Regulatory Interpretation Policy: Improvement Report on Stakeholder Consultation

Background

The Red Tape Reduction Commission was announced by the Prime Minister in Budget 2010. The Commission was launched in January 2011 with the purposes of identifying irritants stemming from federal regulatory requirements, and making recommendations that reduce burden on small and medium sized enterprises.

In January 2012, the Commission produced the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan that identified several systemic reforms. The Government of Canada has committed itself to implementing these systemic reforms, so as to create a more predictable environment for businesses and make the government's regulatory system more transparent, accountable, and predictable.

Six system-wide reforms have been grouped under three major areas of action:

  1. Reducing burden on business:
    • "One-for-One" Rule
    • Small Business Lens
  2. Making it easier to do business with regulators:
    • Interpretation Policies
  3. Improving service and predictability:
    • Service Standards
    • Forward Planning
    • Annual Scorecard Report

As part of making it easier to do business with regulators, Fisheries and Oceans Canada published the Department's Regulatory Interpretation Policy, which acts as an overarching document that outlines the commitments, practices, and tools to be applied by Fisheries and Oceans Canada when providing Canadians and businesses with information and guidance on regulations and regulatory obligations to be met. This policy also identifies the conditions under which written responses to questions will be provided.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has developed several policy instruments to help the Department:

  • develop clear and enforceable regulatory requirements in a collaborative manner;
  • promote and enforce compliance with regulatory requirements; and,
  • respond to stakeholder questions.

Examples of these policy instruments designed to help make it easier to do business with regulators include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Fisheries Protection Policy.
  • Applicant's Guide to Submitting an Application for Authorization under Paragraph 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act.
  • British Columbia Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Guide and British Columbia Freshwater Salmon Supplement which explains the British Columbia Sport Fishing Regulations, 1996 in plain language along with the baseline closure and limit information.
  • How to Package and Transport your Catch.
  • National Code on Introductions and Transfers of Aquatic Organisms.

A feedback survey was developed to capture stakeholder views on strengthening the interpretation practices1 of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, that is, how the Department provides information and/or guidance, and to receive input on the Department's Regulatory Interpretation Policy. The Department consulted with the stakeholders in 2014-15 through existing consultation mechanisms and requested feedback on the current Regulatory Interpretation Policy. As a result of these consultations, the current report seeks to identify the areas where improvement can be made, as well as the measures for evaluating the success in implementing DFO's Regulatory Interpretation Policy. The report reviews information received and describes the methodology the Department used to garner feedback. It also goes into detail regarding the improvements that will be made over the next two years and the metrics to be used to measure success. Canadians will be updated on Fisheries and Oceans Canada's performance in implementing these improvements by March 31st, 2017.

Methodology

The objective and focus of the survey was to solicit feedback, ideas and recommendations from stakeholders on the current suite of policy instruments, with an aim to address and improve these products. The online survey consisted of eight feedback questions, and two distribution questions. The online survey used nonprobability sampling and targeted 561 stakeholders across various sectors that regularly do business that is regulated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The purposive sampling represented a broad cross section of stakeholders, interests and clients. Stakeholders were directly solicited for feedback through existing consultation mechanisms on the Regulatory Interpretation Policy using email. The sample canvassed was representative of the proportional composition of stakeholders that interact directly with or are affected indirectly by Fisheries and Oceans Acts and Regulations. However, anyone visiting the Consultation on the Regulatory Interpretation Policy website could complete the survey and provide feedback.

Table 1 - Emails sent to specific stakeholder groups
Sectors Emails sent
Recreational Fisheries Sector 4
Processing and Seafood Sector 5
Provincial and Municipal Stakeholders 7
Utilities, Natural Resources and Energy Sector 10
NGOs & Eco-NGOs 25
Aquaculture Sector 33
Other (Industry Boards, Associations, Resource Councils) 38
Aboriginal, First Nations & Land Claims Organizations 85
Fisheries Sector (Industry, Unions & Associations) 358
see description below
Description

The pie graph breaks down the composition of stakeholders that were contacted by the Department to take part in the survey to get feedback on the Department’s Regulatory Interpretation Policy. Of the 561 stakeholders, 63% were from the Fisheries sector; 15% were from the Aboriginal, First Nations and Land Claims Organisations; 7% were from Other groups (Industry Boards, Associations, Resource Councils); 6% were from the Aquaculture sector; 4% were from Nongovernment and Eco-nongovernment organisations; 2% were from the Utilities, Natural Resources and Energy Sector; 1% were from the Provincial and Municipal Stakeholders; 1% were from the Processing and Seafood Sector; and, 1% were from the Recreational Fisheries Sector.

