts is one that I support.
The reason I didn't recommend back in 2009 that it could be extended to ministers' offices is that the case was before the Federal Court at the time, and we are still waiting for a decision from the Federal Court. Of course, the Federal Court did rule, I think in 2011, that the act didn't apply to those offices as written, so I think it's time for Parliament to review that and initiate that kind of coverage.
I'll leave it at that, Mr. Chair. I have the dubious distinction of being the only one alive who sat in both chairs—privacy and ATI—so I hope that I can bring a certain perspective to your questions that you may find useful.
Thank you very much.
I'm the director general for the corporate secretariat of CBSA. With me is Mr. Proulx, who is the access to information director for access to information and privacy.
The ATIP division is responsible for oversight of the access to information function at the agency, which includes fulfilling and administering all legislative requirements for the act related to processing of requests, interacting with the public, CBSA employees, other government institutions, and with the Office of the Information Commissioner regarding investigations and audits, and implementing measures to enhance our capacity to process access to information requests.
I'll briefly outline the CBSA's access to information function, how the agency performs against established service standards, and highlight some of the successes and challenges we experience in our administration of the act.
The Canada Border Services Agency is the second largest law enforcement organization in the federal government. It is responsible for border functions related to customs, immigration enforcement, and food, plant and animal inspection.
The agency administers and enforces two principal pieces of legislation: the Customs Act, which outlines the agency's responsibilities to collect duties and taxes on imported goods, interdict illegal goods, and administer trade legislation and agreements; and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which governs the admissibility of people into Canada, and the identification, detention and removal of those deemed inadmissible under the act.
To give you a sense of the scope of our activities, the agency also enforces over 90 other statutes on behalf of federal departments and agencies.
Given the numerous daily activities and interactions the agency has with both businesses and individuals on a variety of matters, we are no strangers to access to information requests. Within the division for which I have responsibility, the access to information division, we have approximately 50 employees who work in ATIP, and 34 of them are dedicated to the processing of access to information requests and privacy requests. In addition, the division also has an internal network within the agency of 17 liaison officers, who provide support within the agency's branches at headquarters and in the regions across the country.
The CBSA's operating expenditures to run its access and privacy program totalled approximately $5.2 million in 2014-15, with $4.2 million dedicated to salary and $1 million to non-salary expenditures. This includes the the cost of administering both the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act, as the work is done concurrently.
With respect to volumes, the CBSA received just over 6,700 requests in 2014-15. This is the second-highest number within the Government of Canada. It represents an increase of 43.5% from the previous year. In addition, we received approximately 12,800 privacy requests in the same fiscal year.
These high volumes are largely attributable to individuals seeking copies of their history of arrival dates in Canada. In fiscal year 2014-15, 60% of all of our requests came from individuals seeking their traveller history reports, which are used to support residency requirements for programs administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and by Service Canada.
Despite this increase in volume, we were able to maintain a compliance rate of 93.5% for completed requests, because ATI analysts in our case-processing units have direct access to the databases with which they can create these traveller history reports. Also, these reports and the application of the law related to them are fairly standard, which allows analysts to complete these requests without needing to obtain recommendations on disclosure from other departmental officials, which is largely the case with most of the other access to information requests we receive. This greatly reduces the time it takes them to process these types of requests.
In fiscal year 2014-15, a total of 71 complaints were filed against the CBSA with the Office of the Information Commissioner, a decrease of 25% from the previous year. Given the large volume of requests the CBSA processes, this number represents a very small proportion of total requests closed. Nonetheless, we continue to aspire to serve requesters better.
Our success reflects the CBSA's commitment to ensuring that every reasonable effort is made to meet the obligations set out in the Access to Information Act.
The CBSA strives to provide Canadians with the information to which they have a right in a timely and helpful manner by balancing the right of access with the need to protect the integrity of border services that support national security and public safety objectives. Innovative approaches and careful planning will help the agency to continue this success into the future.
In closing, we welcome the review of the Access to Information Act and will fully support and adopt any new measures that are introduced by the Treasury Board Secretariat in support of the amendments to the act.
