Three Phases of the TB Submission Process

These phases include activities that take place before submission, during the submission process and after submission to the Treasury Board.

The Secretariat guides and supports organizations during all three phases of a TB submission, as shown in Figure 1 - The Treasury Board Submission Process.

Phase 1 - Pre-Submission Phase

Key officials in an organization and in other affected organizations should be consulted during the pre-submission stage, a time when activities typically involve conducting research and preparing documents.

The following key areas should be brought into the process as early as possible:

  • Corporate services, for its integrative role, such as providing advice on timing and process matters and on the organization's other initiatives, usually through the submission coordination unit;
  • Internal audit, to situate previous or planned audits having an impact on the submission;
  • Evaluation, to situate previous or planned evaluations affecting the submission, including cases where a submission relates to a horizontal initiative;
  • Chief financial officer (CFO), so that he or she can prepare to complete an attestation when the proposal has financial implications;
  • Translation services, to begin to plan for these services;
  • Communications, to assess sensitivities in the submission that may need addressing;
  • Portfolio department liaison office, for agencies and Crown corporations, to ensure this office in an organization is aware of the initiative and all needed connections are put in place; and
  • Designated program sector analyst at the Secretariat, from whom the organization's corporate services receives advice on direction, timing and expectations.
Key Officials
Government Organizations Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Deputy Head Secretary / Program Sector Assistant Secretary
Program Assistant Deputy Minister Program Sector Assistant Secretary and Senior Officials
Chief Financial Officer
Program Analyst / Writer Program Sector Analyst
Financial Analyst

At the early stage, the Secretariat's program sector can advise on whether or not a submission is necessary. The program sector can recommend what type of submission to make and what approach to take, as well as identify potential considerations.

The program sector analyst may recommend that items of a more technical nature proceed to the Treasury Board for approval under streamlined, risk-based processes without the need for a formal submission. Alternatively, the analyst might recommend preparing materials for presentation or submission to the Treasury Board, even when there is no explicit requirement to do so. Consultation between officials is a necessary first step in the TB submission process.

The Secretariat regularly updates the Deadline Schedule for Signed Departmental Submissions. An organization's corporate services and the Secretariat can assist in determining when the approval of proposals by Treasury Board would be required in order to carry out planned activities. The early planning stage for TB submissions that seek authorities related to Parliament's Estimates cycle must review deadlines related to this particular process. The Secretariat communicates these deadlines regularly in call letters to organizations.

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Joint Submissions and Projects

A joint submission is suggested when authorities or resources required to carry out an initiative involve organizations under the responsibility of two or more ministers. Consultation with the Secretariat's program sector will determine whether a joint submission is required and who the lead organization will be.

The lead is designated based on the minister's mandate, a Cabinet committee decision or the agreement of the participating organizations. The lead organization is often the one responsible for ultimate delivery of the proposed initiative or reporting on its results. Other organizations should be identified, and their roles and relationships with the lead should be described.

The lead organization is responsible for coordinating the development of the submission with the other organizations and for ensuring that adequate time is allowed to obtain ministerial approvals. All participants work with the lead to prepare the submission and, once their ministers have signed it, are deemed to agree with its contents. A submission is not considered as “received” by the Treasury Board Submission Centre, nor can it proceed to the planned Treasury Board meeting, unless all the required signatures have been submitted by the deadline. The lead CFO develops one attestation letter, usually with input from other departments.

Joint projects

Joint projects are a specific type of joint submission under the Treasury Board Policy on the Management of Projects. In this case, the lead organization is responsible for completing a Project Complexity and Risk Assessment (PCRA) for the project in accordance with the Standard for Project Complexity and Risk and in collaboration with the other participating organizations.

Project approval authority is based on the PCRA and the Treasury Board–approved class of the lead department as per the Organizational Project Management Capacity Assessment in consultation with the Secretariat. Should it be determined that the project does not require Treasury Board approval, the participating organizations can refer to general guidance on joint projects (see Appendix A – Jointly Funded Initiatives in the Project Management Policy).  If Treasury Board approval is required, then the sponsoring minister seeks project approval for the whole project. If there is an interdepartmental agreement with all participating organizations (see Appendix E – Model Interdepartmental Agreement in the Project Management Policy), the lead minister can also seek expenditure authority for the project.

Where there is no memorandum of understanding, each organization must seek separate expenditure authority, regardless of whether the project or the organization's contribution to the project is within or exceeds its own project approval limit. In such a case, the submission acts as the agreement, and each organization signs the submission. Each organizational CFO would develop his or her own attestation letter.

