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Tag: Regulation

Draft Survey of the Structure and Governance of Federal Regulatory Functions

NOTE: This survey is on hold until the results of a similar survey started by Finance are available.

About a month ago, I wrote about wanting to get a better idea of how the regulatory functions throughout the federal government are structured and governed.

In this post, I hope to layout a draft of the proposed survey.

  • Audience: Any employees working with the development of federal regulations.
  • Mode: Online via Google Forms
  • Method of dissemination: Online via, Twitter, and a proposal for distribution through the Community of Federal Regulators Newsflash will be prepared.

Draft Survey

Part I – Structure

Question 1: Where do you work?

Dropdown of federal departments and agencies with a write-in option for other.

Question 2: Which group in your department or agency is responsible or “holds the pen” for developing the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS)?

  • A single centralized unit responsible for regulatory development (i.e. a regulatory affairs unit)
  • One of several areas responsible for regulatory development (i.e. on regulatory affairs unit per sector, mode, etc)
  • The policy area
  • Both the policy area and a unit responsible for regulatory development

Question 3: Which group in your department or agency communicate with your analyst at Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat – Regulatory Affairs Sector (TBS-RAS)?

  • A single centralized unit responsible for regulatory development (i.e. a regulatory affairs unit)
  • One of several areas responsible for regulatory development (i.e. on regulatory affairs unit per sector, mode, etc)
  • The policy area
  • Both the policy area and a unit responsible for regulatory development

Question 4: Which group in your department or agency performs Cost-Benefit Analysis for regulatory proposals?

  • An analyst within a unit exclusively responsible for regulatory development (i.e. a regulatory affairs unit)
  • An analyst within a single centralized and specialised unit for performing cost-benefit analyses (i.e. economic affairs unit)
  • An analyst within the policy area
  • A contractor or outside analyst/company

Question 5: If you have a centralized unit responsible for regulatory development, what is it called?

Question 6: Is there anything else about the structure and/or seperation of responsibilities within your department or agency that you’d like to share?

Part II – Governance

Question 7: How many levels of management exist between the analyst responsible for a regulatory proposal and the Minister responsible for sign-off (do not include the Minister in this count)

Question 8: How many approvals are required for a regulatory proposal before it is approve for drop off at the Privy Council Office (do not include the Minister’s approval or any TBS-RAS approvals in this count)

Question 9: How do you track regulatory development (select all that apply)

  • Standard Excel worksheets
  • Excel-based application developed for tracking regulatory development
  • Access database
  • Internal records management software
  • Internal correspondence management software
  • Project management software (i.e. Microsoft Project)
  • Custom software
  • Other

Question 10:Is there anything else you’d like to add about the governance of regulatory development within your department or agency (best practices, irritants, etc)

Conclusion: Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. Would you be willing to meet and discuss the structure and governance of your department or agencies regulatory function?


I’d like to keep the survey short to encourage as many analysts as possible to take a few moments to complete it. I believe these ten questions will offer a broad overview of the various corporate structures and governance models in use within the public service. Let me know if you have any comments or questions on the proposed draft. Once I have incorporated any comments I receive, I will have it translated and publish a link to the completed survey for people to complete.

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Regulatory Affairs – Structure and Governance Survey

I tweeted a couple of days about my interest in “… conducting a meta-analysis of the regulatory development corporate structures and processes across the government. I would like to start with a short survey followed up with brief clarification interviews. I’d like to send the callout through the @CFR_CRF”


Understand the various corporate structures and governance of regulatory functions throughout agencies and departments within the government of Canada.

Methodology Overview

Short bilingual survey distribute as widely as possible through GCConnex, the Community of Federal Regulators, and Twitter seeking to determine the following:

Is the regulatory function centralized, or distributed throughout the policy areas?

If the function is distributed, is there a centralized regulatory function for coordinating with Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat – Regulatory Affairs Sector (TBS-RAS) and other central agencies?

If the function is centralized, how are the functions split between the policy areas and the regulatory affairs analyst.

How many approval levels exist between the regulatory affairs function and the responsible Minister?

What systems are in use for tracking regulatory proposals?

Additionally, I would like to follow up with a series of clarification interviews with a range of small, medium, and large regulators with various corporate structures and reporting relationships to determine in more detail:

  • How the regulatory function situated, what aspects are handled by the policy area versus a dedicated regulatory affairs function?
  • How do you handle Letters of Concurrence and Co-Signatures?
  • How regulatory proposals are tracked?
  • How do you assess priority for new proposed regulatory amendments?
  • What are the irritants in your process that should be eliminated?