I want to thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity for us to provide input to you today. We look forward to questions that members may have.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. We're pleased to appear before the committee today to explain how the Department of Justice administers the Access to Information Act.
My name is Marie-Josée Thivierge, and I'm the assistant deputy minister of the management sector and chief financial officer at the Department of Justice. I'm joined today by Francine Farley, director of our access to information and privacy office. The ATIP office is one of many organizations within my sector.
Mindful of the interest of the committee in the reform of the Access to Information Act, and the fact that work is currently being led by the president of the Treasury Board, my colleague and I, the administrators at Justice, are here today to talk about the administration of the act, and we'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Before I briefly describe the department's access to information function and our experience with the administration of the act, I think it might be helpful if I provided a bit of context on the department.
The Department of Justice has three distinctive roles within the Government of Canada. It acts as a policy department with broad responsibilities for overseeing all matters relating to the administration of justice. In this capacity it helps to ensure a fair, relevant, and accessible justice system for all Canadians. It also is a provider of a range of legal advisory, litigation, and legislative services to government departments and agencies, and is a central agency responsible for supporting the minister in advising cabinet on all legal matters. Justice Canada is a department of close to 4,400 FTEs. Approximately half our employees are lawyers, and many are located in client departments to provide legal advice.
In administering the Access to Information Act, the department strives to give full disclosure of information requested by Canadians, but we do so recognizing important exceptions provided under the act. For example, when processing requests, the Department of Justice often applies the solicitor-client privilege exemption, section 23 of the act. In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada said that the protection of solicitor-client privilege should be as close to absolute as possible because it is a cornerstone of Canada's legal system.
Also, Justice, as many other departments, will exclude cabinet confidences, section 69; and protect personal information, section 19; and advice on operations of government, section 21, where warranted.
Another role of the ATIP office at Justice is to provide advice and training to other federal departments on the application of the solicitor-client privilege.
Having provided the context, I propose to move on to a few highlights from 2014-15.
The Department of Justice received 520 access to information requests, a slight decrease from the previous year. It also received 587 ATI-related advisory requests, the vast majority of which were about solicitor-client privilege. Although this is a 36% decrease from the previous year, the fact remains that the number of advisory matters was greater than the number of ATI requests from the public. The importance ascribed to the solicitor-client privilege exception is one reason for this.
The Access to Information and Privacy Office also handles what are known as informal requests, aimed at having information in the department's possession made public. In 2014-15, a total of 148 of these unofficial requests were processed. The departmental entity that administers the Access to Information Act employs 19 full-time equivalents and two consultants, who work closely with other officials to ensure compliance with the act.
Before the Treasury Board's recent interim directive was issued, our department was applying a reproduction fee waiver policy in cases where the number of pages to be disclosed to the requester was less than 400 pages, or where the requester wished to receive documents in CD format. Going forward, no fees, other than application fees, will be billed. And in 2014-15, the total of the $5 application fees, collected on account of requests received, was $2,625.
Even though the number of applications received by the Department of Justice is lower than what other departments tend to receive, our department continues to improve performance with a view to ensuring that its services meet the highest standards of quality.
In 2014-15, our ATIP office joined an online ATIP request pilot project. Thanks to this project, Canadians can submit applications online under the act and pay the $5 fee electronically. This avoids the need to submit a cheque with each application.
In addition, we have implemented a web application platform for the transfer of information with offices of primary interest.
In keeping with the 10 Principles of Fair Information Practice in place at our ATIP office, and with the Treasury Board Secretariat's directives and policies, our department continues to post its annual reports to Parliament, as well as summaries of completed requests, on its website, as part of our effort to improve communications with requesters, and to increase transparency.
In the realm of education and training, our staff regularly provides department employees with advice and training on the application of the act. In 2014-15, more than 500 employees received training sessions.
In closing, Justice has been an active member in the community of access to information administrators, which has led to the sharing and the adoption of best practices, all with a view to ensuring that government information is available to the public consistent with the spirit and the letter of the act.
