Fees

Proposal

Eliminate all fees, except for the initial $5 filing fee.

Interim Policy Guidance

On the Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act was issued to take quick action on revitalizing access to information.

It instructs federal institutions to waive all access to information fees apart from the initial $5 filing fee.

Background

The fees for making an access to information request to a federal institution have not been updated since the Access to Information Act was enacted in 1983. Under the Access to Information Act and the Access to Information Regulations, government institutions can charge requestors a $5 application fee to file a request.

Previously, search and preparation and reproduction fees could be charged in certain circumstances:

Following a Federal Court of Canada decision, Canada (Information Commissioner) v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015, government institutions could no longer charge search and preparation fees for electronic records.

In 2014-, government institutions collected a total of $367,654 in fees from requestors:

  • $311,486 in application fees
  • $46,907 in search fees
  • $4,523 in reproduction fees
  • $1,875 in preparation fees
  • $1,666 in production fees for records kept in a machine readable format
  • $1,197 in programming fees for records kept in a machine readable format

The cost of processing the $5 application fee, if it is paid by cash or cheque, is between $51 and $55 per transaction. The cost to process a payment electronically on the Access to Information and Privacy Online Request pilot project is 50 cents.

The fees collected represent only a small fraction of the total costs of the federal access to information program. In 2014-, federal institutions spent over $67 million in direct costs to administer the Access to Information Act. This is the cost of staff and business systems for processing access to information requests in Access to Information and Privacy Offices; it does not include costs associated with business areas searching for and reviewing documents.

While the Government awaits Canadians' feedback on this proposal, it has taken quick action through the new Interim Directive to ensure that all fees apart from the initial $5 filing fee are waived.

Related links

Comments

Christopher Cook - June 30, 2016

I have never been clear on how much it costs to process the $5 fee for requests in the first place. The public, even if it is a lone individual, should not have to pay to find information that should be readily identifiable as exemptible or not in the first place.

Kathleen Martin - May 25, 2016

It should not be a question of eliminating fees, notwithstanding the initial $5 fee, but to implement transparency regarding the governments banking of these fees. Where do they go? What exactly do the extra fees pay for? They are certainly not fueling all of the work being done at the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada (OIC), which is at the bottom of the list when it comes to receiving federal government funding. For example, the OIC can barely support its mandate, approximately 90 employees work tirelessly to stay ahead of a massive amount of incoming complaints, and majority of employees must wear multiple hats to stay within the OIC's current operating budget. Low morale, high burnout and turnover are only some of the issues the OIC is facing. If the government doesn't have enough money to share with the OIC, then the fees should fuel the OIC budget. Just for fun, compare the OIC's budget to the one allocated to the Office of Official Languages Canada. Yes bilingualism is important, but so is preserving government information and decision-making processes generated by each and every one of Canada's federal departments and institutions. Thank you for your time. Kathleen Martin

James McKinney - May 02, 2016

I strongly endorse the elimination of all fees.

Whether an exception should be made to retain the initial $5 filing fee depends on whether:

1) A $5 request fee is an effective deterrent to frivolous and vexatious requests.
2) A $5 request fee doesn't deter submission of legitimate requests.

I don't believe the fee effectively deters frivolous and vexatious requests, as evidenced by the number of such requests government institutions receive presently. Instead, government institutions should have the "authority to decline to process requests or complaints that are frivolous or vexatious", as described in another proposal [1]. This authority is a sufficient remedy.

Indeed, many jurisdictions grant this authority and charge no initial filing fee, including British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada and many more internationally. After introducing new access to information legislation, New Brunswick eliminated its initial $5 filing fee around 2010, and Newfoundland and Labrador eliminated its initial $5 filing fee in 2015.

On the second point, access to information is a human right recognized by international law. As the Centre for Law and Democracy wrote in a 2012 report, "the notion of charging fees in order to dissuade people from exercising their rights is offensive" [2]. I consider the initial $5 filing fee to be more likely to dissuade legitimate requests than to deter frivolous and vexatious requests.

Therefore, all fees should be eliminated, including the initial $5 filing fee.

1. http://open.canada.ca/en/consultation/discretion-for-frivolous-and-vexa…
2. http://www.law-democracy.org/live/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Canada-rep…

Mark Weiler - May 06, 2016

I agree with James that the application fee should be waived because access to information is recognized internationally as a human right. Canada will continue to be a place where people who can't afford the fee are denied this right. Abolish the application fee like other countries have done.