Next Steps

I will prepare a draft of the survey for comment with the aim of distributing the survey widely by the end of February. Results will be published and follow-up interviews will be scheduled with any groups that indicated a desire. Let me know what you think. Am I missing something major that you’d like to know about regulatory function structure and process?

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Regulatory Reform Series – Introduction


I’m a regulatory process nerd.  Over the last decade in regulatory development, I’ve become fascinated with the process, particularly modernization and reforms intended to increase transparency, accountability and value for money.  For some time I’ve been deliberating putting my thoughts into a cohesive series of analyses and recommendations for improvements to the regulatory system in Canada.  In this post, I will introduce the current state of regulatory reform in Canada and lay out the areas I will address in the future.


In 2010, Canada embarked on an ambitious plan to reduce red tape with the creation of the Red Tape Reduction Commission (archived) mandated with reducing “irritants that have a clear detrimental effect on growth, competitiveness and innovation,” especially in our small businesses while “ensuring that the environment and the health and safety of Canadians are not compromised.”  In January 2012, the Commission released the Recommendations Report with 15 systemic changes and 90 department-specific “recommended solutions to eliminate or alleviate these irritants.”

Taking into account the work of the Commission and the Recommendations Report the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) released the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan (RTRAP) detailing the Government of Canada’s systemic regulatory reforms to address the Commission’s recommendations. While intended to reduce red tape, these efforts form the basis of Canada’s most recent large-scale regulatory reform efforts.  These efforts have ran in parallel and informed the five-year review of the Cabinet Directive on Regulation, which has been underway at TBS from 2012 and continued most recently with a public consultation on Consulting with Canadians.  The successor to the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management should be implemented in 2018 and will codify many of these regulatory reforms.

The Red Tape Reduction Action Plan

The Red Tape Reduction Action Plan (RTRAP) contains details on the Government’s response to the Commission’s recommendations.  The core of the Government’s commitments consist of the following five major systemic reforms (from the RTRAP) to Canada’s regulatory system:

  • One-for-One Rule: A One-for-One Rule will require regulators to offset new administrative burden costs imposed on business with equal reductions in administrative burden from the stock of existing regulations. They will also have to remove a regulation when a new one increases administrative burden costs on business. Canada will be the first country to give such a rule the weight of legislation.
  • Small Business Lens: A Small Business Lens will ensure regulators take into account the impact regulations have on small business. This assessment will include the publication of a 20-point checklist that drives efforts to minimize burden on small business, avoidance of bureaucratic duplication and the communication of regulatory requirements in clear, plain language.
  • Forward Regulatory Plans: The publication of departmental Forward Plans, which will highlight upcoming regulatory changes over a 24-month period, providing businesses with critical predictability.
  • Service Standards: Service Standards will set targets for the timely issuance of high volume licences, certifications and permits. Regulators will also establish a feedback mechanism for business users in these areas.
  • Annual Scorecard: An Annual Scorecard will report publicly on implementation of systemic reforms, particularly the One-for-One Rule, Small Business Lens and Service Standards.

All of the systemic reforms above have been implemented and are currently required components of the regulatory process.


I plan on addressing each of the systemic reforms above, along with the the Administrative Burden Baseline reform through a detailed description of the reform, both theoretic and practical, a comparison with similar reforms in other regulatory jurisdictions, an assessment of the pros and cons, and finally recommendations for improvement with a focus on improving alignment with objectives, effectiveness, and modernization.  Finally, I will conclude with general considerations on various elements of Canada’s regulatory regime that could benefit from better integration or modernization such as consultations, portals, TBS, Treasury Board, Privy Council Office, and the Canada Gazette.

Given that we’re approaching the major annual update of the Forward Regulatory Plans, I will begin my analysis here in my next post: Regulatory Reform Series – Forward Regulatory Plans.

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The Web is not a Newspaper

If you know me, you’ve probably heard me say “The Web is not a Newspaper” before.  I won’t win any awards for this catchphrase, but it really speaks to my number one issue with institutional web presence.  I’ve discussed this briefly in my brainstorming post about modernizing the Canada Gazette. In this post, I hope to tackle various aspects of the Government of Canada’s legislative online presence and just brainstorm low-hanging fruit for improvement, or point towards other jurisdictions with great implementations.  In short, I will look at how Canadian legislation can be accessed on the web and how we might improve the experience.

