An Interpretation Policy is an overarching document that outlines the commitments, practices, and tools to be applied by a department or agency when providing Canadians and businesses with information and guidance on regulatory obligations to be met. It also identifies the conditions under which written responses to questions will be provided.
The Department of Industry Act establishes Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) as the federal department responsible for fostering a growing, competitive and knowledge-based Canadian economy.
ISED's mandate is to help make Canadian industry more productive and competitive in the global economy, thus improving the economic and social well-being of Canadians. Developing regulations and enforcing compliance are key activities undertaken by the department to help deliver on its mandate.
ISED works with Canadians in all areas of the economy and in all parts of the country to improve conditions for investment, to enhance Canada's innovation performance, and to make Canadian firms more productive and competitive in the knowledge-based economy. The department engages on a broad range of matters related to industry and technology, trade and commerce, science, consumer affairs, corporations and corporate securities, competition and restraint of trade, weights and measures, bankruptcy and insolvency, intellectual property, investment, small business, and tourism.
In keeping with the mandate, an Interpretation Policy for ISED was developed in adherence with government policies and to ensure information on ISED regulations is understandable and useful to Canadians.
Plain language commitment
ISED is committed to following the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada when drafting regulatory documents, including the requirement to provide plain language information and guidance to Canadians and businesses to ensure that information is clear, relevant, objective, easy to understand and useful to a broad audience. The department supports plain language regulatory drafting thorough the ISED Style Guide and Publishing Toolbox and compliance with the Treasury Board Secretariat's (TBS) Web Standards for the Government of Canada
ISED regulators use a number of tools to ensure consistency in regulatory guidance materials and to support the commitment to plain language writing. Examples include: policy and regulatory guides that provide an overview of ISED legislation, regulations and steps in the regulatory process; technical backgrounders and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in order to facilitate regulatory compliance. In addition, program officers in some sectors are available to provide guidance on regulatory matters by telephone, email or through the 1-800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) number. ISED regulatory guides and information bulletins are developed regularly with input from key stakeholders and experts before final publication. Some sectors also track stakeholder questions on regulations and use them to update the guidelines.
ISED typically web posts its FAQs regarding new regulations and regulatory amendments to assist stakeholders with complex and technical aspects of regulations. In advance of finalizing new regulations or amendments to existing regulations, sectors hold stakeholder consultations to discuss the impact. In some cases, stakeholders also receive notification emails as soon as the regulations are pre-published in the Canada Gazette, providing plain language explanations of the intent and rationale for proposed regulatory changes, clause-by-clause. This supports informed public commentary during the consultation periods.
Providing guidance and building awareness
ISED regulators use various tools to proactively build stakeholder awareness of ISED requirements and regulatory guidance material. Examples include:
- certification body notices;
- communications with national and international governments, industry groups, and advisory groups;
- information sessions;
- printed material;
- RSS feeds;
- social media;
- subscription lists that provide updates on upcoming or proposed changes to regulations, regulatory tips and details of what is being published in the Canada Gazette;
- targeted email;
- trade shows;
- web conferencing; and
- web postings.
Some ISED regulators hold information sessions with key industry, consumer and legal groups that raise awareness of regulatory issues. They also provide assessment tools that provide guidance on how to comply with ISED regulatory requirements. In the telecommunications area, the department uses the Radio Advisory Board of Canada to regularly inform stakeholders of policy and regulatory developments.
ISED regulators use traditional reactive approaches (letters, emails and phone calls) to address client inquiries on regulations. Sectors also issue bulletins, Practice Notices, summaries of reports, rulings, and/or hold media and public inquiries on regulations. Conference calls and roundtable discussion are also used as appropriate.
Responding to questions
Service standards for acknowledging and responding to regulatory enquiries from the public
Public enquiries to ISED on regulations can be made through various channels: phone calls, letters and emails. ISED commits to responding to inquiries in a timely manner. Response time can vary (24 hrs to 15 days) depending on the scope of the enquiry. Generally, the department responds to 90% of public requests for information on regulations made via telephone or voice mail within 24 hours of receipt. In cases where the service standards cannot be met because additional information is required to provide a response, the caller is informed within the 24 hour period. Responses to posted mail inquires occurs within 5 days of their receipt and rulings on regulatory proposals within 3 business days. Requests for documentation may take between 48 hours and 15 business days. Reoccurring enquiries will be responded to through FAQs. To improve the quality and consistency in responses, checks in are conducted with stakeholders on ISED's interpretation policies, practices, and tools and response rates are tracked to identify improvements.
