Consultation Policy and Framework
Table of Contents
- 1. Preamble
- 2. Policy
- 3. Framework
Consultation is a key public sector activity. It supports open, transparent and accountable government. It also supports inclusiveness in the design, implementation and evaluation of public policy, regulation and programming. Consultation supports public confidence in the legitimacy and credibility of government policy and decision making, thereby facilitating the success of government initiatives.
The objective of the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada is to "ensure that communications across the Government of Canada are well co-ordinated, effectively managed and responsive to the diverse information needs of the public.1"
A number of Cabinet directives require federal departments and agencies to consult as part of their decision-making processes. As well, departments and agencies are expected to report on the results of these consultations. Three relevant Cabinet directives are
- the Strategic Environmental Assessment2
- the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation3
- the Cabinet Directive on Law-Making4
Other legal obligations also impose requirements for departments and agencies to do consultation. These obligations include
- legislation, such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act and the User Fees Act; and
- court cases, such as those making it a legal duty to consult and accommodate the rights of Aboriginal people on decisions that might affect them or those requiring professional sign language interpretation when deaf or hard-of-hearing persons participate in consultations.
There are four different levels of public involvement, depending on the degree of interaction between the department or agency and stakeholders. This forms a continuum from the lowest degree of interaction to the highest, as illustrated below. As the degree of interaction increases, the degree of influence grows, along with the amount of time and resources required.
Government distributes or makes accessible information on policies, decisions, services, and legislation.
Government requests feedback on a decision-making process after determining the problem or issue and identifying the participants in the process, and the government makes the final decision.
Government and citizens/groups engage in a "deliberative dialogue." Participants commit to a process that seeks a public interest solution, including the possibility of debating current government assumptions, policies and the advocacy interests of others.
Government delegates authority for decision making to other groups, or shares decision-making powers, or manages cooperatively.
Consultation is a two-way exchange. It includes listening to others' ideas, seeking suggestions to solve problems, and outlining proposals while ensuring there are opportunities for change. It is often used to refer to a single activity as well as a process.
Consultation is good business practice. It helps build positive relationships and informs stakeholders in a meaningful way, one that supports participation in the decision-making process.
For the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), this Consultation Policy and Framework outlines an integrated, coordinated and consistent approach to consultation. Transparency will be greatly improved by making consultation an integral part of CFIA business functions. The end result will be more informed decision making, which in turn will better position the CFIA to successfully and effectively carry out its mandate.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (the CFIA or the Agency) will strive to consult with stakeholders, both regulated and non-regulated parties, on significant policy and program issues that impact them.
The objectives of the Policy are
- to gather information from stakeholders, including consumers and consumer groups, on policy and program design issues that impact them;
- to take stakeholder views into consideration in the Agency's decision making; and
- to improve transparency and accountability in the Agency's work.
The CFIA engages with stakeholders in its principal role as a regulator. These stakeholders are from the following groups:
- Regulated parties: individual companies and representative industry associations and, in some cases, academia and government institutions (for example, plant breeding)
- Consumers/Canadians: consumers and consumer associations, provincial and municipal governments, and non-governmental organizations and groups
- International stakeholders: foreign governments, international organizations
As applicable, the Agency, when undertaking consultation, should engage each stakeholder group at the appropriate degree of public involvement.
The Agency will review this consultation policy, including an evaluation of its success in achieving the stated objectives. The timing of this review is subject to the policy's rank when considering all areas of risk or significance within the Agency.
This framework guides the CFIA when consulting. The framework supports a consistent approach to consultation, while allowing for individual approaches, when appropriate.
The following nine principles should form the foundation of consultation processes. Adhering to these principles will create the conditions necessary for a successful consultation.
Principle 1: Commitment
Commit to considering the results of the consultation process in the decision-making process.
Principle 2: Evaluation
Evaluate consultations periodically throughout the process and at their conclusion. Evaluate based on objectives set out in the consultation plan, established at the outset.
Principle 3: Timing
Organize consultation activities with appropriate timeframes and deadlines to allow participants reasonable time to prepare and provide their input.
Principle 4: Inclusiveness
Encourage the participation of the broadest possible range of groups or individuals who have an interest in or who may be affected by decisions resulting from the consultation exercise.
Principle 5: Accessibility
Provide equal access to the process, taking into consideration such things as language, physical disability, and socio-economic or regional background.
Principle 6: Clarity
Ensure that the objectives and processes of involvement and feedback for consultation activities are clear, so they can be understood by those involved in the consultation process.
Principle 7: Accountability
Define the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the consultation process, including who is required to provide information, who will be making decisions throughout the process, and who will be communicating with management and stakeholders.
Principle 8: Coordination
Share within the Agency the viewpoints, perspectives, and comments collected during the consultation. Also take into account impacts on, and feedback from, other initiatives.
Work with other government departments and agencies to capitalize on opportunities to coordinate consultations with common stakeholder groups, where appropriate and possible.
Principle 9: Transparency
Share the results of the consultation with participants in a timely manner, appropriate to the degree of public involvement. This may include sharing a revised consultation document or a summary of comments document.
Consultation seeks information, input and feedback from stakeholders on policies, programs, services or initiatives that affect them directly or in which they have an interest. Such consultations can range in intensity from sending letters or documents to seeking feedback from targeted participants through a series of national workshops and public meetings. They can also be organized as either ad hoc or on-going processes.
A well-run stakeholder consultation process is comprised of five key stages. These stages are implemented based on nine principles that form the foundation of each consultation process.
To achieve the goals and objectives of the consultation, and to help the process run smoothly, consultation must be well planned. The design process allows staff to develop strategies to implement the consultation in manageable stages, while simultaneously working with stakeholders so that everyone's needs are met.
The stages in a consultation process are as follows.
Stage 1: Preparation
- Determine if there is a need for consultation by identifying the issue, its scope and the public environment. Develop a comprehensive list of stakeholders and their potential concerns.
Stage 2: Design
- Set specific objectives. Propose an appropriate approach to involving stakeholders based on the information collected during the preparation stage, and consistent with the scope and the scale of the issue.
- Define and clarify the approach by testing the ideas with the intended stakeholders, process and objectives as well as tools and methodology to be used to effectively support agreed-upon objectives, as well as desired results. Ideas can be tested with the intended stakeholders.
Stage 3: Implementation
- Implement the consultation plan that was developed during the preparation and design stages.
Stage 4: Feedback and Follow-up
- Provide participants with information concerning how their ideas/comments were used in the decision-making process, appropriate to the degree of public involvement previously established with stakeholders.
Stage 5: Evaluation
- Assess whether the process met the objectives set out in the design stage.
Some consultation mechanisms are established in legislation or through Cabinet directives. In other cases, the CFIA will use existing forums or will set up ad hoc processes. These will be, guided by the principles set out above.
Cabinet directives and legal obligations that result from legislation or court decisions apply to all departments and agencies involved in the federal regulatory process. Government officials are responsible for abiding by these obligations at all stages of the regulatory lifecycle, which are development, implementation, evaluation, and review.
The CFIA has existing forums that may be used to facilitate the consultation process (for example working groups and advisory committees).
1 Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, August 1, 2006
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