Canada: Treasury Board President John Baird Announces Corrective Measures to Restore Accountability in Federal Advertising and Public Opinion Research

Last Updated: August 24 2006

Full Text of Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat News Release and Backgrounder dated August 11, 2006

Canada's New Government Moves to Restore Accountability to Advertising Procurement

OTTAWA – The Honourable John Baird, President of the Treasury Board of Canada, announced today that the Government of Canada is introducing corrective measures to restore accountability in advertising and public opinion research conducted by the federal government.

The Government of Canada is amending the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada resulting from commitmen ts made in the Federal Accountability Action Plan.

"Our priority is to strengthen accountability and oversight in government operations, in order to address Canadians’ concerns" Minister Baird said. "The implementation of these measures, together with the Federal Accountability Action Plan, is another step forward in ensuring transparency, fairness and value for money in the bidding process for public opinion research and advertising."

His colleague, the Honourable Michael M Fortier, Minister of Public Works and Government Services of Canada, added: "Public opinion research and advertising are two key tools for government to listen and communicate with Canadians. As the department that coordinates those tools for the entire federal government, we are committed to do what is necessary to ensure that our approach to advertising and public opinion research shows that we are striving to meet Canadians’ expectations for open, transparent and accountable government operations."

As part of its Action Plan commitments, the Government is amending the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada to:

- provide written public opinion research reports and to make them available to the public through the Library of Parliament and Librar y and Archives Canada within six months of the completion of fieldwork;

- add a statement emphasizing that the bidding process for contracting of public opinion research and advertising activities must be open, fair and transparent; and

- include a new definition of advertising to distinguish it from non-paid messages such as public service announcements and from collateral services such as public relations and events management.

As outlined in the Federal Accountability Action Plan, other important measures are forthcoming, such as including these requirements in legislatio n and appointing an Independent Advisor to conduct a review of public opinion research procurement practices across government, including those discussed in Chapter 5 of the Auditor General’s November 2003 report. All departments and agencies will also be reminded to conduct risk-based audits of their advertising and public opinion research activities and processes.

Attached is a backgrounder with information on the changes to the policy and the procedures. The modified policy and related procedures is available online at:


Federal Accountability Act: Changes to Communications Policy

On April 11, 2006, the Government of Canada tabled the Federal Accountability Act and Action Plan, bringing forward specific measures to help strengthen accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations. The comprehensive Action Plan includes measures related to government public opinion research and advertising.

Definition of advertising

The amended Communications Policy includes a new definition of advertising that distinguishes advertising from collater al services. It now reads: "any message, conveyed in Canada or abroad, and paid for by the government for placement in media such as newspapers, television, radio, Internet, cinema and out-of-home." This definition excludes collateral materials such as counter displays, unpaid public service announcements, as well as communications and public relations activities.

Previously, advertising was defined as:

- all activities involved in the purchase, by or on behalf of the government, for the development and production of advertising campaigns and associated space or time in print or broadcast media, or in other mass media, such as outdoor and transit advertising;

any collateral materials such as posters, counter displays, and printed material such as inserts that are a direct extension of an advertising campaign. Public Service Announcements are also considered advertising;

- public relations, special events, direct marketing and promotion activities that are an extension or form part of an advertising campaign; and

- paid announcements such as public notices regarding tenders, sales, public hearings, offers of employment, business hours and addresses that are placed directly with the media by departments and agencies.

This new definition will help clarify which activities should be considered in advertising contracts. Excluding collateral services will also increase competitiveness by providing more opportunities for other suppliers, in particular for small or medium-sized enterprises, to bid for contracts on those services. The Contracting Policy, and other Action Plan measures to strengthen the contracting process and accountability in government, will apply to all contracting activities, whether for advertising or collateral services.

The new definition will also allow for grea ter transparency in the management and reporting of advertising activities of federal institutions. When accessing public funding information on advertising, the public and Parliamentarians will know that these are directly related to advertising.

Information on funding activities of departments and agencies is available in departmental performance reports, in the Annual Report on Government Advertising prepared by Public Works and Government Services Canada, departmental proactive disclosure Web sites for contracts over $10,000 and the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Web site on funding allocations for advertising activities.

Bidding Process

The Communications Policy is also being amended to include a statement emphasizing that the bidding process for advertising and for public opinion research must be open, fair and transparent. It also reminds institutions that they may not issue contracts or expend public funds for research on electoral voting intentions, or political party preferences or party standings with the electorate.

Public Opinion Research

The new Communications Policy requires departments and agencies to provide written public opinion research reports to the Library of Parliament and to Library and Archives Canada within six months of the completion of fieldwork to facilitate access to the public, Parliamentarians and journalists.

Library and Archives Canada will post executive summaries of the reports on its Web site as well as links to contract information. Both Parliamentarians and citizens will be able to access public opinion research studies and judge the relevancy of the research conducted by or for their government.

These provisions of the Communications Policy will be further strengthened once the Federal Accountability Act receives royal assent.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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