ISED is committed to excellence in service delivery. Sectors are expected to adhere to the department's Values and Ethics Code (Industry Canada Values and Ethics Code) and respect the Treasury Board's Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. Outcomes of service delivery are reported on in ISED's Departmental Performance Report. ISED has implemented the government reform on service standard for high volume regulatory authorizations (see Service Standards for High-Volume Regulatory Authorizations – Acts and Regulations).
Consultations are the most formal approach for responding to regulatory issues and complaints. Mechanisms to respond to regulatory issues and complaints vary across the department. Examples include: complaint files, consultations, email and enquiry web services tracking, and issue logs.
Training for ISED regulators includes specific training and development programs to provide regulators with basic theoretical and practical knowledge to ensure they have the skills needed to provide quality services and regulatory guidance (e.g. Canada School of Public Service regulatory series and sector specific training such as Officer Recruitment Development Programs). Training may be supplemented through coaching and mentoring programs, in-house training; and participation in the Community of Federal Regulator's (CFR) events and workshops. Informal learning may involve from liaising with domestic and international counterparts to share best practices and lessons learned in order to build capacity and support quality services and regulatory guidance across the department.
Scope of training
Intensive training may include nine weeks of in class courses on legislation, regulations, jurisprudence, theory and practice, followed by exams. Some sectors provide specific training on a yearly basis, within 18 to 24 months of hiring officials or whenever there are new regulatory requirements. The number of ISED regulators being trained at any fixed time is dependent on the workplace environment.
Commitment to stakeholder engagement
ISED publishes draft regulations for public consultation in Part 1 of the Canada Gazette, to be consistent with the requirements of the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management. The comments received during the consultation period are reviewed by ISED regulators and addresses as part of the final regulatory package prepared for Treasury Board considerations before publication in Part II of the Canada Gazette.
Stakeholder engagement practices
Mechanism used to engage stakeholders may also include formal online consultations and through various social media (e.g. Twitter and LinkedIn). Outreach activities may range from industry events to online demonstrations and public presentations (e.g., town hall events, roundtables, and advance consultations).
Report on Implementing Improvement Priorities
Consistent with the Treasury Board Secretariat requirements, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) consulted targeted stakeholders on its Interpretation Policy between February 9 and March 1, 2015. Stakeholders identified two areas for improvement: 1) provide clearer and more consistent responses to regulatory questions (e.g., greater use of plain language) and 2) to provide information about ISED's laboratory approval processes.
With regards to the first area of improvement, ISED's regulators undertook a number of steps to simplify and streamline regulatory information. For instance, in addition to revising the frequently asked questions (FAQs) on regulations as part of the Interpretation Policy, ISED regulators
- used clearer and consistent language in its annual Forward Regulatory Plan, such as terms commonly understood and used by stakeholders (consumers and businesses) rather than technical terms found in the regulations and associated acts.
- implemented plain language approaches with regards to consulting with stakeholders on regulatory issues. For example, in a recent consultation on the Data Breach Notification and Reporting Regulations, ISED used a regulatory discussion paper, which included integrated formatting elements such as text boxes to improve clarity and highlight areas of interest. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) also provided easily comprehensible issue papers to stakeholders when consulting on proposed amendments to the Patent Rules, Trademark Regulations, and Industrial Design Regulations.
- developed tools, such as guidance material and FAQs, to build awareness and understanding of regulatory requirements. For example, in the Guide to Trademarks and Canada Small Business Financing Program's guidelines revisions a concerted effort was made to use plain language throughout. Additionally, the Trademarks Opposition Board created a new FAQ product regarding its opposition proceedings and Corporations Canada has used communications methods outside of their website to ensure dissemination saturation of regulatory information, including targeted notices through RSS feeds and subscriptions, presentations, webinars, application interface and outputs.
With regards to the second area of improvement, Measurement Canada developed new FAQs for its laboratory approval processes. It should be noted that ISED's Certification and Engineering Bureau also undertook laboratory approval processes to test wireless and telecommunications equipment as part of its internal market surveillance activities, and engineering studies. FAQs for these processes were not developed as the Certification and Engineering Bureau does not offer its laboratory services to the general public. The aforementioned activities are an integral part of the development, implementation and enforcement of technical regulations made pursuant to the Radiocommunication Act.
Metrics for evaluating implementation:
- Number of inquiries related to the FAQs on ISED regulations
- Number of inquiries related to laboratory approval processes
ISED is committed to working with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Community of Federal Regulators to improve the interpretation policy services and tools, and will continue to liaise with clients and stakeholders on regulatory requirements.
For more information
- TBS Guide for Developing and Posting Interpretation Policies
- Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management
- Red Tape Reduction Action Plan
- About the Regulatory Cooperation Council | Canada's Economic Action Plan
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