Mr. Chair, committee members, we would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Marie-Claude Juneau, and I'm the director of access to information and privacy, ATIP, at the Canada Revenue Agency. I would like, once again, to thank all of you for inviting us this morning to describe the access to information framework within our agency.
I'd like to start by giving you a bit of background on how the ATIP program operates at the CRA.
The CRA is one of the largest organizations in our government. It has more than 40,000 employees. These employees administer and manage vast amounts of information—including taxpayer information—all of which may become the subject of an access to information request.
The CRA processes one of the largest volumes of ATI requests each year. In 2014-15, it received the fourth largest number of ATIP requests among all federal institutions and processed more than 1.3 million responsive pages—the second largest number among federal institutions.
Like other institutions, the CRA has experienced considerable growth in page volumes over the past 10 years. In 2005-06, the agency reviewed nearly 350,000 pages. In 2014-15, less than 10 years later, this figure has more than tripled, to 1.3 million.
The volume challenge at the CRA is compounded by the high complexity of the requests we receive. They frequently involve records related to tax litigation or require consultation with third parties such as provincial, federal, or international bodies.
Collection of documents, consultations, and the review and severing of thousands of pages, cannot always be completed in the default time frame of 30 calendar days. Over the past five years, 79% of all requests received by the CRA were completed within that 30-day limit or, if an extension was taken, within the extended deadline. The CRA had to apply extensions longer than 60 days to more than 3,000 requests.
To process such requests, ATIP analysts must continuously consider our agency's current legal environment, the interplay between the provisions of the Access to Information Act and the information and confidentiality provisions of the CRA's program legislation—for example, the Income Tax Act and Excise Tax Act—and our information exchange agreements with third parties, so that it can sever files appropriately. In particular, section 241 of the Income Tax Act and section 296 of the Excise Tax Act prohibit the disclosure of client-specific information and take legal precedence over the disclosure provisions of the Access to Information Act. These confidentiality provisions are critical to safeguarding and protecting client-specific information, recognizing that the disclosure of such information could be seriously injurious to an individual or organization.
In response to this environment of increasing complexity and volumes, the CRA has significantly increased its investment in the ATIP function. Our total budget has grown from $6.1 million in 2010-11 to $9.7 million in 2014-15. This represents a 59% increase in funding over the last five years. lt is important to note that these numbers only reflect direct costs within the ATIP program itself. They do not include the significant costs associated with retrieving these records and the time that employees spend providing recommendations to ATIP to support the processing of requests.
The CRA has complemented this investment with expanded efforts to provide access to information through other channels, such as the My Account and My Business Account channels. We also provide Canadians with a great deal of information through our charities website.
The CRA's Open Government Implementation Plan outlines the many ways the CRA is expanding access to information. These include the provision of anonymized data sets through the Open Data portal and the recent introduction of a virtual library on the CRA website, where frequently requested information is posted.
I hope I have provided committee members with a flavour of the complexity and operational challenges that the CRA is addressing in its ATI function.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, for the invitation to describe the framework that Shared Services Canada has put in place to comply with the Access to Information Act. We are pleased to be joining you this morning.
My name is Monique McCulloch, and I am the director of the access to information and privacy protection division, which is within the corporate services branch at Shared Services Canada. I act as the coordinator for the whole department and am responsible for administering all ATIP, legislative, and policy obligations.
Mr. Chair, before describing the access to information framework, I would like to provide some context on the mandate of Shared Services Canada.
Shared Services Canada was created to modernize information technology infrastructure services to ensure a secure and reliable platform for the delivery of digital services to Canadians.
The department aims to deliver one email system, consolidated data centres, reliable and secure telecommunications networks, and non-stop protection against cyber threats.
Shared Services Canada currently provides information technology infrastructure services across 43 departments, 50 networks, 485 data centres, and 23,000 servers. For fiscal year 2014-15, while still growing its capacity, the ATIP office employed six full-time employees and one casual employee, as well as one consultant, to carry out the Access to Information Act business. Shared Services Canada spent just over $785,000 to administer the Access to Information Act portion of the ATIP program.
