Guide on Improving Service Performance for Regulatory Authorizations

Table of Contents

1. Purpose

This Guide on Improving Service Performance for Regulatory Authorizations (the guide) outlines the requirements that departments and agencies must meet to comply with the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management. These requirements encompass the commitments outlined in the Government of Canada’s Red Tape Reduction Action Plan that responds to the recommendations of the Red Tape Reduction Commission. This guide is intended for use by federal public servant employees responsible for developing service standards and posting them on departmental and agency websites.

Quality of service and predictability of service are legitimate expectations of Canadians when interacting with the Government of Canada. The establishment of timeliness service standards for regulatory authorizations will clarify expectations and increase predictability in the federal regulatory system. This will benefit the many Canadians, particularly businesses, who must seek permission from the federal government either to conduct a regulated activity or be exempt from it.

2. Effective Date

This guide takes effect immediately on distribution to departments and agencies.

3. Context

Canada’s regulatory system is designed to protect and advance the public interest in the areas of health, safety and security, the quality of the environment, and the social and economic well-being of Canadians. While regulation itself is not a service, there is a small sub-set of regulatory activities that are characteristic of a service. These activities are called regulatory authorizations.

Regulatory authorizations largely have an enabling function. The Government of Canada grants an individual, business, or regulated entity permission either to conduct a regulated activity or be exempt from it. In the case of business, clear and timely government decisions in this area can have an impact on their ability to operate, grow or expand their business.

Canadians expect, and deserve, professionalism and predictability from regulators. Service standards are a public commitment to a measurable level of performance that clients can expect under normal circumstances. They help clarify expectations for clients, including by indicating how long clients should expect to wait to receive a service once that service has been accessed. By establishing service standards for regulatory authorizations, the government is creating a more transparent and predictable federal regulatory system that will make it easier for regulated parties to know what to expect, particularly in terms of the timeliness of decision making.

On April 1, 2012, a new federal regulatory policy, the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management, entered into force, replacing the 2007 Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation. The Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management outlines specific requirements for the development, implementation, evaluation and review of regulations, including those that relate to service performance.

The requirements for developing service standards are outlined in Section 7(P) of the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management, “Service Performance.” It stipulates that:

  • Departments and agencies are responsible for maintaining high levels of professionalism in their interactions with affected Canadians, including businesses, and for providing them with clear and timely decisions.
  • Departments and agencies will therefore develop and publish services standards that, at a minimum, address the timeliness of decision making. They will also report publicly on performance against those standards, particularly for regulatory authorizations (e.g., licensing, permits, certifications).
  • Departments and agencies will also clarify information requirements and the process to be followed, including the process for complaints about poor service.

The Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management is not the only federal policy instrument that requires the development and publication of service standards. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s (the Secretariat’s) 2004 Policy on Service Standards for External Fees states that “the provision of services external to the federal government, for which fees are charged, must be accompanied with service standards that are: (a) measurable; and (b) relevant at the level of the paying stakeholder.” This requirement also extends to longstanding regulatory authorizations that charge a fee (that is, those that were in existence at the time the policy came into effect). The Policy on Service Standards for External Fees complements the 2004 User Fees Act, which requires the development of service standards when proposing a new fee or amending an existing fee. Accordingly, all regulatory authorizations that charge the user (applicant) a fee are already required to have a service standard in place.

There are many different regulatory authorizations across the government. For some of these authorizations, departments and agencies receive and process thousands of applications a year, many of these from businesses. In the 2012 Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, the Government of Canada commits to set service standards specifically for high-volume regulatory authorizations. 

The requirements in this guide implement both the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan and the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management. Given the specific nature of the Government of Canada’s commitments in the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, departments and agencies should focus early efforts on developing service standards for high-volume regulatory authorizations that impact business and that do not currently have publicly available service standards.

4. Scope of Application

This guide applies to all federal departments, agencies, and entities, as defined by Section 3 of the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management (refer to Table 1).

Canadians expect the Government of Canada to provide professional and predictable service, irrespective of whether or not a fee is charged for the service. Accordingly, the requirements in Section 7(P) of the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management do not distinguish between regulatory authorizations that charge user fees and those that do not.

As previously stated in Section 3 of this guide, all regulatory authorizations that charge a user fee are required either by the User Fees Act or by the Policy on Service Standards for External Fees to have publicly available service standards in place. Therefore, departments and agencies should focus their early attention on developing (and posting on the Web) service standards for high-volume regulatory authorizations that impact business and that do not currently have publicly available service standards.

