Policy on Regulatory Transparency and Accountability

From: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Note to reader:

On this page

  1. Purpose
  2. Effective date
  3. Scope of application
  4. Context
  5. Definitions
  6. Principles
  7. Forward Regulatory Plans
  8. Timeliness service standards for high-volume regulatory transactions
  9. Policies on providing guidance on regulatory requirements
  10. Acts and regulations web pages
  11. Accountability, roles and responsibilities.
  12. Additional resources
  13. Enquiries
  14. Date of last revision of this policy

1. Purpose

This Policy on Regulatory Transparency and Accountability (the policy) outlines the requirements that departmentsFootnote 1 must meet in order to comply with the Cabinet Directive on Regulation (the directive) as it relates to:

  • Forward Regulatory Plans
  • service standards for high-volume regulatory transactions
  • providing guidance on regulatory requirements

2. Effective date

This policy takes effect on , and replaces the following Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) guides:

3. Scope of application

This policy applies to all regulations to which the Cabinet Directive on Regulation applies.

4. Context

Canada’s regulatory system is designed to protect and advance the public interest in the following areas:

  • health
  • safety and security
  • the quality of the environment
  • the social and economic well-being of Canadians

As with any modern, open and transparent regulatory system, Canada’s regulatory system should:

  • offer opportunities for stakeholders to participate in developing regulations
  • have mechanisms to provide predictable and timely services to parties who are regulated and to help them understand their regulatory obligations

This policy describes three government-wide regulatory initiatives that must be part of departments’ regulatory activities:

  1. Forward Regulatory Plans: advance notice of planned or anticipated regulatory changes to occur within 24-month periods, published annually
  2. Service standards for high-volume regulatory transactions: timeliness standards that indicate how long a regulated party must wait to receive:
    • a regulatory authorization
    • a refusal for authorization
    • some other response
  3. Policies on providing guidance on regulatory requirements: departmental policies that outline each department’s approach to helping regulated parties understand their regulatory obligations

5. Definitions

  • a business, as defined in the Red Tape Reduction Act:
    • is “a person or entity that engages in commercial activities in Canada, other than for a public purpose”
    • does not include an organization such as the following that engages in activities for a public purpose, for example, social welfare or civic improvement:
      • a provincial or municipal government
      • a First Nations band
      • a self-governing First Nation
      • a school, a college or university
      • a hospital
      • a charity
  • a Forward Regulatory Plan is a publicly available list, with descriptions, of planned or anticipated federal regulatory changes that a department intends to bring forward over a 24-month period
  • a high-volume regulatory transaction is defined as the issuance of a regulatory authorization 100 or more times per year
  • regulations, under the Statutory Instruments Act, are:
    • statutory instruments established pursuant to legislative powers conferred under an act of Parliament that may result in the imposition of legal sanctions if they are contravened
    • used by government as an instrument to mandate or enable particular behaviours or outcomes in order to achieve public policy objectives
  • a regulatory authorization is an authorization granted by the Government of Canada to enable a regulated party to engage in a regulated activity. The type of authorization issued can include but is not limited to:
    • a notice
    • a permit
    • a licence
    • an exemption from certain regulatory requirements
  • a regulatory change,for the purpose of this policy, can be:
    • a new regulation
    • an amendment to an existing regulation
    • the removal of an existing regulation
  • regulatory cooperation is a process to:
    • find efficiencies across jurisdictions
    • reduce unnecessary regulatory differences
    • achieve domestic policy goals
    The process of regulatory cooperation aims to:
    • facilitate trade and investment
    • promote economic growth and job creation
    • increase consumer choice
    A central pillar of regulatory cooperation is the maintenance or enhancement of standards for environmental protection and public health and safety.
  • a regulatory initiative, in the context of a Forward Regulatory Plan, is a planned or anticipated federal regulatory change
  • a regulatory requirement, in the context of this policy, is a compulsion, obligation, demand or prohibition through a regulation that is placed on a regulated party or its activities or operations. A regulatory requirement may also be thought of as any obligation that a regulated party must satisfy to in order to avoid certain consequences (for example, fines, penalties, charges and delays in approvals).
  • Stakeholders, in the context of this policy, are individuals or parties who have an interest or concern in federal regulations and related federal government initiatives. Stakeholders can include the following:
    • Canadians
    • Indigenous peoples
    • governments
    • organizations
    • businesses
    • trading partners

6. Principles

This policy adheres to the following three principles to achieve regulatory transparency and accountability:

  • Accessibility: information about how regulations are developed and managed should be:
    • publicly available
    • easily obtained
    • written in clear and concise plain language
  • Predictability: publicly available information on regulations should be:
    • timely
    • meaningful
    • accurate
    • up to date
  • Stakeholder engagement: stakeholders should:
    • be made aware of the government’s regulatory initiatives
    • have opportunities to provide their feedback
    • be notified of opportunities to influence regulatory development

7. Forward Regulatory Plans

According to subsection 5.1.3 of the directive, departments should provide advance notice of upcoming regulatory changes over a period of 24 months, and the notice should be provided annually.