Since its creation in August, 2011, Shared Services Canada has put in place a framework anchored by internal policies, instructions, and training that identifies the procedures and processes for handling requests for information under the act. Specifically, the ATIP division introduced an ATIP management framework that sets out a comprehensive governance and accountability structure. This reflects Shared Services Canada’s responsibilities under both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act with respect to access rights and with regard to the collection, use, disclosure, retention, and disposal of personal information.
The ATIP division is responsible for developing, coordinating, implementing, and monitoring compliance with effective ATIP-related policies, guidelines, systems, and procedures across Shared Services Canada. This enables the department to meet the requirements and to fulfill its obligations under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
In terms of the volume of work, I would now like to share some statistics from the fiscal year 2014 annual report on the Access to Information Act.
There were 362 files in total, including formal requests for records and consultations under the Access to Information Act, as well as informal requests for previously processed files. Consultations with our 43 partner organizations, as well as third-party vendors, is an important component of the ATIP work given the department’s enterprise-wide scope and significant procurement mandate. The volume of requests received was comparable to the previous reporting period. However, due to interest in records relating to procurement and cybersecurity files, the number of pages processed increased eight times to 183,023 pages processed in 2014–15, from 22,438 pages processed in 2013–14.
The Shared Services Canada ATIP division weekly tracks its turnaround times in processing requests and monitors the timeliness of their completion. Performance reports are communicated to senior management each month.
In fiscal 2014-15, all requests under the Access to Information Act were processed within the timelines permitted by the act. Overall, 63% of requests were processed in 30 days, and 37% were the subject of extensions permitted by the act. During this reporting period, only two complaints were filed with the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada on this subject. It should be noted that one of the complaints was withdrawn and that the other was determined to be unfounded.
The majority of the Access to Information Act requests processed by Shared Services Canada relate to procurement and vendor relations, cybersecurity, transformation initiatives, and briefing products to the president and minister. These access requests can be complex given the requirement for both internal and external consultations with Government of Canada customers, central agencies, and external companies and organizations.
In 2014, Shared Services Canada was also part of the initial ATIP online pilot project led by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, to facilitate and expedite Canadians' rights of access. Today, the majority ATIP requests received by the departments are made online as part of open government initiatives.
Mr. Chair, this ends my opening remarks. I would be pleased to respond to any questions the committee may have.
Good morning Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am very pleased to appear before you today, along with my colleagues from other departments, to take part in this study of the Access to Information Act.
My name is Cheryl Fisher, and I am the corporate secretary at the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada. Among the responsibilities I have in my area of the portfolio is the responsibility for the administration of access to information and privacy, known as ATIP.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I will discuss the administration of the current legislation in our department, our performance in this regard, and the costs associated with processing the ATI requests. I will address a couple of the recommendations of the Information Commissioner, their operational implications for our department, and our path going forward.
I wanted to give you a brief sense of the scope and context of the mandate of our department at Employment and Social Development Canada. As you may know, ESDC, as we're called, is at the heart of service delivery to Canadians. We're responsible for the administration of many programs that touch Canadians at various points in their lives.
The list of services is long, and you're familiar with many of them. Some of the central responsibilities are carried out by a workforce of some 23,000 employees across the country. About 80% of our employees are in regions across the country, or coast to coast to coast, as we say.
Our department's main responsibilities are as follows: providing support for families and children; operating the Canada Student Loans Program; providing job training and retraining programs in partnership with provincial and territorial governments; administering the employment insurance program, the old age security program and the Canada Pension Plan; ensuring our labour law promotes good working conditions and the means to settle disputes between employees and employers; and providing access to a multitude of federal programs and services through Service Canada, whether online, in person, or over the phone.
The fact that we have not one but three ministers leading the department is also a good indication of the scope of our responsibilities.
We have responsibilities both to Canadians and to employers.
As you can imagine, given the nature of the services we provide, our department receives a large number of access to information requests. We believe in the right of access to government records and work hard to make records available in a timely manner, within the legislative provisions of the Access to Information Act.
