Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
What is a Transfer Payment?
A Transfer Payment is a monetary payment, or a transfer of goods, services or assets made to a third party (including a Crown corporation) that does not result in the acquisition by the Government of Canada of any goods, services or assets.
There are various forms of Transfer Payments. The Ecosystems and Oceans Science Contribution Framework (EOSCF) is the framework for Contribution transfer payment projects.
- Contribution transfer payment: Conditional funding support awarded to proponents in pursuit of specific project objectives, paid on the basis of completed milestones.
What is a contribution agreement?
A Contribution Agreement is a legal document that outlines the amount of funding the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will provide the organization for eligible project costs, as well as the Recipient’s and the Department’s responsibilities and obligations.
What are the key principles of a Contribution (G&C) project?
A project funded by a transfer payment should be independent of the funding department.
- Any reference to DFO in a third party’s G&C proposal is discouraged, as it would suggest that the third party is directly collaborating with DFO on that project, which is not permitted. If a proposal is premised on collaboration with DFO and any employee of the Department is identified as a member of the project team, the proposal will not be accepted.
DFO's involvement in a funded project is restricted to providing scientific knowledge unique to DFO, if needed by the organization to meet the objectives of the project.
DFO may not manage or direct the activities related to a funded project.
A department should not receive a direct benefit from a project funded by a transfer payment. If a proposal indicates that it will deliver any products or services to DFO, the proposal will not be accepted.
A core service that departmental staff are mandated to provide directly should not be funded through a transfer payment. If a proposal indicates that the proposed project will generate specific scientific information needed by DFO, the proposal will not be accepted.
An individual or an organization that receives a transfer payment does not act on the government’s behalf.
Contribution funding from DFO to an organization in a given fiscal year cannot be carried forward to future fiscal years.
How long will it take for the project proposal to be reviewed and for a contribution agreement to be negotiated?
It can take up to approximately 12 weeks for DFO to both complete its review of a proposed project and negotiate the terms of a contribution agreement with your organization. Therefore, the starting date of the proposed project must take into account the timing of activities that would be undertaken if the proposed project was approved for funding. This also means that the budget of the proposed project must only include costs that would be incurred no less than at least 12 weeks from the date the application is submitted to DFO for consideration. For more precise information, please send your request to OPC-BPC@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
What is the selection process for projects?
The projects are evaluated by a technical review committee (established by each priority area) according to specific evaluation criteria and the rating protocol. Recommended projects are then reviewed by the Science Executive Committee.
Do I retain intellectual property rights arising from my project?
Yes. Intellectual property (IP) rights that arise in the course of a project will vest in the recipient.
DFO will not assert any Crown IP ownership rights in respect of IP arising under contribution agreements; however, DFO will retain the right to utilize any material or information produced by a funded project for DFO and other Government of Canada purposes.
Recipients will be required to make the data and results produced by funded projects publicly available within two years.
Who are the eligible recipients?
Eligible recipients are organizations able to conduct scientific research and related scientific activities, and organizations and groups associated with the management, conservation, protection and promotion of ocean and freshwater resources, including:
- Canadian post-secondary academic institutions;
- Canadian non-governmental organizations;
- Indigenous organizations or groupsFootnote 1;
- Canadian provincial, territorial, and municipal governments;
- Businesses and industry, including business and industry associations;
- Community groups;
- Canadian not-for-profit organizations;
- Foreign governments and international non-governmental organizations;
- Foreign Academic Institutions; and
- Port Authorities.
All eligible recipients must possess the legal capacity necessary to enter into a contribution agreement.
Can an individual apply for funding?
No. Eligible applicants must be a corporate entity.
What are the eligible activities that can be funded?
The eligible activities include scientific research and related scientific activities, such as data collection, integration, monitoring, and communication, including communication via conferences and symposia.
Additional eligible activities are available for Indigenous organizations or groups with regard to building scientific capacity. This includes building and sustaining Indigenous capacity to lead and engage in scientific research and related scientific activities, including via co-development processes. Indigenous ‘scientific capacity’ is broadly defined. Among other items it may include hard and soft infrastructure, workshops, training and/or developmental needs.
What are the category of items eligible for funding?
Payments to eligible recipients may be used to offset reasonable costs (eligible costs) of projects under contribution agreements including:
- Salaries, stipends, scholarships, wages, and similar payments;
- Only salary costs incurred as a direct result of the project are eligible for DFO funding. Full time employees already working within an organization and paid a salary regardless of whether the project is funded or not may not be funded by DFO, as these salary costs are not incremental to the project. Non-incremental salary costs do represent eligible costs of a project, and they may count as part of an applicant organization’s contribution towards the eligible costs of the project.
- Mandatory employee benefits;
- Professional fees;
- Rental and/or purchase costs of motorized vehicles (cars, trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles, outboard motors), boats and boat trailers ("Motorized vehicles”).
- Note that any request to purchase motor vehicles must clearly demonstrate both project need, as well as value-for-money for the Crown, when compared to a comparable rental arrangement. Rental of motor vehicles is the preferred project delivery method for such expenses, for projects other than those focused on building Indigenous scientific capacity.
