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Results: 1 - 30 of 149
Jesse Zeman
View Jesse Zeman Profile
Jesse Zeman
2020-07-23 13:32
Yes, absolutely.
When we talk in the wildlife world provincially, if I want to know something about endangered mountain caribou, grizzly bears or anything, I can pick up the phone, send an email, or get a hold of someone and they will send me what they have. When we call the department, we are told, “Sorry, you have to ATIP that—I can't provide that because I'll get into trouble.”
In terms of this business of hidden data, even with this recovery potential assessment document that went through the peer review process, the public can't even see that. The public paid for that. It went through a rigorous scientific process, and the department refuses to list it. We're talking about fish that have gone from thousands down to 62 and 134, and the department cannot even show what the scientists said. I mean, it's unbelievable that this is happening in Canada.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
We've heard that there were no financial flags, and I presume no evaluation of WE's financial circumstances. I gather as well from previous questions that there was no examination of the liability issues that Volunteer Canada raised with us last week, so there are tons of questions I think that folks want to ask on this.
You'll recall, Mr. Shugart, under the SNC-Lavalin controversy, the Ethics Commissioner said that he was “unable to fully discharge the investigatory duties conferred upon me” because you refused to provide information that the Ethics Commissioner had asked for.
My question this time is: Will you fully co-operate with the Ethics Commissioner or any request that the Ethics Commissioner makes for documentation and for answers on this controversy?
Ian Shugart
View Ian Shugart Profile
Ian Shugart
2020-07-21 11:30
Within the bounds of my responsibility, Chair, of course I will co-operate with the Ethics Commissioner, as I would assert I did a year ago in relation to the previous issue.
The committee will recall that the government itself had given a waiver of many of the cabinet confidences. I indicated to the Ethics Commissioner that, in my judgment, there had been no demonstration of a greater public interest to weigh the cabinet confidences and invited him to follow up with specific requirements that he might have, and the Ethics Commissioner engaged in no further follow-up.
I will absolutely co-operate with the Ethics Commissioner within the bounds of my responsibilities as the secretary to the cabinet.
View Marty Morantz Profile
CPC (MB)
Okay. I appreciate the clarification. I just wanted to check on that.
A few days ago Commissioner Maynard said there were difficulties with some of the ATIP units. I believe you rely on ATIP and I'm not sure if it's for all or some of your information. Have you had any difficulties getting the information you need? I know the Parliamentary Budgetary Officer has been struggling to get information on IICP. I'm wondering if you're having similar issues.
Karen Hogan
View Karen Hogan Profile
Karen Hogan
2020-06-22 13:00
I will ask Andrew to pipe up here if I misspeak or if I miss something.
We do not rely on the access to information legislation to obtain our information. We obtain our information through the Auditor General Act. When we run into issues, we work very hard with the departments to work those out. On occasion we have had to involve Parliament or PCO to help us sort them out.
To my knowledge, we don't have any of those issues right now, but I'll turn to Andrew to see if he wants to amend that or add to it.
Andrew Hayes
View Andrew Hayes Profile
Andrew Hayes
2020-06-22 13:01
I might add a few comments.
In terms of delays in accessing information, right now the biggest obstacle for us is with respect to secret information, as that information can't be transferred over the normal network. In some cases, both on the part of the department and on our part, we need to have people on the ground dealing with paper. I would say that's the most challenging right now.
As Karen was saying, we had the support of Parliament to get an order in council that expanded our access to cabinet confidences. We haven't encountered any problems accessing cabinet confidences. I'll just say the same challenges with secret documents exist there, so we experience delays in getting that information right now.
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 10:59
Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss accountability and access to information. Canadians have a right to request information from government through access to information requests to federal institutions. This is a quasi-constitutional right.
The right of access and the need for transparency have not been suspended during the pandemic. On the contrary, in this current extraordinary context, transparency and the well-being of the access system are more important than ever.