We now live in a world where information is available at the touch of a finger, the swipe of a screen, and in the seconds it takes to compose a tweet or send a quick email. Today the quest and desire for information is greater than ever, and we have seen this interest through the growth of access to information requests in our department. The expectations of Canadians have also shifted, and we are seeing that the speed of information sharing and access is a key driver for access to information strategies going forward.
We've noticed a substantial increase in the number of information requests received and the number of pages examined by our team. We've also noticed that the information requests received tend to be more complex.
Over the course of the last several years, the number of our requests, which I'll refer to as ATI requests, have increased significantly, and we expect continued growth in this fiscal year. For example, five years ago, in fiscal year 2011-12, we received just 579 access to information requests, and by fiscal year 2014-15 the number had climbed to 1,160 requests. We're seeing the volume of requests continuing to climb to this day.
In addition, the volume of pages that our ATI team has reviewed is also on an upward trend, as other colleagues have mentioned. For example, in 2013-14 we received just over 100,000 pages associated with requests to review that year. In 2014-15, that number rose to 139,000. And in 2015-16—for which numbers are not yet published—the number of pages reviewed has reached over 250,000. It's worth noting that as volumes of pages grow, there is increased complexity in applying the required exemptions and exclusions under the act.
The makeup of the ATI requesters varies. In 2014-15, over one third, or about 390, of the requests were from businesses and the private sector. Another quarter of the requesters, or almost 300, identified themselves as members of the general public. Others identified themselves as organizations, media, and academia, and 4% declined to identify themselves. We note that a few requesters are often responsible for large numbers of requests, which can lead to spikes in volumes of requests. This can affect our ability to meet the legislated timelines for everyone else.
You may be asking what kinds of information are being requested at ESDC This varies as well. Some of the most common requests are for labour market impact assessments or labour market opinions, briefing note lists, briefing notes, briefing materials, reports, operational procedures manuals, correspondence, and communication plans and strategies.
The access to information operations team under me at ESDC consists of about 20 full-time employees, and between four and six temporary employees, who are either consultants or casuals. We have an overall operating budget of $1.7 million, of which approximately $1.6 million is salary costs. This budget does not include the access to information liaison coordinators in each of our program areas across the various responsibilities. Nor does it include the time it takes for officers in our program areas to search for, retrieve, and review the relevant records.
All access to information requests that come into our department are tasked out to particular liaison officers and their responsible areas. They're responsible for the timely search and retrieval of records. Then they work with our ATI operations team and the liaison officers to determine whether documents can be fully disclosed, whether some exemptions or exclusions need to be applied, and whether any consultations need to take place.
At our department, the exemptions and exclusions most frequently applied are as follows: personal information, covered by section 19; law enforcement and investigation, covered by section 16; advice and recommendations, covered by section 21; third party information, covered by section 20; solicitor-client privilege, covered by section 23; and confidences of the Queen's Privy Council, covered by section 69.
Once documents have been reviewed, they're redacted, if required, using software that has been developed for this purpose, and we send an advance release notice in the department—usually four days—and then the documents are released.
ESDC understands that responding to an access request is a priority that requires all stakeholders to carry out their roles and responsibilities and meet timelines in order for the department to meet its performance objectives. There is no question that the increase in volume, size, and complexity of requests has affected the department's compliance rate—that is, our performance—in responding to access requests. While our performance is falling short of where we would like it to be, in 2014-15 the department still managed to respond to 75% of all ATI requests within legislated timeframes.
To further improve our performance, we've looked at a number initiatives, some of which have been mentioned by my colleagues. The department has redesigned its business process for requests, to simplify and improve the process and ensure quality. We've increased our efforts in training. We're benchmarking ourselves and looking at best practices from other departments for us to make further improvements. We continue to engage our dedicated and skilled team to ensure that they're well supported in their roles as they face significant increases in ATI requests. We're also looking to initiatives, such as open government and open information, to modernize our access to information practices and make high-demand areas for information available more proactively.
In terms of the recommendations of the Information Commissioner, I'll highlight two that I believe could have implications.