- Purchase costs of laboratory and field equipment and instruments, including hydrophones and similar monitoring equipment but excluding Motorized vehicles;
- Rental and maintenance costs of laboratory, field equipment and instruments;
- Rental cost of space such as laboratory, rooms, office space and facilities;
- Travel and related costs (consistent with the National Joint Council’s Travel Directive);
- Conference and symposia costs, including registration costs;
- Publishing costs;
- Communication costs;
- Data management costs;
- Costs of materials and supplies;
- Other costs that directly support scientific research and related scientific activities, pre-approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada up to a maximum of 10% of total eligible costs;
- The organization should be able to clearly demonstrate how such costs directly support scientific or related science activities and that the cost does not fit into any other eligible cost category; and
- DFO may reimburse administrative support costs up to 15% of the total amount of all eligible costs reimbursed by DFO. For example, if DFO is contributing $80k towards the eligible costs of the project (before overhead costs); the maximum that DFO will reimburse for overhead is $12k (15% of $80k), provided that the total DFO contribution does not exceed the maximum allowed contribution.
Additional costs eligible only to Indigenous organizations or groups:
- Honoraria, ceremonial items, gifts and/or feasts.
What are some examples of common non-eligible expenses?
When non-eligible costs are included in the proposal, their removal reduces DFO’s maximum allowable contribution. Below are some examples of common non-eligible expenses:
- Administrative expenses and overhead cost of any kind. These may only be included in Part C of the budget template, as a percentage of DFO’s total contribution, provided that the total DFO contribution does not exceed the maximum allowed contribution;
- Capital value of equipment & software acquired prior to the start of the project;
- Internal charges for use of equipment & facilities; and
- Deemed value of uncompensated (volunteer) labour.
Project Application related Questions
I have an idea for a project. Who is the best person for me to contact?
If you are interested in applying for funding and have a question, please send a request to the general inbox: OPC-BPC@dfo-mpo.gc.ca Your query will be routed to the program staff who will be best able to answer your question.
How do I apply for funding?
To apply, please complete the application forms (proposal application and budget sheet) and send it to OPC-BPC@dfo-mpo.gc.ca on or before the deadline published on the website.
What are the reporting requirements for projects?
The following items will be requested from recipients as part of their financial and performance reporting obligations:
- Progress reports and statement of accounts;
- Final report and a final statement of account;
- An email in the Fall of every year advising as to whether the project and associated expenditures for the fiscal year are progressing as per outlined within the contribution agreement;
Additional reporting requirements may be detailed within individual contribution agreements
When will I receive notification that I have been approved for funding?
A letter of notification will be sent by DFO to the applicant within 12 weeks following the closure date of the call for project proposals.
What is the typical process after the application has been approved?
Once projects are selected for funding, successful applicants will receive official notification by letter, after which a contribution agreement will be negotiated between the successful applicant and the Department. In general, the contribution agreement will need to be finalized prior to the project being authorized to commence incurring expenses.
Will I receive feedback on my application?
Due to the anticipated high volume of applications, we are not in a position to provide detailed feedback on individual project proposals. All projects decisions for proposals are final. Only the successful applicants will be notified of project decisions. It is the responsibility of the Lead Applicant to ensure that we have a clear and accurate understanding of the project. We do not expect to contact applicants for further information.
How will funding be disbursed?
Eligible expenses will be reimbursed in accordance with the terms of the signed Contribution Agreement.
Funding for a contribution project will be disbursed on the basis of the submission of satisfactory project scientific and financial reporting related to work performed.
What is the maximum DFO contribution that organizations can seek for a project?
DFO assistance for Indigenous organizations or groups may be 100% of eligible costs per project;
DFO assistance for Canadian not-for-profit organizations and community groups who have 4 or fewer permanent employees, including no employees (0), may be 100% of costs per project, otherwise DFO assistance shall not exceed 75% of eligible costs per project;
DFO assistance for business and industry recipients, including business and industry associations, shall not exceed 50% of eligible costs per project; and
DFO assistance for all other recipients shall not exceed 75% of eligible costs per project.
What happens if we must make changes to the project, after it’s been approved for funding?
While applicants are responsible for sound project planning which will take mitigation of risks into account, amendments serve as the means by which the legal commitments contained within an active Contribution Agreement can be altered. Some common reasons why a Contribution Agreement might need to be amended include:
- Changes to the project budget beyond the authority delegated to the recipient in the Agreement
- Substantive changes to the underlying project (objectives, deliverables, work plan, methodology or activities are deviating from what is listed in the original agreement) as a result of unforeseen circumstances
- Changes to any clause of the Contribution Agreement itself (examples: effective date, funding amount, reporting, payment structure, class of eligible recipients, maximum amount payable to a recipient, stacking limit, etc.)
All amendments must be negotiated between DFO and the organization, and ultimately must be approved by both parties to the original agreement.
Are there any flexibilities that accommodate changing project plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The current COVID-19 situation is very likely having a significant impact on your organization. The health and safety of Canadians is the top priority for the Government of Canada. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has some flexibility with regard to how we manage Contribution Agreements to reduce potential impacts on recipients and participants as well as on project duration and the types of activities that can be funded.