Major decisions with huge budget implications are being taken every day. New measures and programs related to the economy, public health and safety are being implemented on an almost daily basis. Canadians require information about how issues, policies and programs are being managed and developed in order to hold their government accountable.
Given that the Office of the Information Commissioner operates within the federal public service, I am very aware of the operational challenges the pandemic poses to federal institutions. Nevertheless, because transparency is the foundation of trust and because the access system is a pillar of government accountability, Canada’s leaders must take all necessary measures to ensure they are mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on the right of access. This includes ensuring a properly functioning access to information regime where decisions are being properly documented, information is well managed and access requests continue to be processed. I would like to outline for you just some of the factors that are creating barriers to the functioning of the system during the pandemic.
Most public servants have been working from home since the middle of March, not always by choice, and many have limited access to the networks or tools they normally have to do their jobs.
Providing access to information is not treated as an essential service to Canadians in almost all of the institutions' business continuity plans. In this situation, it can be challenging to manage information, capturing it and storing it in government repositories, especially when access to the network is limited for non-essential staff.
In many institutions, the transfer of information is outdated. Documents are still being sent by mail, CD-ROM and other mainly paper-based processes, which require access to scanners and photocopiers.
While some ATIP units are now fully operational, others have suspended operations completely. Most units are positioned somewhere between these two extremes. Such limited operations fundamentally restrict the government’s capacity to respond to access requests and to respect their new legislative obligation to proactively disclose some information.
There are other factors at play, but these are the major limitations that cannot be ignored, as they significantly affect transparency and delay, compromise and ultimately erode the government’s accountability to Canadians.
Although the pandemic has brought many new challenges, it has also created a window of opportunity to bring essential changes to the operating model of government and the culture that underlies it. I will continue to press the government for tangible action and results on this front.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that openness and transparency in government have never been more important than they are during the pandemic. The government needs to commit to proper resources and innovative solutions to ensure the right of access for all Canadians
Let’s not forget that access delayed is access denied.
Those are my opening remarks. I will be happy to respond to your questions now.
Thank you.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam, thank you for joining us today. I appreciate all the work you're doing on behalf of Canadians and transparency.
On April 28, you wrote to the TBS president, warning that we were at a breaking point for federal transparency. How did he respond? Did he respond with any actual actions or just mere words?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:03
So far, I've had a couple of conversations with Monsieur Duclos and his team. They've been promising to.... They were saying they were taking this very seriously. They understand that this is a serious matter.
I've noticed that Monsieur Duclos has sent a letter to all institutions reminding them of their responsibilities and the need for openness and transparency in government. I am optimistic, but I am still waiting for actual, real, concrete actions.
As I said in my opening statement, some institutions have since reopened their business, so I think the message is getting through slowly but—
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
As of June 16, I got a copy of the institutions that have started. Funnily enough, Treasury Board, which is responsible for this, is not one of the ones actively doing their ATIPs, which is mind-boggling.
Last week we asked the chief information officer at TBS, who is nominally in charge of the ATIP process throughout the government. He was not even aware there was a problem. It's very disconcerting that we're just getting words.
What kinds of actions, besides expressions of concern, do we need from Minister Duclos and the government?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:05
We definitely need more resources in this area.
One of the problems is that working remotely has demonstrated other challenges, which I don't think people were aware of, with the types of systems they're using, the networks that are not secured. If you're dealing with highly secret or protected information and you're working from home, often our network is not secure enough to do that. It has brought up many challenges that, again, working from the office, were not something that people were aware of.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
Right, but this is not a new problem. We've been a heavy user of ATIPs, and we actually have an ATIP going back three years now that was only asking about specific information regarding one person advising PSPC. My colleague Tom Kmiec has 50 outstanding ATIPs, some going back three years. I laugh that one of my ATIPs will soon qualify for the MPs' pension, it's been so long.