Table 1. Section 3 of the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management

7. Federal departments, agencies and entities: The Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management applies to all federal departments, agencies, and entities over which the Cabinet has either general authority or a specific authority relating to regulation making, or both such authorities:

  • (i) Federal departments, agencies, and entities under the general authority of Cabinet include all of the public administration, including ministers, with the exception of certain federal entities that are created by statute and that have an existence, a mandate, and powers with substantial independence from the government.
  • (ii) Entities not under the general authority of Cabinet must comply with the Directive if the Governor in Council or the Treasury Board has a specific authority related to regulation making.
  • (iii) Entities not under the general authority of Cabinet and over which Cabinet does not have a specific authority should, as a matter of good regulatory practice, follow the Directive and apply its requirements as appropriate to their context.

5. Definitions

The following terms and definitions apply to this guide:

Regulatory authorization:

A regulatory authorization is a decision-making activity whereby a regulated party submits an application to the Government of Canada seeking permission either to conduct a regulated activity or be exempt from it. The Government may grant permission in various forms, including a permit, licence or certification. Table 2 provides examples of different types of regulatory authorizations in the Government of Canada.

Table 2. Examples of Regulatory Authorizations
Permit Licence Certification Registration Authorization
Hatchery permit  Cheese import licence Arctic pollution prevention certificate Registration of  an aircraft Authorization to introduce fish species

High-volume regulatory authorization:

A high-volume regulatory authorization is defined as one with 100 or more transactions per year. This is the threshold that triggers the requirement to develop service standards for every authorization of this kind.

Service standard:

A service standard is a public commitment to a measurable level of performance that clients can expect under normal circumstances (normal day-to-day operations).

Timeliness service standard:

A type of service standard that states how long the client should expect to wait to receive a service once the service has been accessed.

Performance target:

A performance target is the frequency (often expressed as a percentage) that a department or agency expects to meet a service standard. All service standards should be linked to a performance target.

6. Principles

The key principles that will drive the development and implementation of timeliness service standards for high-volume regulatory authorizations are:

Accountability:

Deputy heads are accountable for service performance within their organizations. Given the broad range of unique risks and operational imperatives associated with implementing service standards, deputy heads require a degree of flexibility when developing and implementing service standards and performance targets for regulatory authorizations.

Achievability:

Service standards for regulatory authorizations should be realistic and achievable, yet meaningful to the individuals requesting the authorization.

Continuous improvement:

There should be an objective of improving service performance over time; service standards and service improvement initiatives should be regularly reviewed and updated.

7. General Overview of Service Standards and Performance Targets

7.1 Service Standards

Service standards are integral to good client service and important for effective management of service performance. They also help clarify expectations for clients and employees, drive service improvement, and contribute to a results-based approach to management.

Service standards demonstrate the government’s commitment to service excellence. Under the Management Accountability Framework, one of the elements that deputy heads are assessed on is the extent to which their organization has established and published service performance indicators and service standards for its services.

The Secretariat has developed a Guideline on Service Standards to provide guidance on developing and managing service standards for a broad range of services to citizens and business. The guideline complements multiple Government of Canada policy instruments that require departments and agencies to establish service standards, including, as previously mentioned, the following:

The Guideline on Service Standards outlines a set of generic steps that can be applied to the development, implementation and performance monitoring of service standards.

Figure 1 lays out the overall process for developing service standards (inside circle) and presents the specific steps included under each phase (outside circle). While the 5 phases and 15 steps are presented in a sequential order, some can be undertaken concurrently.

Departments and agencies are encouraged to refer to the TBS Guideline on Service Standards when implementing the requirements of this guide.

Figure 1: Phases and Steps in Life-Cycle Management of Service Standards
Phases  and Steps in Life-Cycle Management of Service Standards. Text version below:
Figure 1 - Text version
  • Phase 1 - Establish Service Standard Priorities
    • Step 1. Take Stock of Existing Initiatives
    • Step 2. Connect to Organizational Priorities
  • Phase II - Plan and Develop Service Standards
    • Step 3. Develop Service Standards
    • Step 4. Assess Monitoring Capacity
    • Step 5. Validate Proposed Service Standards
    • Step 6. Determine the Performance Methodology and Measurement Framework
  • Phase III - Implement Service Standards
    • Step 7. Establish and Implementation Plan
    • Step 8. Determine if New Systems or Processes are Necessary
    • Step 9. Train Staff and Service Delivery Partners
    • Step 10. Communicate Service Standards
  • Phase IV - Measure Performance Against Service Standards
    • Step 11. Measure Performance
    • Step 12. Evaluate Findings and Report to Senior Management
    • Step 13. Publish Results for Clients
  • Phase V - Act on the Results
    • Step 14. Determine Course of Action
    • Step 15. Implement Required Changes

Source: Guideline on Service Standards

7.2 Performance Targets

An operational performance target represents the frequency with which the organization expects to meet their service standards under “normal circumstances.” The target takes into account the risks associated with process delays and uncertainties arising from factors such as workload fluctuations, staff movements, and seasonal variations. The target is useful in managing operations and tracking progress against overall delivery objectives.