Project activities may be disrupted, postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19. Flexibility will be exercised on all reasonable costs associated with activities and there cancellation. In these cases, the recipient is requested to provide a rationale to explain the situation. This rationale must detail what expenditures were incurred.
If the recipient has had to stop the current activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but expects to be able to complete the activities at a later date, agreements can be amended to reflect new timelines and deliverables where applicable.
If Contribution Agreements are administered via advance payments, the recipient can retain the advance as long as they are able to commit to delivery of the activities in a reasonable amount of time when taking into consideration Public Health advisory recommendations. If the project activities do not proceed, the recipient is required to return any unspent funds.
If the project activities do not proceed, the recipient is required to return unspent funds.
What counts as an in-kind contribution covered by an organization?
All costs and expenditures that would be incurred by an organization to perform a project and which are not covered by DFO financial contribution qualify as in-kind contributions, regardless of the origin of the funding used by the organization to pay for these costs and expenditures.
- Example: if the organization receives $25,000 project support from any other organization, and the amount is used by the organization to pay the partial salary of an employee working on the project, the salary cost in question represents an in-kind contribution for the project by the organization.
In-kind contributions may not include any overhead costs.
Specifically, project costs and expenditures that qualify as in-kind contributions include:
- The portion of Eligible Costs that would not be covered by DFO's financial contributions.
- University salaries (e.g., salary of university technician, salary corresponding to project manager's time on a project, etc.);
- Purchase price of laboratory equipment and instruments required for the proposed project, less any amount claimed as Eligible Cost; and
- Any costs or expenditures funded by government of Canada organizations other than DFO, or by any other organizations providing fund for the project, must be listed in section 4.1 (b) of the application.
Project costs must not include depreciation costs and non-incremental costs attributed to organization-owned equipment, facilities and platforms (such as a ship) used for the project.
Can DFO provide an in-kind contribution to a project?
DFO in-kind contributions may include scientific support (i.e. access to data or scientific samples) to funded recipients, if needed for funded projects.
To ensure the project is independent of the funding department, DFO will confirm internally its authority to contribute in-kind scientific support, to determine that DFO is the only organization that is able to contribute the in-kind resources that are absolutely necessary for the project.
Is receiving an advance payment possible for contribution projects?
In general, DFO contributions are paid in arrears (i.e. applicants are reimbursed) on receipt of satisfactory project and financial reporting. However, in exceptional cases, DFO may provide payment of a portion of the contribution in advance where such payments are deemed crucial to the successful advancement of the project. Advance payments are based on the cash flow requirements of the project, and are provided at the discretion of DFO. The applicant requesting advance payments will need to satisfactorily demonstrate that the project’s cash flow requirements are substantial, and the applicant lacks the financial resources to manage these requirements.
After notification by the Department that a project proposal has been successful, applicants wishing to request an advance payment should submit:
- a written request justifying the need for an advance payment and identifying the potential impacts of not providing the advance payment; and
- a completed project statement of cash flows illustrating quarterly planned budget expenses by federal fiscal year (April 1 to March 31). The project cash flow template will be provided to applicants upon request.
Projects receiving an initial advance payment will need to submit all required project scientific and financial reporting before qualifying to receive a subsequent advance.
Could we redistribute funding to a third party, if it helps in meeting the objective of the project?
Yes. Recipients may redistribute funds to other parties providing that the third party is an ‘eligible recipients’. All parties must be identified within the proposal. The main recipient of the funding will remain liable to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the performance of its obligations under the funding agreement. Recipients have full independence in the selection of such third parties and will not be acting as an agent of the government in making distributions.
The project has been approved for funding. When can the organization start incurring expenses?
The recipient can only start incurring expenses from the date of signature of the contribution agreement by both the Department and the recipient organization.
How do you define good “value for money”?
Good value for money is the extent to which a project demonstrates relevance and performance. Relevance is achieved by addressing a demonstrable need that is appropriate for the federal government and is responsive to the needs of Canadians. Performance is achieved by using taxpayer resources well, producing project outputs in an affordable manner, and achieving outcomes consistent with program objectives.
Can multi-year projects be funded?
The individual priority area to which you are applying will provide guidance as to whether multi-year projects are possible.
What should we do if we realize we will not be able to spend all the funding we were provided?
Contribution funding cannot be carried forward to a different fiscal year by the Department. Therefore, under the Contribution Agreement, recipients commit to advising DFO by November 30th of each year of anticipated deviations from their planned expenditures and project activities. This allows the Department an opportunity to identify options in response to deviations: surplus funds that would otherwise lapse can be reallocated, and deficits potentially mitigated.
Suppose my project spans two fiscal years, and in the first year I spend (and therefore invoice) less on the project than I had budgeted for; can I make up the lapsed funds by invoicing more in the second year of the project?
No. DFO cannot carry forward lapsed funds from one fiscal year to the next. Funding is approved in support of eligible expenditures incurred within a defined calendar period (the “Contribution Period”) and cannot be carried forward.
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