Pan-Canadian Health Organization (PCHO) Implementation Steering Group – Terms of Reference


On October 3, 2017, Minister Petitpas Taylor tasked two external advisors, Dr. Pierre-Gerlier Forest and Dr. Danielle Martin, to: (1) assess the role and impact of the eight federally-funded pan-Canadian health organizations (PCHOs) to advance progress on pan-Canadian priorities and federal objectives on specific issues; and, (2) consider and reimagine how the suite of organizations could be modified to expand their reach and contribution to addressing key health system challenges.

The advisors' summary report, Fit for Purpose: Findings and Recommendations of the External Review of the Pan-Canadian Health Organizations, was released on March 27, 2018. In it, the advisors made a number of recommendations and set out a range of possible future scenarios for reconfiguring and/or remandating the eight organizations. Each of the scenarios is aligned with specific policy outcomes and a signature value - specifically, efficiency, innovation, engagement and equity. The advisors did not recommend a preferred or ideal scenario. Rather they left to the Minister of Health the choice of approach which might be one of the scenarios or a combination of features of several.

From a subject-matter standpoint, the scenarios described in the report address five key themes:

  1. Drugs and pharmaceutical policy;
  2. Data, information, reporting and digital health;
  3. Quality, innovation and system transformation;
  4. Partnerships for health; and
  5. Process improvements.

In response to the report the federal Minister of Health has indicated that further consideration and engagement should occur with a focus on a practical approach that would increase the capacity of a revitalised suite of PCHOs to play a stronger leadership role in collaboration with partners across the country. The Minister has also stated that she would like to be in a position to announce her decisions on the future of the PCHOs early in 2019.

To oversee and help guide this next phase of the PCHO Review work leading to decisions in early 2019, Health Canada is appointing a time-limited Implementation Steering Group (ISG) to develop a detailed implementation plan for reconfiguring and/or remandating the organizations.

Given the recent launch of the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare under the leadership of Dr. Eric Hoskins, a detailed implementation plan on the theme of drugs and pharmaceutical policy will be deferred until the Council has submitted its report and the Government has indicated how it intends to proceed on pharmacare.


The ISG will be responsible for developing a detailed implementation plan and providing advice to the Government of Canada over the period July to December 2018. With the exception of pharmaceutical policy as noted above, the implementation plan will address all eight PCHOs and the substantive health system priorities they are mandated to pursue.

The ISG's work will involve three main elements:

  1. Building on the recommendations and options in Fit for Purpose and the ISG's own analysis, developing a framework for reconfiguring and/or remandating the PCHO suite, supported by targeted consultations with PCHOs, experts and others;
  2. Refining and engaging on the framework and a related proposal for reconfiguring and/or remandating the PCHOs, including identifying key implementation considerations; and
  3. Following consideration of the proposal by the Minister, developing a detailed implementation plan for reconfiguring and/or remandating the PCHO suite, including elaborating the key implementation considerations, a critical path and resource implications for a phased implementation process.

ISG Governance, Term and Composition

The ISG will be launched in July 2018 as a time-limited advisory body, in keeping with Health Canada's policy on external advisory bodies. It will be comprised of three respected Canadian health system leaders:

  • Leslee Thompson (Chair)
  • Stéphane Robichaud
  • Jean-Louis Denis

The work of the ISG will take place over the summer and fall 2018, and is expected to wind up at the end of calendar year 2018. The announcement by the Minister of a plan for the forward path is expected to follow in early 2019.

The Chair will be responsible for ensuring that the ISG mandate is fulfilled, for leading the external engagement process and for liaising with federal officials and the Minister during the course of the work and at its conclusion.

Roles, Responsibilities and Activities

The next phase of the PCHO Review work will be a collaborative process between the Implementation Steering Group and Health Canada and will actively involve the PCHOs, experts, and key stakeholders (including provinces and territories and others likely to benefit from a reconstituted PCHO suite).

The ISG will be responsible for:

  • Providing advice and direction to the Health Canada secretariat on the work plan, including with respect to the development of a framework and proposal for reconfiguring and/or remandating the PCHOs, engagement activities and outcomes, implementation considerations and issues, and the detailed implementation plan.
  • Working with Health Canada officials on the proposal and detailed implementation plan, including the feasibility and practicality of the preferred approach to a reconstituted /remandated PCHO suite.
  • Engaging with PCHOs, provincial and territorial officials, health portfolio officials (e.g., in Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research), Indigenous leaders and a range of key stakeholders as the work unfolds.

The views and perspectives of the two external advisors who undertook the PCHO External Review will be considered during this next phase of the PCHO review process. Accordingly, it is expected that the ISG will consult with them, and seek their guidance and advice as needed in this process.

The ISG and Health Canada will also reach out to the PCHOs on a regular basis to keep them informed of progress. In developing the implementation plan, the ISG will consider the impact on current and planned PCHO activities with a particular focus on how disruption to critical on-going functions can be minimized during any transition process. The ISG will report orally and in writing to Health Canada and the Minister of Health in mid-October and at the conclusion of its work.

Secretariat Responsibilities

A Health Canada secretariat will support the ISG in carrying-out its activities. Specific responsibilities of the Secretariat will include:

  • Providing policy, research, administrative and logistical support to the ISG;
  • Developing and executing engagement and consultation plans throughout the course of the work;
  • Developing drafts of products for consideration by and further direction from the ISG;
  • Engaging with departmental officials on needed research and policy advice to support the ISG, including engaging their expertise and keeping them informed of progress;
  • Engaging across the federal Health Portfolio (specifically, with PHAC and CIHR) and with other federal officials on the range of issues involved in this work;
  • Liaising with central agencies, legal services and others on key policy and machinery issues;
  • Supporting the ISG in the development of its advice on a reconfigured PCHO suite;
  • Supporting the ISG in its meetings with departmental officials and the Minister;
  • Conscripting, as necessary, any additional professional resources to assist with the work.

Process and Timelines

The ISG will be named in July 2018 and will conduct its work from the time of appointment to late Fall 2018. The work will wind up by the end of the calendar year, with an announcement of the forward path expected in early winter 2019.

ISG members will be compensated for their work in accordance with their expertise and anticipated time commitments, and in accordance with Treasury Board and Departmental policies for external advisors.

Information about the ISG members and the activities of this next phase of the PCHO review process will be posted regularly on a dedicated web page.

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