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Consultation Policy and Framework

Table of Contents

1. Preamble

1.1 Government of Canada commitment

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.Footnote 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

Other legal obligations also impose requirements for departments and agencies to do consultation. These obligations include

1.2 Public involvement

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.

Image - shows the four levels of public involvement: informing, stakeholder consultations, citizen engagement, negotiated arrangements

Government distributes or makes accessible information on policies, decisions, services, and legislation.

Stakeholder Consultations
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.

Citizen Engagement
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.

Negotiated Arrangements
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.

1.3 The Canadian Food Inspection Agency

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.

2. Policy

2.1 Policy statement

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.

2.2 Policy objectives

The objectives of the Policy are

2.3 Stakeholders

The CFIA engages with stakeholders in its principal role as a regulator. These stakeholders are from the following groups:

As applicable, the Agency, when undertaking consultation, should engage each stakeholder group at the appropriate degree of public involvement.

2.4 Monitoring

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.

3. Framework

This framework guides the CFIA when consulting. The framework supports a consistent approach to consultation, while allowing for individual approaches, when appropriate.

3.1 Principles

The following nine principles should form the foundation of consultation processes. Adhering to these principles will create the conditions necessary for a successful consultation.

3.1.1 Planning and evaluation

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.

3.1.2 Mutual respect

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.

3.1.3 Consultation culture

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.

3.2 Consultation process

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

Stage 2: Design

Stage 3: Implementation

Stage 4: Feedback and Follow-up

Stage 5: Evaluation

3.3 Consultation mechanisms

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).

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