Departments and agencies should set ambitious but attainable performance targets. Table 3 shows an example of a service standard and its corresponding performance target.

Table 3. Comparing Service Standards and Performance Targets
Service Standard Performance Target
► The Canada Revenue Agency has put in place a standard to process T2 corporation income tax returns within 60 days. ► The target for achieving this standard is set at 90 per cent.

8. Requirements

This section outlines the requirements that departments and agencies must meet to be in compliance with the CDRM. As stated previously in Section 3 of this guide, departments and agencies should place an early and particular focus on developing and posting timeliness service standards for high-volume regulatory authorizations that impact business and that do not have a publicly available service standard on their website.

8.1 Service Standards

Departments and agencies are required to develop timeliness service standards, meaning that the service standards must articulate, at a minimum, how long the client should expect to wait to receive a decision from the government on their application for a regulatory authorization.

Examples of timeliness service standards can be found in the Guideline on Service Standards.

8.2 Information and Process Requirements

Departments and agencies are required to post on their Acts and Regulations Web page (refer to Section 8.4) the information requirements and process that applicants must follow when applying for the authorization. A departmental contact who can answer questions from the public must also be identified.

The level of detail necessary to meet this requirement will vary depending on the complexity of the authorization process. At a minimum, there should be clear and straightforward information on how to apply for the authorization, what the process entails, and a brief description of the roles and responsibilities of both the applicant and the department or agency at key stages in the application process.

8.3 Feedback Mechanism

Departments and agencies must develop and implement a process to receive and respond to complaints and other feedback from stakeholders on their service standards. First and foremost, departments and agencies must identify on their website (refer to Section 8.4) how Canadians can lodge a complaint if service expectations have not been met. An internal process to manage the complaints should also be established. This will help ensure that complaints are addressed and will enable the department or agency to track trends over time so that improvements can be made, as necessary.

Departments and agencies are encouraged to involve their legal affairs team in the development of service standards, including with respect to developing an internal process to manage complaints as it may involve the collection and management of personal or sensitive information.

8.4 Posting Service Standards on the Web

The Secretariat will issue guidance detailing the suite of required changes to departmental and agency websites to improve the transparency of the federal regulatory system. The document Guidance on Forward Planning and Related Measures to Improve the Transparency and Predictability of the Federal Regulatory System states that all regulatory departments and agencies must develop a departmental Acts and Regulations Web page. This Web page is to include, inter alia, information on the government’s regulatory reform initiatives, including service standards for high-volume regulatory authorizations.

In posting the new service standards, departments and agencies must meet all of the requirements outlined both in this guide and the Guidance on Forward Planning and Related Measures to Improve the Transparency and Predictability of the Federal Regulatory System, as well as other relevant TBS policies and standards (for example, the Standard on Web Accessibility).

Departments and agencies can customize the presentation of their new service standards, providing that they meet the above-stated requirements. They also have flexibility to determine how best to link these new standards to their existing service standards that are posted elsewhere on the departmental or agency website.

8.5 Measuring and Reporting Performance

Departments and agencies are required to post their annual service performance against the new service standards on their departmental Acts and Regulations Web page (refer to Section 8.4).

Service performance is to be measured as the proportion of transactions for which the department or agency met the service standard. It should be expressed as a percentage.

Table 4. Example of Measuring Service Performance
Service Standard Successful applicants will generally receive their authorization within X weeks.
Performance Target The target for achieving this standard is set at Y per cent.
Assessment Measure What proportion of successful applicants across the country received their authorization within X weeks?

Departments and agencies are encouraged to use their Corporate Evaluation, Corporate Planning or other groups that specialize in performance measurement as they can help identify successful and practical approaches to monitor, assess and report on service performance.

Departments and agencies are required to post their service performance on a national basis. Providing that this requirement is met, departments and agencies can also customize the presentation of their service performance information in a manner meaningful to their regional stakeholders (for example, by posting service performance by region).

Table 5 provides an example of how service performance could be presented on departmental and agency Acts and Regulations Web pages. The Secretariat recommends that multi-year service performance information be published to demonstrate performance (and improvement) over time.

