Environmental regulations: interpretation policy

This policy outlines the commitments, practices and tools to be applied by Environment and Climate Change Canada when providing Canadians and businesses with information and guidance on regulatory obligations to be met. It also identifies the conditions under which written responses to questions will be provided.

Departmental context

Environment and Climate Change Canada administers over 70 regulations to help ensure Canada's air and water remain clean, that wildlife and habitats are conserved, and that the health of Canadians is protected in every region of the country.

To help the Department apply its regulations in a fair, predictable and consistent manner, Environment and Climate Change Canada has developed the following compliance and enforcement policies for its major legislation:

Consistent with the Department's goal to achieve regulatory excellence, Environment and Climate Change Canada will do its best to facilitate awareness and clear understanding of its regulatory requirements. The following describes the Department's commitments in the areas of predictability, service, stakeholder engagement and improvement. These commitments build on existing government-wide commitments respecting communications and service to Canadians, and values and ethics for the public sector.

Predictability

Plain language commitment

Environment and Climate Change Canada will:

  • prepare regulations in as plain language as possible
  • provide guidance materials in plain language, or in technical language where appropriate, to help stakeholders understand regulatory requirements
  • provide guidance materials, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and other supplemental reference materials in both official languages, and update them in response to recurring queries
  • provide FAQs in plain language for its 10 most accessed existing regulations, and for all new and amended regulations that have an impact on business

Providing guidance and building awareness

Environment and Climate Change Canada will:

  • where there is a need, prepare additional information such as summaries, fact sheets and technical guidance, to help the regulated community be aware of and understand the Department's regulations
  • make this information and departmental contact information widely available
  • maintain internal processes so that departmental representatives are able to communicate regulatory requirements in a clear and consistent manner

Responding to questions

Environment and Climate Change Canada officials will:

  • make every effort to provide accurate responses
  • normally acknowledge or answer in writing within 30 working days of its receipt, any written inquiry concerning the application of regulations
  • correct, in writing and as soon as possible, any incorrect information provided in a written response

Environment and Climate Change Canada does not provide legal advice about how specific regulations may apply to particular circumstances.

Service

Service commitment

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada officials will address all inquiries in a timely manner and with courtesy, respect and professionalism in the official language of choice

Service accountability

Environment and Climate Change Canada:

  • encourages stakeholders to address their inquiries or complaints through an identified departmental contact
  • monitors regulation-related inquiries and complaints, and addresses problems as soon as possible

Staff training

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada will ensure that staff responding to inquiries are knowledgeable and trained to support the service commitments in this policy

Stakeholder engagement

Commitment to stakeholder engagement

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada will engage stakeholders as appropriate and in the official language of their choice when developing practices and materials that facilitate understanding, awareness and compliance with the Department's regulations

Stakeholder engagement mechanisms

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada uses feedback from stakeholders received during the regulatory consultation process to plan and prepare materials and activities to promote regulatory compliance, where appropriate
  • In addition to regulatory consultations, Environment and Climate Change Canada engages stakeholders through mechanisms such as advisory committees
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada analyzes inquiries and comments received from stakeholders to better adapt its materials to their needs

Improvement

Environment and Climate Change Canada will adjust its regulatory information and guidance materials, including FAQs, and activities when there is a demonstrated need.

In addition, based on feedback from stakeholders and departmental officials, Environment and Climate Change Canada has identified the following priority areas for improvement in the delivery of regulatory information and guidance services:

  • making regulatory information and guidance easier for stakeholders to find on the Internet
  • increasing stakeholder awareness of regulatory initiatives, information, guidance material and activities that promote regulatory compliance

Environment and Climate Change Canada is expecting to move its online regulatory information and guidance to the government-wide Canada.ca website in 2017. The new structure, formatting, language requirements and use of metadata on the Canada.ca website will make regulatory information easier for stakeholders to find on the Internet. Since 2015 Environment and Climate Change Canada has also increased social media postings related to regulatory initiatives by approximately 35% in an effort to increase stakeholder awareness of regulatory information, guidance material and activities that promote regulatory compliance.

Environment and Climate Change Canada will assess the effectiveness of these efforts to address the priorities by analyzing changes in visitation to its regulatory information and guidance material available online, and by using feedback from stakeholders.

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