Details on regulatory initiatives appear in Forward Regulatory Plans. Departments must give stakeholders the opportunity to provide comments on the plans. Regulatory initiatives should also have had the benefit of stakeholder engagement on instrument choice, before the initiative is included in a Forward Regulatory Plan.

7.1 Overview

Forward Regulatory Plans announce at an early stage of regulatory development that a department intends to regulate in a particular area. Such plans allow stakeholders to:

  • predict and plan for opportunities to influence regulation-making
  • adjust their activities before new regulations are made

Forward Regulatory Plans can prompt coordination efforts between departments and with other regulatory jurisdictions that plan to work on similar initiatives.

7.2 Requirements

Each year by April 1, departments must:

  • develop a 24-month Forward Regulatory Plan that spans two fiscal years, starting from April 1
  • include a link in their Forward Regulatory Plan to their regulatory stock review plan (refer to the TBS’s guidance document on regulatory stock review)
  • post their Forward Regulatory Plan online
  • include a link to the Forward Regulatory Plan on their web page on acts and regulations (see section 10 of this policy)

As mentioned, initial consultation with stakeholders on instrument choice should occur before a proposed regulatory initiative is incorporated into a Forward Regulatory Plan. To help ensure meaningful engagement, departments should:

  • promote awareness of Forward Regulatory Plans to their stakeholders
  • provide stakeholders with an opportunity to comment on the plan and tell the government whether the department’s regulatory priorities reflect the issues that stakeholders face

 How departments promote awareness of Forward Regulatory Plans and invite comments is at their discretion

7.2.1 How to determine which regulatory initiatives to include

At a minimum, regulatory initiatives should be included in a Forward Regulatory Plan if either of the following actions are expected to occur within 24 months of the plan’s publication (on April 1):

  • pre-publication of the initiative as a regulatory proposal in the Canada Gazette, Part I
  • publication of the final regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II

Departments may, as a good practice, also include regulatory initiatives that are planned to come forward over a longer time frame. Departments should clearly indicate that such initiatives are long-term and are not expected to result in regulations being pre-published or published in their final form within the 24-month period.

In cases where more than one minister is responsible for a regulatory initiative, the initiative should be described in the Forward Regulatory Plan of each minister who is responsible for the initiative.

It is recognized that including a regulatory initiative in a Forward Regulatory Plan is not always feasible, such as in situations that require an immediate or expedited regulatory response from the Government of Canada.

7.2.2 Content and layout

Departments are required to present the information in their Forward Regulatory Plans online in a consistent manner and in accordance with supporting guidelines and tools, including Guidance on Regulatory Transparency and Accountability: Web Content and Layout. Elements of a regulatory initiative

Departments must describe each regulatory initiative separately, accurately and concisely, in plain language. Elements required for each regulatory initiative are outlined in the following (elements required for Miscellaneous Amendment Regulations are limited to (a), (b),(c), (h) and (i)):

a) Title or working title of the regulatory initiative

The title of the regulatory initiative must reflect the nature or subject matter of the regulatory change being proposed.

b) Enabling act(s)

Departments must list the title(s) of the enabling act(s) that provides the authority for the proposed regulatory initiative.

c) Description

Departments must describe the regulatory initiative and indicate the key objective(s) of the initiative

If the initiative is associated with the department’s regulatory stock review plan, indicate this in the description. If the initiative responds to an issue or concern raised by the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations, departments must include the following:

  • a description of the issue or concern raised
  • the date when the issue or concern was first raised
d) Potential impacts on Canadians, including businesses

To the extent possible, departments must briefly describe the expected impacts of the proposed regulatory change on Canadians and businesses. The description must, when known:

  • identify broad stakeholder groups or sectors that may be affected by the change
  • indicate whether there are expected, significant impacts on international trade or investment
e) Regulatory cooperation efforts (domestic and international)

Departments must:

  • describe either:
    • regulatory cooperation efforts undertaken
    • the steps that will be taken to determine whether the initiative will involve regulatory cooperation
  • indicate whether an initiative is under a specific formal regulatory cooperation work plan, such as:
    • the Canadian Free Trade Agreement Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table
    • the Canada-European Union Regulatory Cooperation Forum
    • the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council
f) Consultations

To the extent possible, departments must indicate the planned timing and approach for any upcoming consultations with stakeholders. For consultations that have been notified or pre-published, departments must link to the related entry in the Canada Gazette, Part I.