Table 5. Example of How Service Performance Could Be Reported
Performance Reporting
Standard Target 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12
Successful applicants will generally receive their authorization within X weeks. 90% 91% 93% 94%

Departments and agencies will publish their service performance by June 1 for the previous fiscal year. The first full year for which service performance information will be reported is 201314, which must be published no later than June 1, 2014.

8.6 Approvals Process

Departments and agencies should establish an approvals process for these new service standards.

It is recommended that service standards for regulatory authorizations be approved at the assistant deputy minister level prior to being posted on departmental and agency websites. In some instances, deputy head or ministerial approval may be appropriate.

Departments and agencies are encouraged to have their legal affairs team review the proposed wording of the service standard prior to seeking final approval from senior management.

9. Implementation

9.1 Timeline for Establishing Service Standards

The development of service standards must balance the capabilities of the organization and the expectations of clients and stakeholders. As such, there may be a limit to the number of service standards that a department or agency can develop and effectively implement in a given year.

The Secretariat will set and communicate to departments and agencies annual compliance requirements. These requirements will have an early and particular focus on developing service standards where they do not already exist for high-volume regulatory authorizations that impact business.

For example, in 2013, departments and agencies will establish service standards for all of their regulatory authorizations that have more than 2,000 transactions per year. Departments and agencies that do not have any of these regulatory authorizations must establish a service standard for their highest volume authorization that has over 100 transactions per year. In effect, all departments and agencies that have high-volume regulatory authorizations will develop and post at least one new service standard in 2013.

All high-volume regulatory authorizations must have service standards in place, as per the requirements in Section 8 of this guide, no later than winter 2016. Departments and agencies will become fully compliant at different times between 2013 and 2016. A large regulatory department that has several high-volume regulatory authorizations could take multiple years to reach full compliance. A smaller regulatory agency that has few high-volume regulatory authorizations will reach full compliance sooner.

Table 6. Schedule of Requirements for Developing Service Standards
Deadline Requirements
March 2013
  1. Departments and agencies will develop and post service standards for their regulatory authorizations that impact business, have more than 2,000 transactions per year and do not currently have publicly available service standards.
  2. Departments and agencies that do not have any of the above regulatory authorizations must establish a service standard for their highest-volume authorization that impacts business and has over 100 transactions per year.
March 2014
  1. Departments and agencies will develop and post service standards for their regulatory authorizations that impact business, have more than 1,000 transactions per year and do not currently have publicly available service standards.
  2. Departments and agencies that do not have any of the above regulatory authorizations must establish a service standard for their highest-volume authorization that impacts business and has over 100 transactions per year.  
March 2015
  1. Departments and agencies will develop and post service standards for their regulatory authorizations that impact business, have more than 500 transactions per year and do not currently have publicly available service standards.
  2. Departments and agencies that do not have any of the above regulatory authorizations must establish a service standard for their highest-volume authorization that impacts business and has over 100 transactions per year.
March 2016
  1. Departments and agencies will develop and post service standards for their regulatory authorizations that impact business, have more than 100 transactions per year and do not currently have publicly available service standards.

9.2 Annual Scorecard Report

The President of the Treasury Board will issue an Annual Scorecard Report on the government’s key regulatory management reforms, including service improvement measures. It will be made available to the public through the Secretariat’s website.

10. Accountability and Roles and Responsibilities

10.1 Deputy Heads

Deputy heads are responsible for complying with the requirements of this guide and the CDRM. This includes the establishment of service standards and publishing departmental performance in meeting those standards in accordance with the timelines set out in this document.

10.2 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

The Secretariat’s Regulatory Affairs Sector (RAS) will monitor and track the development and performance of service standards for regulatory authorizations. RAS is also responsible for drafting the Annual Scorecard Report (refer to Section 9.2 in this guide).

The Secretariat’s Chief Information Officer Branch (CIOB) will provide guidance to departments and agencies in the pursuit of sound service management practices.

11. Additional Resources for Regulators

The Canada School of Public Service offers courses on service standards for public servants, including functional specialists on service delivery:

  • Service Standards Lifecycle Management (T177)
  • Service Excellence for Citizens (T178)
  • Service Excellence for Colleagues (T198)

The Community of Federal Regulators is a forum to share knowledge and experience in the federal regulatory process.

The Government of Canada Community of Practice on Service Excellence is a forum for federal service delivery practitioners to share information and best practices.

The Secretariat’s Chief Information Office Branch can answer specific questions from departments and agencies regarding the development of individual service standards.

12. Enquiries

For information about this guide, please use the TBS Contact Us Form or consult the Regulatory Affairs Sector Website

For information about departmental or agency service standards, please contact that organization.

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