On March 31, 2004, the User Fees Act received Royal Assent from the Parliament of Canada, which established a protocol for fixing, increasing, expanding the application of or increasing the duration of a user fee.
The past decades have witnessed dramatic changes in public expectations about fiscal responsibility in government. The impact of the federal government's Program Reviews is well known: a fundamental rethinking about government's role in providing services has been required. Efforts to meet concerns about why some services are delivered and how performance can be measured and improved may be found in government initiatives introducing charges for services, rights and privileges.
Charging for regulatory services, rights and privileges, or, "external charging," has become an integral feature of many programs under the authority of the Minister of Health. Central to these initiatives is the rationale that charging fees fosters greater accountability for the use of scarce government resources.
By charging for services, rights and privileges, direct users have an opportunity to decide if they do value the services, rights and privileges they are getting. In the context of today's exponential growth in health-related knowledge, technology, techniques and therapies, these charges can act as a natural check against spiraling costs and demands on programs.
Implementing external charging is not without challenges. For instance, achieving the goal of greater accountability for scarce government resources is difficult in many situations. The extensive consultations undertaken to support Health Canada's external charging initiatives have served to support greater accountability and increase understanding between government, clients and stakeholders. Many who have participated in these consultations have seen them as a key benefit of charges being introduced.
A Departmental Centre for External Charging
The Revenue and Costing Section, Chief Financial Officer Branch, has been established as a Center of Expertise as part of Health Canada's efforts to provide quality, cost effective services to the Department's programs, specifically to provide corporate support to external charging initiatives within Health Canada.
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