These pages provide resources for an understanding of the Canadian federal government policy cycle.
Roles and Responsibilities of Central Agencies (Parliamentary Information and Research Service)
The Horizontal Challenge: Line Departments, Central Agencies and Leadership
- About Cabinet
- Current Ministry (Cabinet) and Mandate letters
- Cabinet, Parliamentary Secretaries and Opposition Critics
- Cabinet Committee Mandate and Membership
- Cabinet conclusions 1944-1979
- Accountable Government: a Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State
- Ministerial Mandate Letters
- Ministerial Staff: Issues of Accountability and Ethics
- Open and Accountable Government 2015
- Accountability of Deputy Ministers before Parliament
- Guidance for Deputy Ministers
- Prime Minister
- Governor in Council Appointments: Recent Changes and Suggestions for Reform
- Privy Council Office
- The Role and Structure of the Privy Council Office
Treasury Board of Canada
Why is the Government contemplating action on an issue?
Possible explanations include the following:
(a) Statistics revealed a problem in Canadian society
- Statistics Canada
- Vital Signs Reports
- Weak Signals of possible change that have the potential to disrupt current systems
(b) Scientific research has revealed a problem for Canadian society
Federal Science Library - search individually or collectively the collections of the Canadian Agriculture Library, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada, National Science Library and Natural Resources Canada
CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada)
SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada)
(c) Party/policy or election platform called for the policy
(d) A body tasked with an investigation has made a recommendation for action
Reports from commissions of inquiry, task forces, legislative committees, advisory bodies and departments may have the additional benefit of providing historical background to the issue
Government of Canada Publications
(e) Opinion called for the policy
- Public Opinion Polls subject guide
- Public Opinion Research Reports (Government of Canada)
- Provincial/Territorial Governments
- Think Tanks (Grey Literature)
- Find policy Google custom search - covers 14 prominent Canadian research organizations.
- Canadian Public Policy Collection - provides access to publications from think tanks, public policy institutes, government agencies, advocacy groups, university research centers and other public interest groups.
- Conference Board of Canada eLibrary
- Social Research and Demonstration Corporation
- The PolicyFile database is largely American but does include some Canadian material, e.g. Fraser Institute and the Canadian Labour Congress.
- Think Tank Search (Harvard Kennedy School) is a Google Custom Search of more than 690 think tanks and research centers.
- Interest Groups
Particularly those that appear before Parliamentary Committees: Senate and House of Commons
(f) Canada's international commitments called for policy measures
Canada is a signatory to treaties that require regular reporting on progress towards implementation and which may involve the assessment by other countries of Canada's progress. These implementation reports in the area of human rights cover economic, social, and cultural aspects and summarize Canada's policy initiatives in these areas at both the federal and provincial/territorial levels.
- For example, Promoting human rights, Canada's performance and reporting to the United Nations, and Canada's human rights commitments.
- To illustrate: Canada is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- The UN Committee found some areas of concern and made recommendations to Canada.
- The Senate investigated the matter and issued a report: Children: The Silenced Citizens (April 2007)
(g) Parliamentary committees made a policy recommendation
Both the Senate and House of Commons have committees. There are also joint committees of both the House of Commons and Senate. It can be helpful for those interested in the evolution of policy to follow the work of a relevant committee.
Committees study and report on legislative proposals (bills). Committees can also investigate topics of interest and summon witnesses. Witnesses may appear on their own behalf, on behalf of the Government, or can represent various interest groups.
When the Committee has concluded its study, a report is usually prepared. At the end of the report, there can be recommendations, which may or may not be unanimous and a request to the Government to respond to these recommendations. These responses indicate the Government's policy position and care is taken in their drafting.
Example of a report and Government response: Declaration of Health Emergency by First Nations Communities in Northern Ontario and Government Response to the Third Report of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, "Declaration of Health Emergency by First Nations Communities in Northern Ontario".
(h) A Government oversight body has recommended a policy change
- Auditor General of Canada
- Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission
- Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada
- Commissioner of Official Languages
- Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
- Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
- Correctional Investigator
- Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
- Information Commissioner
- Privacy Commissioner
- Procurement Ombudsman
- Public Sector Integrity Commissioner
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police External Review Committee
- Security Intelligence Review Committee
- Taxpayers' Ombudsman
- Veterans' Ombudsman
What action is the Government taking to address the issue?
(a) Government may study the issue
Library of Parliament may be asked to prepare a backgrounder on the issue
Policy Horizons Canada publishes a wide range of reports on emerging issues in society, economy, environment, governance, and technology
Reports may be prepared by commissions of inquiry, task forces, legislative committees, advisory bodies, departments. These reports may have the additional benefit of providing the historical background to the issue - Government of Canada Publications
(b) Government may wish to raise the issue for public discussion
(c) Government may release an outline of its policy objectives and possible future action
(a) The Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister may make a statement by itself or accompanying a package of measures
- Canada News Centre News Releases
- Statement in the House of Commons - see the Debates
- Also, check newspapers and other News sources
(b) Government may engage in capacity-building, which goes beyond providing information and transfers to people and organizations the means to advance policy objectives.
- Pan Canadian Healthy Living Strategy
- Government Publications Canada
- Federal Publications Locator
- Library and Archives Canada Electronic Collection
(c) Government may apply economic instruments such as taxes, fees and public expenditures
Funding a New Initiative: How a Department Gets Approvals and Money
Taxes, fees, duties, public expenditures
- Federal budget (Dept. of Finance Canada)
- Planned government spending (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat)
- Horizontal Initiatives Database (Treasury Board of Canada Database)
- Standing Committee on Public Accounts PACP (House of Commons)
- Parliamentary Budget Officer
(d) Government may impose new rules such as laws and regulations
- Legislative Process: From Government Policy to Proclamation
- How a Government bill becomes law - Canada
- Guide to Making Federal Acts and Regulations
- Guide to the Federal Regulatory Development Process
- A Good practice handbook for managing regulatory impact analyses: highlights
- LEGISinfo (since 2001)
- Justice Laws Website
- Canada Gazette
- Government-Wide Forward Regulatory Plans
- Orders in Council Database
- Regulatory Policy: Canada (OECD)
How effective was the policy?
Customized Google search engine for Government Information
- Internal Audit and Evaluation
- Centre of Excellence for Evaluation
- Office of the Auditor General of Canada - Reports and Petitions
- Parliamentary Budget Officer
- Equity analysis tools: Treasury Board: Gender-Based Analysis Plus; Indian and Northern Affairs Canada's GBA Policy; Status of Women Canada GBA+
- Guide to Preparing Treasury Board Submissions
- How to Create Superior Briefings
- How to Write Briefing Notes
- How to Write a Policy Brief (training tool developed by IDRC)
- Action memorandum - Appendix 1 and 2
- Writing for Government (University of Victoria)
- Writing for Government: How to Write a Briefing Note
- Writing for Government: How to Write a Policy Recommendation