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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) developed a draft Consultation Policy and Framework as part of the CFIA's commitment to effectively consult with stakeholders. The policy and framework will bring consistent approaches to consultation that will better serve the needs of all stakeholders and the CFIA.

The CFIA did a 30-day online consultation on the draft Consultation Policy and Framework. People who were invited to comment include stakeholders, CFIA staff, a variety of industry contacts, and Canadians. The purpose of the consultation was to inform people of the CFIA's intention to adhere to a formal process for future consultations. This includes seeking comment from stakeholders on consultation topics.

This report summarizes the policy- and framework-related comments received from respondents

About the respondents

Table 1: Respondent profile
Categories of participants Total responses Distribution
Consumer (general public) 3 20%
Consumer associations 0 0%
Industry (including industry associations) 4 27%
Government 6 40%
Health and nutrition professional 2 13%
Academic 0 0%
Table 2: Language of response
Language Total responses Distribution
English 14 93%
French 1 7%
Table 3: Participation in past CFIA consultations
Response Total responses Distribution
Yes 6 40%
No 8 53%
Don't know 1 7%
Table 4: Number of CFIA consultations participated in over the last 5 years
Response Total responses Distribution
1 to 2 1 17%
3 to 4 1 17%
5 or more 4 67%
Don't know 0 0%
Table 5: Topics of previous consultationsFootnote 1
Response Total responses Distribution
Animal programs 1 17%
Plant programs 4 67%
Food programs 4 67%
Don't know 0 0%

Table Notes

Table Note 1

Some respondent topics fall into more than one category, as a result the distribution percentage appears to exceed 100 percent.

Return to table note 1  referrer

Table 6: Consultation method previously usedFootnote 2
Response Total responses Distribution
Online 5 83%
In person 6 100%
Telephone 2 33%
Mail 2 33%
Other 0 0%
Don't know 0 0%

Table Notes

Table Note 2

Some respondent topics fall into more than one category, as a result the distribution percentage appears to exceed 100 percent.

Return to table note 2  referrer

Table 7: Preferred method for future consultations Table Note 3
Response Total responses Distribution
Online 13 87%
In person 10 67%
Telephone 4 27%
Mail 3 20%
Other: online meeting 1 7%
Other: doesn't matter 1 7%
Don't know 0 0%

Table Notes

Table Note 3

Some respondent preferred methods fall into more than one category, as a result the distribution percentage appears to exceed 100 percent.

Return to table note 3  referrer

An additional 23 incomplete responses were received. As no comments on the draft Consultation Policy and Framework were included in these responses, they are not included in this report.

What we've heard

Overview responses to the Consultation Policy and Framework

Respondents were generally supportive of the draft Consultation Policy and Framework.

Some suggestions include

  • using different words,
  • making structural adjustments,
  • clarifying information, and
  • providing more detailed guidance within the Policy and Framework content.

Below are the overall comments we received from respondents. These are posted in the exact style they were received in and have not been edited for grammar, spelling, or clarity.

  • I commend the Government of Canada for the opportunity to supply our comments. The past couple of years has seen an increase in the number of forums that we can access. Now we just need to make it meaningful and this is certainly a good step.
  • I think that this Consultation Policy may be a step in the right direction. Consultation is key between industry and the CFIA in order to obtain a working relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties.
  • I am open to all public consultations by the CFIA. [translation]
  • The document clarifies how the process will occur and defines the steps involved. It also provides the rationale for developing the process. I appreciate it is not overly lengthy and provides straightforward language for all persons to understand. Look forward to the implementation.
  • CFIA must include more transparent input from Canadian consumers and health professionals and small food producers in Canada in regards to Food safety policies and regulation.
  • The suggested policy doesn't recognize the consultation process used over the years and presently. It almost suggests the CFIA has not consulted to date with stakeholders which is not correct. Should likely focus on uniformity and efficiency in conducting consultation.
  • The document is clearly written and has well defined principles.
  • I think the draft is conceptually okay.
  • The consultation process is important but is prone to undue influence.
  • I have read the whole document and it does not in any way shape or form give me any confidence in either my government or their policies and programs to protect the Canadian food supply.