Departments should also link to any other available consultation information.

If final publication is the next step in the regulatory development process, departments must:

  • briefly describe past consultations
  • indicate when final publication in the Canada Gazette, Part II, is anticipated to occur
g) Further information

To ensure easy access for stakeholders, departments should link to additional information such as data, research and analysis that support the regulatory initiative.

Where links to this information are not included, departments must indicate how the information can be obtained.

h)Departmental contact information

Departments must provide contact information for a government official who has the knowledge necessary to respond to questions on the initiative from the public.

i) The date the regulatory initiative was first included in the Forward Regulatory Plan

Departments must provide the date with its own heading in the plan.

7.2.3 Frequency of updates

Following publication of Forward Regulatory Plans each year on April 1, they must be updated throughout the fiscal year (April 1 to March 31) to account for the following:

  • newly planned or anticipated regulatory initiatives that were not originally in the plan
  • consultation opportunities, indicated through links to entries in the Canada Gazette, Part I, when regulatory initiatives are pre-published

Making additional updates to Forward Regulatory Plans is at the discretion of departments. The plans should be kept as current as possible, such as by:

  • updating plans to remove regulatory initiatives that are no longer planned
  • removing initiatives from plans that have become regulations

8. Timeliness service standards for high-volume regulatory transactions

In accordance with subsection 6.1 of the directive, departments are responsible for “developing, publishing and reviewing service standards for high-volume regulatory transactions that promote the timeliness of decision-making and provide Canadians with clear information on expectations for interactions and service.”

8.1 Overview

Service standards are:

  • integral to good client service
  • important in managing service performance effectively
  • public commitments to a measurable level of performance that clients can expect under normal circumstances (normal day-to-day operations)

Timeliness service standards indicate how long clients should expect to wait to receive a decision, once the service has been accessed. Service standards:

  • enhance predictability by clarifying expectations of clients and those administering the service
  • encourage improved service
  • contribute to managing services in a way that is based on results

When regulated individuals and parties need to obtain a regulatory authorization, they should know how long it will take for the government to issue its final decision (a regulatory authorization or a refusal).

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat requires that departments post timeliness service standards for high-volume regulatory transactions. Legislation and Treasury Board policies, guidelines and tools related to service standards have been referred to in this policy, where possible, to limit duplication of requirements for service standards.

8.2 Requirements

Departments and agencies must implement the following requirements in alignment with the Treasury Board Policy on Service and associated guidelines and tools:

  • develop and post timeliness service standards for high-volume regulatory transactions
  • develop and post a performance target for each service provided
  • gather and post performance results, starting the year after the timeliness service standard is published

As departments review and improve on their delivery of services, they should also update their service standards and performance results.

According to section 5 of the Service Fees Act, “before a performance standard is established in respect of a fee that is fixed…is amended, the responsible authority with respect to the fee must consult any persons and organizations that the responsible authority considers to be interested in the matter.”

In addition to any requirements set out in the Service Fees Act and the related Directive on Charging and Special Financial Authorities, departments must refer to the Policy on Regulatory Development and related guidelines and tools for instruction related to service standards when developing regulations. These guidelines include instruction on what to include in the Triage Statement and the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement.

8.2.1 Content and layout

The web content and layout for posting service standards and performance related information for all high-volume regulatory transactions must conform to the Guideline on Service Management.Footnote 2

Departments must also identify whether the service they provide is a high-volume regulatory transaction. In some cases, there could be one or more timeliness service standards that are associated with such a transaction. Where there is more than one service standard for a high-volume regulatory transaction, departments:

  • may identify service standards separately
  • must clearly identify the regulatory authorization associated with the service standards

9. Policies on providing guidance on regulatory requirements

Section 6.0 of the directive states that departments are to encourage compliance with regulations by providing the “public and regulated communities with all relevant information on what is expected of them in a format that is easy to understand.”

9.1 Overview

Regulated parties want to comply with regulations and should not need to expend unnecessary resources to understand what is expected of them. Although some regulations are complex and technical, departments should use plain language in their policies and guidance where possible.

