Data from Region of Waterloo's Data Catalogue. Illustration by Allison Leonard.

Who Wants to Know? FOI Requests in WR

Allison Leonard

Deep in a regional documents office, someone works to compile documents, paperwork, information and data as requested–at least in some cases.

The region releases the information about said freedom of information requests to their open data site.

TCE collected and analyzed the last six years of details about Waterloo Region’s FOI requests to consider trends, like which sectors are filing, disclosure rates and which records don’t exist. A few highlights follow.

Requests by industry

Sorted by industry, there are the most requests from the business sector, which also have the highest disclosure rate. In other words, they ask for and receive the most information. Individuals make the second largest number of requests, many of which are filed through an agent, for example to access client files for court cases or Ontario Works files. Media filing is lowest overall, and the few that were filed were returned partly exempt or undisclosed.

Total requests by year

2011 was the year of highest requests, mostly because of a spike in building information requests from businesses. Despite a political focus on liberating data and ease of access online, last year saw the fewest filings since 2010.

Interpreting yearly data

2010-2011: Spike in environmental site assessments, contributing to high business requests and development in the area.

2012: Highest amount of requests regarding GrandLinq (by media and public) were either undisclosed or withdrawn.

2013: Highest level of crime and crime prevention records.

2014: Highest rate of requests for Ontario Works client file reports, over half of which were returned partly exempt or non-disclosed.

Weirdest request

In 2010 an individual requested a food product complaint investigation for pumpkin loaf purchased at [company name removed] in Kitchener.