Remarks by Layla Michaud, Deputy Commissioner of Investigations and Governance
Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics

Supplementary Estimates: Vote 1b under the Offices of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Canada

November 29, 2017

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Mr. Chair, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. My name is Layla Michaud. I am the Deputy Commissioner Investigations and Governance. I am also the Chief Financial Officer for the OIC.

I am here to seek the approval of the committee for Supplementary Estimates B of the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada.

The Access to Information Act establishes the Information Commissioner as the first level of independent review of institutions’ decisions on disclosure in response to access requests. Requesters who are not satisfied with how institutions responded to their access request have the right to complain to the OIC.

The Commissioner is required by law to investigate all complaints within her jurisdiction. These investigations are conducted in an efficient, fair, and confidential manner.

For the past few years, we have been of the view that the current funding levels for the OIC are insufficient for the office to properly fulfill its mandate to protect Canadians’ access to information rights.

Underfunding of the Office of the Information Commissioner has been endemic for years. We have made repeated requests for additional permanent funding. To date, none have been accepted.

Last year, this committee approved temporary funding for the Office of $3.4 million for one year. This funding was a fit-gap measure put in place pending the possible introduction and passage of amendments to the Access to Information Act.

With this funding, we resolved 2,245 complaints. This was the highest number of complaints resolved in any year of Commissioner’s Legault’s mandate.

Last year, the Office of the Information Commissioner made another request for funding, but this request was not included in Budget 2017.  However, since the Office lapsed a portion of its funding in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, we seek your approval, through Supplementary Estimates B, to re-profile this lapsed funding, in the amount of $1.8 million.

With these re-profiled funds, we plan to hire 14 consultants and resolve a total of 1,900 complaints.

As usual, the Office’s senior management team will closely monitor results. Our performance is also followed by our external audit and evaluation committee on an ongoing basis.

However, this request is, again, a fit-gap measure and will not resolve the Office’s ongoing funding issues.

For this reason, a permanent funding solution continues to be needed for the Office to properly fulfill its mandate and provide the independent oversight Canadians deserve. Hence, we will continue to work with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Department Finance to ensure Canadians’ access rights are protected.

In closing, I ask that you approve this request to re-profile the $1.8 million in lapsed funding, through Supplementary Estimates B. 

Once again, thank you, Mr. Chair, for the invitation to discuss our request for funding and I hope we have the opportunity to discuss a more permanent solution for the Office’s funding in the future.

I would be pleased to answer your questions.