This is not a recent occurrence. What do we need to do to light a fire under people, to make them understand that it is a basic right for Canadians and members of Parliament to access this?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:06
I think access has to be seen not as a suboperation activity of government. It has to be part of every public servant's commitment to Canadians.
We need more training and more resources. The number of access requests has increased by 225% in the last six years. The resources have not followed through. Information management has not been changed. We need to have better systems. There are so many little things that can be done that would have a huge impact.
I think the major thing is that the workload has increased, but when I talk to the community, they tell me they have the same number of analysts dealing with this. They just can't respond to all the demand.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
It sounds like the resources have stayed the same, and the “hide everything” attitude of the government has stayed the same.
Do we need to change your position so that your reporting structure reports to the Speaker, much like the Parliamentary Budget Officer does, so that there are completely autonomous actions from your department?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:08
I am completely independent of government. I report directly to Parliament, so I am reporting to you as an independent agent.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
Do you not report through the Treasury Board, through the minister?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:08
No. I don't report to any minister.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay, I am mistaken.
Thank you for your time.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Madam Maynard. As this week is National Public Service Week, I want to acknowledge the great work that all of our public servants are doing, as well as the great work that you and your team are doing.
I have three questions. I'll try to make them short and stay within my five minutes.
In the OIC 2020-21 departmental plan, there is discussion about a five-year strategic plan, which came into effect April 1, 2020. Can you quickly highlight the key components of the five-year strategic plan?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:09
Yes. We decided to separate our strategic plan into three pillars.
We're spending a lot of effort on making sure that my office is the best place to work and is a good environment for our employees, with retention policies and a harassment-free environment, so there is an HR component and a resource component.
There's also an innovative component, because we, as with any other institution, have been struggling in making sure we are up to date on all of our software and in our processes.
The last pillar is transparency and credibility. I want to make sure, when I issue recommendations, decisions or orders, that people ultimately trust we are doing this on an unbiased basis and that our investigations are faster than they've ever been. As I said earlier, access delayed is access denied. The information is relevant now. If my investigations take years to be completed, there will be no trust in my own agency. I want to make sure that we're up to date on everything so that Canadians trust my work too.
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
When you talked about the second pillar, which was the innovative component, you talked about the systems. On April 28, you published a letter to the TBS minister, within which you specifically said, “the access to information system...is currently in a critical phase and may soon be beyond repair”.
Can you expand on what systems they are? What are we going to do if these systems fail, especially with the extra stress that's going to be on the systems during COVID?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:11
To give you an example, many institutions are still exchanging documents within the same department, from sector to sector, through mail, using paper, or if they send documents by email to, let's say, the analysts at the ATIP shop, they have to print those and scan them back into their software to start doing the redaction. There's a lot of wasted time transferring documents, which are electronic to start with, making them paper-based and then turning them back into an electronic version—
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
Transferring information, on top of resources and remote work is—
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:11
That's just one example.
We send information to requesters by mail or CD-ROM, and a lot of our requesters have been complaining about it for years now. Who has a CD-ROM reader anymore in their office?
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. I'll quickly switch topics.
Can you give me an idea of the number of ATIP requests you received prior to and after COVID-19, and what kind of responses you've had?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:12
Do you mean requests or complaints?
Caroline Maynard
View Caroline Maynard Profile
Caroline Maynard
2020-06-19 11:12
Okay, because I'm dealing with the complaints too at TBS.
This year we've seen a small increase in complaints. With respect to COVID itself, strangely enough we haven't seen that many, but I think in most cases when there's a crisis, the complaints and requests come after everybody is coming down. It was the same thing with Lac-Mégantic. We saw a huge surge of requests and complaints after the crisis, so that's what I'm expecting. That's one of the things I highlighted for Mr. Duclos. We can't wait because there's going to be a surge of requests and complaints coming from the—
View Majid Jowhari Profile
Lib. (ON)
I have about 15 seconds left.
If you were going to make one recommendation, aside from resources and system updates, what would it be?
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