Findings and Analysis

Of the 561 stakeholders targeted, only 19 responses were received or 3.3% of the amount of responses that were directly solicited to provide feedback by email. Because the survey was publicly available, and due to privacy requirements, it cannot be established how many of those solicited for feedback, via email, did so. However, respondents did identify occupation and industry categories that align with stakeholders directly solicited.

see description below
Description

The pie graph breaks down the composition of Stakeholders that provided feedback to the Department on the survey. Of the 561 contacted, only 19 people responded. Of the 19 responses that were received, 26% were from the Fisheries sector; 16% were from the Recreational Fisheries sector; 16% were from the Aquaculture sector; 16% were from the Other groups (Industry Boards, Associations, Resource Councils); 16% were from Nongovernment and Eco-nongovernment organisations; and, 10% were from the Aboriginal, First Nations and Land Claims Organisations.

Below, the feedback received on the survey has been summarized:

Areas where Fisheries and Oceans Canada is doing well:

  • The Department's Acts and Regulations webpage is helpful in laying out the information as well as providing useful, complete and accessible information.
  • The Department is helping stakeholders to comply with regulatory requirements by communicating with stakeholders when regulatory changes occur or when regulatory initiatives are being proposed, and by making regulations accessible through the web.
  • Respondents found the navigation of the Department's website easy and straightforward.

Areas where Fisheries and Oceans Canada can improve:

  • The Department could help stakeholders meet regulatory requirements even more by providing workshops on specific acts, regulations, policies and guidelines; communicating regulatory changes with subscribers via notification; organising acts and regulations according to business requirements; improving guidance material to include specific activities; and, using concrete examples to help guide businesses in complying with regulations.
  • The Department could improve the use of plain language in documents by continually refining guidance and frequently asked questions; using language that stakeholders are familiar with; clearly defining terms used in documents; and, sharing documents with stakeholders before they are published to ensure optimal clarity.
  • A majority of respondents believe there is not enough awareness and guidance material on proposed regulations or new regulations or the requirements for these regulations. They would like to see the Department post more information on proposed regulations, by expanding the length of online summary explanations; develop more comprehensive internal guidance documents to inform staff so that there is consistency in implementing policy in national headquarters and regions; implement a system that informs interested parties on proposed or new regulations; and, ensure that documents or information pieces posted on new regulations or amendments to regulations are simple to understand and explain what stakeholders need to do to comply.
  • A majority of respondents were able to find and access the information they needed on the Department's website. However, much of the material made available to respondents was considered vague and left respondents with questions that would still need to be verified by departmental staff.
  • The Department could improve regulatory compliance by using online services, outreach or education. Examples include: Applications on mobile devices that are tailored to specific services or activities; telephone assistance, such as a Fisheries and Oceans contact that can address queries; and, greater integration with other federal and provincial partners, so users can ensure full compliance with all regulatory requirements.

Recommendations

Given the broad range of programs under the umbrella of the Regulatory Interpretation Policy, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is proposing to adopt a life cycle approach that would integrate many of the recommendations for improvement that were received from stakeholders during the consultation period. This means, the Department will work towards:

  • Implementing a flexible client service model that takes into consideration how Canadians are made aware of information, and developing Frequently Asked Questions that anticipate stakeholder concerns;
  • Utilizing an electronic feedback form that is linked to each information or guidance document so that user feedback is received in a streamlined manner, and feedback can be directly connected to each program or subject matter;
  • Writing information and/or guidance documents in plain language, and regularly revising content, where applicable, with the suggestions made by clients; and,
  • Utilizing, where appropriate and where resources have been approved, more interactive tools to communicate with stakeholders, including webinars, workshops, live stream and chats, social media, and posting videos that explain changes and use concrete examples of what the changes mean.

It should be noted that the Department is also working towards complying with Treasury Board Secretariat's requirement to amend web pages and prepare departmental content in anticipation of the migration to Canada.ca. This exercise will help to address many of the concerns related to finding and accessing departmental information, and improving the ability to search for content by better organizing its relevancy for the user.

Below is an illustration of the life cycle approach that the Department will adopt when posting information related to new regulatory initiatives, regulatory amendments, and/or policy instruments.

graph
Description

This is an illustration of the life cycle approach that Fisheries and Oceans Canada will be adopting when posting information related to new regulatory initiatives, regulatory amendments, and/or policy instruments. The lifecycle approach will revolve around 3 steps. Planning will involve implementing a client service model; Going Live will involve streamlining how feedback is received; and, Reviewing will involve how the Department will respond to stakeholders and how information documents will be revised to incorporate client feedback.