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Omnibus submissions

An omnibus submission is required when one organization is seeking authorities or resources on behalf of other organizations, or when an organization is seeking various authorities for multiple programs. This type of submission is used primarily by central agencies to facilitate government-wide or horizontal initiatives, or for administrative purposes. Only the minister sponsoring the omnibus submission is required to sign, unless ministers of the other participating organizations are seeking other specific authorities.

As in the case of joint submissions, a lead organization must be identified. The lead is designated based on the minister's mandate, a Cabinet committee decision, or the agreement of the participating organizations. The other organizations should be identified and their roles and relationships with the lead described. All participants work with the lead organization in preparing the submission and, once their minister has signed it, are deemed to agree with its contents. The lead CFO develops one attestation letter on the basis of information received from other CFOs.

Good Practice

High consistency and quality in reporting a government organization's financial and performance information allows the Secretariat to undertake the appropriate analysis. If any new information becomes available following the first draft of a submission, it is important to notify the program sector and incorporate the information in the submission, where possible.

It is recommended to liaise regularly with the program sector until the submission is approved and presented to the Treasury Board and sometimes following Board approval. Responding to questions promptly and as clearly as possible supports a smooth process.

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Phase 2 - Submission Phase

This phase covers the period between the decision to prepare a submission and the point at which the submission is considered at a Treasury Board meeting. It includes consulting with the Secretariat, finalizing the submission package, scheduling a TB submission and presenting a submission to the Treasury Board.

Consulting on Submission Drafts – The Secretariat's Challenge Function

After engaging with the related program sector to address any initial considerations and vetting the submission internally with departmental or agency contacts, a government organization may begin formal consultations with the Secretariat and make an initial draft submission. The submission should meet all the requirements outlined in this guide and stand up to thorough analysis by Secretariat's internal policy centre experts.

While sufficient time must be allowed for Secretariat officials to perform their due diligence review and challenge function, a straightforward, clear and concise initial draft will help move the submission forward quickly, with fewer iterations. Prompt response to program sector information requests is important through each stage of the submission process.

The Secretariat's program sector will seek advice from its policy centres on the application of Treasury Board policy and on the appropriateness of the authorities being sought, including advice in the following areas:

  • Expenditure and financial management;
  • Costing;
  • Estimates;
  • Performance measurement, evaluation and audit;
  • Regulations for which Treasury Board approval is required;
  • Information management and information technology;
  • Asset management such as real property;
  • Security;
  • Procurement;
  • Project management;
  • Risk management;
  • Legal services; and
  • Executive organization and classification.

The program sector will provide advice and challenge elements of the draft with the aim of ensuring the following:

  • Clear and concise justification and rationale for the case presented;
  • Detailed information on costing (including assumptions and the cost of alternatives);
  • Linkages to relevant government or organizational initiatives;
  • Treasury Board policy requirements;
  • Authorities required from the Treasury Board;
  • Proposed wording of authorities sought;
  • Cost, funding requirements and source of funds information;
  • Costing validation;
  • Affordability and effectiveness;
  • Risks and mitigation measures;
  • Program integrity;
  • Program delivery;
  • Safeguarding of public funds;
  • Purpose of the procurement;
  • Performance measurement, expected outcomes and links to the organization's corporate management, resources and results structure; and
  • Results of previous audits, evaluation or other administrative reviews.
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Finalizing the Submission Package

Most organizations have established procedures for obtaining the approval of their minister. An organization's corporate services should be consulted to clarify what approvals are necessary. Sign-off from the following key players is usually required:

  • Deputy head
  • Chief financial officer (CFO), whose attestation is required;
  • Sponsoring assistant deputy minister;
  • Legal services;
  • Chief audit executive; and
  • Head of evaluation.

An attestation on the financial aspects of a TB submission will be necessary if the submission has material financial aspects. More details are available in the Guideline on Chief Financial Officer Attestation for Cabinet Submissions.

The final submission package, signed by the sponsoring minister (or ministers), is sent to the Secretariat's Treasury Board Submission Centre. The program sector prepares advice to the Treasury Board based on the TB submission, input from internal consultations, and any additional relevant information the organization has provided. This confidential advice, known as a précis, provides an overview of the submission, an assessment of the risks and mitigation strategies, an analysis of the costing, and recommendations.

During this period prior to the Treasury Board meeting, the program sector may come to the organization with additional requests for clarification or more information for the Secretariat's program sector assistant secretary presenting the submission.

