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Access to Information: Proactive Dissemination Extended

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Privacy & Information Protection Bulletin

Today, April 1, 2015, the amendments to the Regulation respecting the distribution of information and the protection of personal information ("Regulation") come into force. As we will see below, the amendments to the Regulation are intended to increase proactive dissemination of information by the public bodies subject to it.

Proactive dissemination is a fundamental aspect of the "Government policy directions for a more transparent government, respectful of a person's right to privacy and the protection of personal information," made public on March 17, 2015. To find out more about these policy directions, please read our bulletin Government Policy Directions for a More Transparent Government.

The list of categories of the information that must be proactively disseminated has grown from 15 to 28 (section 4 of the Regulation). The following are some of the major changes:

1. Dissemination of the documents sent under a request for access, which replaces the previous criteria deemed too subjective, when only requests that are of "interest for the purposes of public information" were subject to proactive dissemination (paragraph 8);

2. An elaborate code providing for the systematic dissemination of detailed information on the expenses incurred in in the performance of duties: travel expenses, official cars, official expenses, receptions and welcoming activities and mobile telecommunications contracts (paragraphs 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 25);

3. Dissemination of information about training activities followed by the members of a public body, both internal and external (paragraphs 22 and 23);

4. Dissemination of information on advertising and marketing contracts (paragraph 24);

5. Dissemination of information about each lease entered into by a public body, including the amount of the rent (paragraph 27).

As a general rule, public bodies must promptly disseminate through a dedicated section of their website the documents and information contemplated in the Regulation, including documents sent in connection with a request for access to information, which must be published within five business days following the day on which they are sent to the person requesting access (Section 5).

Bear in mind that, for the time being, the Regulation applies only to the following public bodies: the government, the Executive Council, the Treasury Board, the ministries, and government agencies.

However, the government has announced its intention to eventually extend the application of the Regulation, within an undefined period of time, to municipal bodies, educational organizations, health and social services establishments, and professional orders.

In short, the persons in charge of access to information will have important tasks to fulfill in order to comply with these new regulatory requirements. To our knowledge, the government has not allocated more resources to public bodies, meaning that fulfilling the new obligations will be a major challenge.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding the application of the Regulation or the Act respecting Access to Documents Held by Public Bodies and the Protection of Personal Information.

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