The Canada Gazette is an easy place to begin this discussion as it started as a literal newspaper.  The Government of Canada’s official newspaper, the Gazette is an integrated and essential component to many Governmental processes.  Before I continue, I should start by stating the staff at the Canada Gazette are some of the most experienced, helpful, and dedicated public servants I have had the great fortune of working with in my career.  That they work on such a sheer magnitude of work product with such care and attention to detail is mind boggling.  My use of the Gazette as an example is in no way a reflection of the wonderful people who work there, but more a simple way to illustrate issues with some Government web strategies.

The Canada Gazette started in the 1940s and continued in a paper format only until 1998 when the web version was introduced.  In April 2014, the paper version was discontinued in favour of a web-only presence.  This shift to the web followed the general trend of print publications moving digital: Build an online structure which largely mimics the form and use-cases of the print publication, and done.

We’ve moved into 2015, the web is now a fact of life.  Many young adults have never lived without access to the Internet, and many would have trouble understanding why government publications do not take full advantage of what the web has to offer.  While having the ability to view a print publication online and use search capabilities is an exceptionally convenient shift forward, they would ask if this is really the best we can do.  Personally, I think we can do a lot better for Canadians.  Therefore, today, I will address some of the issues of how we post and access our legislation on the web and posit some ideas for improvement.

Legislation before the house or senate is covered on the Parliamentary website.  The Parliament of Canada moved to the web in the 1990s, initially running into problems with how to effectively disseminate and search for information on the site.  The sheer volume of information on legislation, debates and other parliamentary matters led the Library of Parliament to develop a single window into federal legislation before Parliament called LEGISINFO.  I think this is one of the great successes of the Government of Canada’s web presence.  It provides a lot of functionality in a clear and relatively easy to use format.  As bills progress through the legislative process, clear plain text summaries are added and relevant and related information is made easily accessible.

My only comment here is that it may be a bit buried for the average user.  You need to go to the Parliament of Canada’s website and look at bills before parliament. Other jurisdictions have consolidated and branded this information on a single website:

  • United Kingdom’s
    • Provides a single window into all legislation, including drafts and regulations.
    • There are clearly marked ways to access new legislation and changes to legislation.
    • Great jurisdictional visualization.
    • Managed by the National Archives
  • The European Union’s EUR-Lex
  • The United States’
    • Similar to LEGSINFO in function
    • Added functionality to browse by subject
  • I cover regulatory information in more detail in my post about the Canada Gazette, but in short, the United States’ Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) runs for regulations in development and for regulations under review.  These are great starting points for envisioning how we communicate regulatory information and consultation opportunities to the public. (Consulting with Canadians is a great start on this front)

For existing laws and regulations, the Department of Justice maintains the Justice Laws Website. While incredibly complete, it is lacking in advanced functionality and curation.  For example, you have to know what legislation you are looking for.  You can’t browse existing laws thematically.  You can’t compare current legislation to previous versions and isolate the differences (for this you can use, but this could be on the official site).

I understand the need to have an official repository of legislation without interpretation or summary for legal reasons.  I believe the Department of Justice Laws website could continue to fulfill this role while the Government of Canada could introduce a Legislation specific website that combines access to the LEGISINFO system and existing laws.  It could provide a browsing experience based on popularity, themes, and strong search.  It could leverage the great clear plain text summaries produced by the Library of Parliament to make legislation more accessible.  The front page could highlight specific legislation being debated, with information about upcoming debates or committee meetings, perhaps with embedded transcripts of debates and video clips from CPAC.  Some of this role is filled by the great people at, but I believe in the interest of transparency and accessibility that the Government of Canada should provide this service.

In summary, here are some of the basic changes that would serve to improve the quality and accessibility of our online legislative process:

  • Single window into all historical, current, and proposed legislation
  • Single window into all historical, current and proposed regulations, including Forward Regulatory Plans
  • Single window into all consultation opportunities (exists)
  • Plain text summaries of all legislation (mostly exists)
  • Browse by subject
  • Monitor a subject or a law (via RSS or other mechanism) (partially exists)
  • View differences between versions of legislation
  • View the status of legislation (exists for bills before Parliament)

I don’t think modernizing the way we provide access to historical, current, and proposed legislation is a particularly daunting task.  The vast majority of the content and related metadata already exists, which is how sites like OpenParliament are able to provide their services.  I think it’s just a matter of developing the the use cases and pulling together the information into a single window.  This would be the easiest first step and I think it would take us quite a long way with very low relative cost.

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