Like all other federal departments, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is legally obliged to provide answers to written parliamentary questions by Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators. These questions mostly originate from MPs, which Parliament transmits to the Privy Council Office (PCO), which in turn tasks the appropriate or named department(s) with providing written answers within 45 days of the asking of the question.
If a tasked/named department does not provide a response to a written question within 45 days, or if the MP asking the question does not consider the departmental response to be accurate or satisfactory, they may raise a question of privilege in the House, and the Minister of Canadian Heritage (for LAC) or another member of the Government may address the issue.
Each year, LAC receives an average of 110 written parliamentary questions (see the Annex), to which it has to respond in tight timeframes (between 8 to 10 calendar days). A small number of questions are repeated often almost word for word in different parliamentary sessions. A considerable number of questions target subject matter relating to advertisement, contracts, public opinion polling, procurement, social media, telecommunications, travel and hospitality.
LAC is a portfolio agency of the Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH), and Governance, Liaison and Partnerships (GLAP) receives written parliamentary questions from PCH’s Cabinet and Parliamentary Affairs division. GLAP informs Communications about each question. Depending on the subject of the question, GLAP then tasks one or more LAC sectors as an office of primary responsibility (OPI) to develop a draft response and submit any information and/or data requested as required. GLAP also researches LAC’s responses to similar questions in the past and advises the OPI accordingly.
After the OPI has developed a draft answer and collected related data and/or information, LAC’s Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Secretariat reviews these documents to determine whether they can be released or need to be redacted and whether LAC released responses to ATIP requests, which touch upon the subject of the question. GLAP and OPIs also validate whether LAC published some or all of the data and information requested. In light of this, GLAP reviews the final draft response and related data/information for:
- clarity and plain language;
- logic; and
- adherence to prescribed PCH/PCO formats and standards.
GLAP then launches an approval workflow, which notifies Communications and the Chief of Staff and ends with the Corporate Secretary approving LAC’s final response as the designated senior official.
Explanations about LAC Data and Information
To respond to a written parliamentary question, LAC needs to fill out a Statement of Completeness, which the Corporate Secretary signs and certifies as complete and accurate, and which is often accompanied by a filled-out template with the data and/or information requested.
In either/both documents, LAC needs to explain:
- any limitations of the data and/or information provided, including exemptions related to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act;
- any data and/or information that is either not available or not applicable; and
- any data and/or information that could seem surprising, out of the ordinary, or unusual, such as significant discrepancies in expenditures declared from one year to another or significantly higher expenditures compared to others in the same response.
LAC will receive new written parliamentary questions sometime in December or in early 2020 when the new parliamentary session starts.
Annex: Written Parliamentary Questions Received between 2014 and 2019: Statistics
||Number of Questions Received from MPs
||Number of Questions Received from Senators
(session in progress)
Boris Stipernitz, Director, Governance, Liaison and Partnerships