Specific responses to the Consultation Policy and Framework

The following lists comments from respondents as they apply to various sections of the draft Consultation Policy and Framework. These are posted in the exact style they were received in and have not been edited for grammar, spelling, or clarity.

1. Preamble

1.1 Government of Canada Commitment

  • Your link to footnote #2 does not seem to work, nor does footnote #4. Ensure the French and English link to the same, correct locations.

1.2 Public Involvement

  • Citizen Engagement: change "deliberative" to collaborative. Deliberative means long and carefully considered in this context, but often government is looking for consensus building with stakeholders, where they actively participate in decision-making.
  • In the initial description of consultations, two differing definitions are given on what it means to consult:
    • Stakeholder Consultations: Government requests feedback on a decision-making process after determining the problem or issue and identifying the participants in the process. The government makes the final decision.
    • 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.
  • Further in the document, it refers to the opportunity to influence outcomes. I would suggest the policy needs to be rewritten so that it is clear "up front" and makes a strong distinction between:
    • Information Provision: Government provides information to stakeholders on a chosen course of action, or government requests feedback on a course of action/decision-making process after making a decision.
    • Consultation: Government requests feedback on a decision-making process after determining the problem or issue and identifying the participants in the process, providing participants with background information and conducting a two-way exchange. The exchange includes listening to others' ideas, seeking suggestions to solve problems, and outlining proposals while ensuring there are opportunities for change. Once the feedback is received and incorporated, it is reviewed by government and the government makes the final decision.
  • There is no way that the majority of stakeholders on an issue believe that information provision = consultation.

1.3 The Canadian Food Inspection Agency

  • I would suggest that instead of saying you will increase transparency that you state that you are transparent, and that you are accountable by space.

2. Policy

  • Those in charge of overseeing the consultation process have to acknowledge that Government of Canada employees do not know everything. Very few, if any, government workers that have been part of this process to date have come from industry or have any real working knowledge of what impact their decisions have on business.
  • Reference to item # 2; I do hope this is reviewed by Public Prosecution Service, Canada. If not drafted properly this could impinge on enforcement action that could/should be taken. When consultation procedures are not properly drafted then severe problems can be created from them.
  • I think the policy steps at the end should include a step that ensures stakeholders get a good understanding of the issue as CFIA sees it.

2.1 Policy Statement

  • The policy statement reads: "The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (the CFIA or the Agency) will consult with stakeholders, both regulated and non-regulated parties, on significant policy and program issues that impact them". The framework should provide guidance with respect to what constitutes a "significant policy and program issue" to promote a consistent CFIA approach.
  • Any proposed change to federal policy or regulation that will have an impact on manufacturers based on a supposed consumer demand must include a real opportunity for manufacturers to have input on those changes.
  • Change "significant policy and program issues that impact them" to "pertinent regulatory, policy or program issues that interest them". (If we promise to only consult with them on impactful issues, then it's not as transparent as inviting them to consult on issues of interest to them.)

2.2 Policy Objectives

  • Add "international stakeholders" to list of groups.
  • First bullet "that impact them" should be changed to "in which they have an interest or should be notified". (Since all three bullets represent levels of consultation, it may be useful to add another bullet at the level of "citizen engagement", which would promise to be collaboration, where appropriate, as a framework for participatory or delegated decision-making.)

2.3 Stakeholders

  • #11: change "should involve each stakeholder group when undertaking consultation" to "the Agency, when undertaking consultation, should engage each stakeholder group at the appropriate degree of public involvement".
  • bullet #12 should be moved under section 3.1 Consultation process, as it is consultation-specific, not stakeholder-specific.
  • In the definition of types of stakeholders that could be listened to, I think it would be appropriate to mention by name municipal and provincial government, charities and not-for-profits, health organizations . . . and also to leave a space for "all others as appropriate". Being explicit in this way can remind staff of who needs to be included in their deliberations. This material seems to me to be logically included in Step 3: Implementation. I suggest that it would be very valuable to include sentences like:
    • Provide advanced material to stakeholders in preparation for the consultations to aid them in understanding the issue(s).
    • At the start of the process provide an opportunity for the entire group, including CFIA representatives, to come to a common understanding of the issue.
    • Provide a neutral facilitator when consultations are in-depth to ensure CFIA representatives are not seen as steering the process.

