Strengthening the Access to Information Act

Annex 1 – A consideration of costs

A cost study conducted in 1994, and a second in 1999 by Consulting and Audit Canada found that the direct annual cost of the Access to Information Act throughout government was less than $50 million. The Information Commissioner believed the figure to be inflated, while many other people in the public service firmly believed that costs were under-reported. These studies remain, however, the best objective evidence available.

The Information Commissioner's recommendations included some legislative proposals with little or no cost implications, while others would require significant resources to implement. The following is a rough estimate of the magnitude of costs associated with some of those proposed amendments to the Access to Information Act.

Adding institutions $40 to $45 million annually

The estimate is based on an addition of 10 institutions considered to be large, 50 new institutions in the medium range, and potentially hundreds of small institutions, given that there is no definitive list of institutions which satisfy the proposed criteria.

The estimate takes into account training, advice and support activities of the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Justice, the complaint and review processes of the Information and Privacy Commissioners' offices and the Federal Court, and the resources new institutions would require to set-up and operate Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) offices; as well as the impact on the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC) to provide information management advice to new institutions, develop and issue disposition authorities and identify and preserve records of those new institutions that are of archival value.

Public Register more than $60 million annually

In accordance with the Official Languages Act information made available to the public by the federal government must be in both official languages. Estimates of translation costs are based on the volume of requests received over the last five years. While many requests consist of only a few records, many include hundreds or thousands of different documents. An average of 100 documents per request has assumed. Resources will also be required to develop, populate and maintain the register.

Universal access $5 million annually

Costs have been based on the increase in workload for institutions such as Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Foreign Affairs Canada, as well potential increase in complaints received by the Information and Privacy Commissioner's offices.

Annex 1 (cont.)

Duty to document $7 million annually

Resources would be required to develop, implement and monitor the directives and guidelines required to support this initiative. Additional resources would be required by the Information Commissioner to review related complaints, as well as by the RCMP to investigate allegations of criminal misbehaviour tied to the proposed sanction.

Time limit for investigations $4 million annually

The Information Commissioner proposes a legislated time limit for investigations, resulting in pressure on the Information Commissioner's office and institutions alike to meet the new deadlines. Additional resources would be required by both groups.

Other proposals $5 million annually

The Commissioner proposes numerous other changes in a variety of areas, such as public awareness, increased training and monitoring, significantly revised exemptions and new grounds for complaints. Government institutions, the Information Commissioner's and Privacy Commissioner's offices, Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Justice would all require some additional resources to ensure understanding, develop supporting processes, and deliver on the expected improvements.

Total Estimate: more than $120 million annually

(When added to the current base cost of $50 million, this would more than triple the cost of the access to information program.)