As the Treasury Board's scheduled meeting approaches, the submission and the Secretariat's précis will be reviewed by senior Secretariat officials and its strategy committee, chaired by the Secretary, which plans Treasury Board meetings. This committee ensures that considered, coherent and consolidated advice is provided to Treasury Board members. This advice is a key element of the Secretariat's due diligence and oversight.  

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Scheduling a TB Submission

The Treasury Board usually meets once a week when Parliament is in session, or as needed. Government organizations should take the necessary steps to deliver the submission in compliance with the Secretariat's comments and timelines. Submission complexity and the number of submissions being considered at the same time may affect a submission's timeline.

Submissions may also be delayed when the Treasury Board is not meeting regularly (e.g., during a parliamentary break); when items are best considered in the context of other proposals; or in order to balance the agenda across Treasury Board meetings. The Secretary of the Treasury Board recommends agenda management decisions, and the President approves the final agenda.

The Deadline Schedule for Signed Departmental Submissions is available. If a submission misses the deadline for receipt of the signed submission, it will be rescheduled to a later Treasury Board meeting. In certain cases, an organization's minister may request that the submission be considered at an earlier scheduled meeting. To be considered as urgent, there must be a clear and compelling rationale provided to the Secretariat.

The section Late or Urgent Treasury Board Submissions provides detailed information on late or urgent submissions. For submissions that are time-sensitive (such as the deadline for Supplementary Estimates, planned announcements or an expiring contract), key dates should be closely monitored to obtain the necessary approvals in time.

Consult your corporate services about organizational internal deadlines and procedures. You must allow adequate time internally and externally for developing the submission, consulting with all parties and obtaining all necessary approvals. Further, if a submission affects several organizations, you also need to respect, and incorporate into your planning, their internal timelines to secure authorizations.  

Delivering Signed Submissions lists the requirements for approval and provides information on how to submit a Treasury Board submission or order-in-council, and on how to handle various situations, such as an urgent submission or a change in minister.

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Presentation to the Treasury Board

The submission and the Secretariat's advice are provided to Treasury Board members in advance of meetings for consideration. The Secretary of the Treasury Board, program assistant secretaries and other senior officials from the Secretariat attend Treasury Board meetings to provide oral briefings, respond to questions on behalf of government organizations, as required, and record the Treasury Board decision or decisions on each case.

Ministers sponsoring a submission do not usually appear before the Treasury Board to support or present their submissions. In exceptional circumstances, the President of the Treasury Board may request that a minister, deputy minister or other officials appear to support or explain a proposal.

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Phase 3 - Post-Submission Phase

During this phase, the Secretariat informs the government organization of the decision taken and the official Treasury Board number of the decision. Treasury Board's decision may require that the organization meet specific conditions.

Treasury Board Decisions

Once a submission has been considered by the Treasury Board, Secretariat officials will verbally inform the organization of the decision as soon as practicable. The Secretariat will also send a turnaround document or a decision letter that formally advises the organization's deputy head of the decision.

Turnaround document:
A turnaround document is prepared when the Treasury Board approves a submission without changes or conditions. The Secretariat sends the deputy head a copy of the submission's first page, stamped “Approved by the Treasury Board. Certified to be a true copy of a Minute of a Meeting of the Treasury Board on [date of meeting],” with a Treasury Board decision number.
Decision letter:
If the Treasury Board does not approve the submission or approves it with changes to the proposal or the addition of conditions, the Secretariat will send the deputy head a decision letter that explains the result of its deliberations.
Joint or omnibus submissions:
For a joint or omnibus submission, the Secretariat will send a turnaround document or decision letter to all listed organizations whose ministers signed the submission. The decision letter reflects those authorities that are relevant to each particular organization, not necessarily all the authorities approved by the Treasury Board.
Nature of approval:
Unless a decision letter specifies otherwise, the Treasury Board has approved all proposals as they appear in the submission form's “Authorities Sought From Treasury Board” section. Approval includes any items to which this section explicitly refers, such as attached terms and conditions for a program. A proposal or statement included in another section of the submission should not be considered as having been approved or endorsed by the Treasury Board.
Deferred submissions:
If the Treasury Board defers a submission, Secretariat officials will advise the government organization and may need to work with the organization to resolve outstanding issues. The submission may then be rescheduled.

Fulfilling Treasury Board Conditions

A Treasury Board decision may require a government organization to meet one or several conditions. A decision letter will state what is required, such as forwarding the results of a future audit or evaluation, demonstrating that an action has occurred in order to seek the release of frozen funds, or returning to Treasury Board to seek a longer-term approval. The letter will also indicate the deadline for meeting any conditions.

The program analyst responsible at the Secretariat can clarify what is expected and how the Treasury Board will be informed when the condition has been met.

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