Policies that outline how a department helps regulated parties to understand their regulatory obligations are integral to good client service. Such policies should require that a department’s advice:

  • is consistent and reliable
  • responds to stakeholders’ enquiries efficiently

9.2  Requirements

In keeping with the directive, departments must:

  • provide the public and regulated communities with all pertinent information on what is expected of them, in a format that is easy to understand
  • develop and post online the department’s policy on providing guidance on regulatory requirements
  • link to the policy on their acts and regulations web page, as discussed in section 10 of this policy

9.2.1 Content and layout

Departments are required to present the information in their policies online in a consistent manner and in accordance with supporting guidelines and tools, including Guidance on Regulatory Transparency and Accountability: Web Content and Layout.

Each policy must include the information outlined below, which may be supplemented with links to online content and tools where such information is publicly available:

  • title: [Department name]’s Policy on Providing Guidance on Regulatory Requirements
  • departmental context: Each department must explain:
    • its overall regulatory responsibilities
    • the scope of application for its policy, such as whether it applies portfolio-wide or is targeted to specific areas
  • building awareness of regulatory requirements: Departments must describe the communications approaches and tools they use to build public awareness of regulatory requirements. They must also describe their approach to developing and publishing guidelines.
  • responding to enquiries: Departments must convey how they respond to questions (verbal and written) from clients by briefly describing the following:
    • under what circumstances the department will provide a written response instead of a verbal one
    • their commitment to informing clients on the extent to which responses are binding on departments
    • their internal practices and tools to improve the quality, timeliness and consistency of answers given by officials
    • how responses to commonly asked questions are made publicly available, such as through frequently asked questions or guidance documents, to limit repeat requests for information
  • commitment to professional service: Departments must:
    • state their commitment to providing professional service
    • describe any best practices or actions they have taken to provide officials with the skills, tools and technical knowledge needed to provide professional service
  • stakeholder engagement: Departments must:
    • describe how stakeholders can provide feedback on services provided
    • provide information concerning judicial or administrative procedures (if any) that are available to stakeholders to challenge regulations or regulatory decisions
    • take into account client feedback on the services they provide with a view to improving them
  • date of last revision: Departments must indicate the date on which their policy was last updated

9.2.2 Frequency of updates

Once their service policies are posted, departments must update them to reflect any changes or improvements.

10. Acts and regulations web pages

10.1 Overview

Stakeholders expect that regulatory information should be easy to find on government websites. Departments must post acts and regulations web pages that serve as a hub for:

  • information on legislation and regulations
  • government-wide regulatory initiatives that support the directive

10.2   Requirements

To make regulatory information accessible, each department must maintain an acts and regulations web page.
Each acts and regulations web page must include or link to the following:

  • a list of the department’s existing legislative acts (this can be done by linking to acts available on the Department of Justice Canada website)
  • a list of the department’s existing regulations (this can be done by linking to regulations available on the Department of Justice Canada website)
  • a link to the department’s Forward Regulatory Plan
  • a link to information on the department’s service standards
  • a link to the department’s policy on providing guidance on regulatory requirements
  • a link to the department’s administrative burden baseline count and annual updates (refer to Counting Administrative Burden Regulatory Requirements)
  • other regulatory information, at the discretion of the department

Departments must meet the web content and layout requirements of Guidance on Regulatory Transparency and Accountability: Web Content and Layout. Departments may supplement their web content with additional information that is unique to their regulatory mandate and activities.

11. Accountability, roles and responsibilities

11.1 Ministers

Ministers are responsible for their department’s Forward Regulatory Plans. Ministers have discretion regarding:

  • which regulatory initiatives are included in Forward Regulatory Plans
  • what information is published in such plans

11.2 Deputy heads

Deputy heads are responsible for departments’:

  • policies on providing guidance on regulatory requirements
  • service standards and performance-related requirements in accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Service

For each federal regulatory initiative, deputy heads are responsible for establishing governance structures and approval processes that follow government communications policies and procedures. Consideration should be given to how to obtain appropriate levels of approval most efficiently.

11.3 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

TBS may:

  • review and assess, as it deems appropriate, departments’ websites to ensure that they meet this policy’s requirements
  • report internally or publicly on its findings

TBS is responsible for updating and maintaining this policy and any supporting guidance.

11.4 Departments

Departments are:

  • accountable for complying with the requirements outlined in this policy and in the directive
  • responsible for adhering to:
    • all applicable policies for web posting and communications
    • Guidance on Regulatory Transparency and Accountability: Web Content and Layout
  • responsible for:
    • the information that is in their publications
    • responding to questions and comments from stakeholders on the information that they publish

12. Additional resources

13. Enquiries

Enquiries and feedback on this policy and its implementation can be made by contacting TBS.

Date of last revision of this policy

This policy was last reviewed on .

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