Planning: Implementing a client service model

The Department is committed to developing a flexible client service model. This means that a Stakeholder Outreach Plan will be developed by programs for each new regulatory initiative, regulatory amendment, and/or policy instrument that will be posted on its website. The Stakeholder Outreach Plan will take into consideration the requirements under the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management (where applicable), and the new requirements under the Red Tape Reduction Action Plan2.

The Stakeholder Outreach Plan will outline the service mechanisms that would be used to bring awareness to new regulatory initiatives, regulatory amendments, and/or policy instruments and take into consideration the user base for the initiative (fishers, landowners, construction). The Stakeholder Outreach Plan would also include the development of Frequently Asked Questions or other plain language information pieces such as “what does this mean for me” or “Top 5 things you need to know”, as well as consider the use of interactive tools such as webinars, workshops, live stream and chats, face to face consultations, social media, and videos. 

Furthermore, the plan may consider whether Canadians can register for a listserv/notifications to flag changes to regulations and various services to interested parties. The listserv could at the very least advise people when the website has been updated with new information (e.g. Forward Plan pages).

Go Live: Streamlining how feedback is received

The Department is committed to streamlining how feedback from stakeholders is received on information and/or guidance material by utilizing an electronic feedback form that is linked to each information or guidance document. This will enable Canadians to provide immediate feedback on specific programs and/or subject matters, and connect directly with the Department on any comments or questions they may have on the initiatives.

Review: Response to stakeholders and revision of information documents

The Department is committed to ensuring information and/or guidance documents are written with plain language, and that content is regularly revised with the suggestions/comments/queries made by clients through feedback mechanisms. This will enable the Department to evaluate plain language for each of the information or guidance documents made available and to continuously update these documents with real world examples from stakeholders, where applicable.

If required, and based on the feedback the Department has received, more interactive tools could be implemented to communicate with stakeholders including webinars, workshops, live stream and chats, face-to-face consultations, and videos.

Metrics and Targets

In order to assess the success (effectiveness) of adopted measures, the following metrics and targets will be implemented:
Expected Result Performance Indicator Target
The Department is implementing a client service model. Number of Stakeholder Outreach Plans developed and implemented for new regulatory initiatives, regulatory amendments, and policy instruments. 100% of all new regulatory initiatives, regulatory amendments, and policy instruments have a Stakeholder Outreach Plan.
Stakeholders are informed about the various regulatory initiatives and policy instruments that have been posted on the Department's website. Number of people that have signed up for a listserv and that are receiving updates related to new regulatory initiatives, regulatory amendments, and policy instruments. N/A
Information and/or guidance documents are helpful to stakeholders. The number of respondents that selected “yes” to query on helpfulness in the electronic feedback form. 85% of feedback respondents found the information and/or guidance documents helpful.
Information and/or guidance documents are written in plain language. The number of respondents that selected “yes” and “sometimes” to the query on plain language and ease of understanding in the electronic feedback form. 50% of feedback respondents find that plain language is used throughout the Department's information and/or guidance documents.

25% of feedback respondents find that sometimes plain language is used but that some sections of the information and/or guidance documents could be improved.
Stakeholders provide feedback on areas for improvement to specific information and/or guidance documents. The number of submissions made through the electronic feedback form. N/A
Feedback incorporated into information and/or guidance documents. The number of submissions made that can be addressed by updating information and/or guidance documents. 75% of submissions made through the electronic feedback form have been addressed through Frequently Asked Questions or updated information and/or guidance documents.
General statistics to determine how many visitors are viewing materials related to Regulatory Interpretation Policy and associated web pages. Change in web traffic for information and/or guidance documents developed. N/A
   
Percentage change in website traffic every time an update is made to gauge level of interaction resulting from updates N/A
General statistics related to alternate communications tools used by the Department on information and/or guidance documents. List of tools employed by Department to engage stakeholders on new regulatory initiatives, regulatory amendments, and/or policy instruments and the associated and appropriate metrics (i.e number of retweets, number of views etc…). N/A

These commitments will be measured over a 2 year period (by March 2017). A report will be published at that time, outlining the Department's performance on delivering improvements to its areas of focus.


1 Interpretation practices are the different ways that Fisheries and Oceans Canada provides information and/or guidance on regulatory initiatives, regulatory amendments, and/or other policy instruments.

2 Includes Regulatory Forward Plans, Regulatory Interpretation Policy, and Service Standards.

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