2.4 Monitoring

  • No comment was received.

3. Framework

  • No comment was received.

3.1 Consultation Process

  • More specific guidance could be added in the "consultation process" of the framework. First, under the sub-heading of "stage 1: preparation", the document advises to "determine if there is a need for consultation by identifying the issue, its scope and the public environment". This is an area where the framework could provide further guidance (e.g. explain what steps should be taken to determine if a consultation is necessary and describe situations that require consultations). Second, under the sub-heading of "stage 2: design" the document advises to "propose an appropriate approach to involving stakeholders based on the information collected during the preparation stage, and consistent with the scope and the scale of the issue". Guidance should be provided to assist CFIA employees in determining what constitutes an "appropriate" approach. Providing some guidance in these areas is important to ensuring that the CFIA is consistent in conducting consultations.
  • Stage 1: Preparation: need to define scope further: add "develop a comprehensive list of stakeholders and their potential concerns."
  • Stage 2: Design: add "Set specific objectives" (as per principle 2.2) – this is absolutely critical to the consultation process. (Second bullet) change to: "Define and clarify the approach, process and objectives as well as tools and methodology to be used to effectively support agreed-upon objectives, as well as desired results."
  • Stage 4: Feedback and follow-up: Add the following at the end of the sentence, "appropriate to the degree of public involvement previously established with stakeholders".

3.2 Consultation Mechanisms

  • #19: "development, implementation, evaluation and review". This wording should be consistent with the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation (CDSR), so it may be helpful if you further define "development" as follows: "to identify and assess public policy issues; set objectives, expected results; select, design and assess regulatory responses; analyzing impacts and ensure benefits justify costs". After that comes implementation planning and compliance, measuring and reporting on performance, and finally evaluating and reviewing the regulation/policy alternative. As this is a cyclical process that involves consultation throughout, it should be fully explained in detail so stakeholders and CFIA personnel are each aware of their roles in this lifecycle approach.

3.3 Principles

  • usually principles come before the process, as outlined in 3.1

3.3.1 Planning and Evaluation

  • The planning and evaluation piece of the framework document would benefit from more detailed guidance. Under the heading of "Principle 3: Timing", the document advises to "organize consultation activities with appropriate timeframes and deadlines to allow participants reasonable time to prepare and provide their input". It would be beneficial for the document to include some guidance regarding how appropriate or reasonable timeframes are determined. Providing guidance in this area is important to ensuring that the CFIA is consistent in conducting consultations.
  • Timeliness in the public sector can be too slow. While CFIA does not have full control over these matters, responsiveness can be a key point to the competitiveness of the agricultural sector.

3.3.2 Mutual Respect

  • Stage 4 of the consultation process must involve a wider spectrum of stakeholders. Any consultation process should involve as many associations as possible.
  • Principle 4: inclusiveness: very good wording here that has to be reflected in 2.1 Policy statement and 2.2 Policy objectives -- for a consistent approach, as the intent here is to aim to build trust and credibility for the process, among all participants.

3.3.3 Consultation Culture

  • Some employees still function beyond the realm of accountability within CFIA. They are sheltered from influence to the extent that changing how they function or what they actually do is not possible. In the end, some of these employees are not about serving the greater good - they are about creating a self serving bureaucracy with less than ideal value to the industry.
  • Principle 9: Transparency: Change to "Share the results of the consultation with participants in a timely manner, appropriate to the degree of public involvement." Since there is a wide variety of consultation approaches the Agency has at its disposal, we shouldn't be boxed in to simply disseminating information. Often we'll want to continue the dialogue process with stakeholders in accordance with the CDSR cycle for continuous "consulting, coordinating and cooperating" on public policy issues and our obligation to respond to them at their appropriate level of involvement in the process.

How we are responding

The CFIA would like to thank everyone who contributed their time to the consultation process and shared their views.

All comments received were attentively reviewed and considered before the Consultation Policy and Framework was finalized. Specific wording and terminology decisions were made based on existing and recognized consultation, engagement and public participation material. This includes those produced by other government departments, as well as by internationally recognized associations such as the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2).

The final version of the Consultation Policy and Framework is now posted online. Any subsequent modifications to the policy and framework will require internal CFIA approvals.

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