Feds eye new tools to help Access to Information system recover after COVID-19

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OTTAWA — The Trudeau government says it will look at whether investments in new technology could help clear any backlog of information requests that arises from a COVID-19 related bottleneck.

The Access to Information Act allows people who pay a $5 fee to request a wide range of federal files but the government says the novel coronavirus is hindering its ability to answer requests in a timely way.

Treasury Board spokesman Martin Potvin says a coming parliamentary review of the access law will be an opportunity “to have an open exchange” on how new tools and approaches could help provide faster responses to requests.

Information commissioner Caroline Maynard recently predicted it could take years to recover from the expected delays caused by COVID-19 without prompt federal action.

She wrote Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos to say the system was in a critical phase and may soon be beyond repair if ongoing and developing issues go unaddressed.

She added that with appropriate leadership and some bold choices, the difficulties could be the catalyst for a true renewal of the access system sought by many.