Rescinded [2016-05-11] - Procedures for the Management of Public Opinion Research

Public opinion research helps the government understand the views of Canadians and identify their needs and expectations. Its results are used to develop, implement and assess the effectiveness of policies, programs, services, products and initiatives, and to plan and evaluate marketing, advertising and other communications activities.
Date modified: 2014-09-23

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1. Effective date

1.1 These procedures take effect on August 14, 2014.

1.2 They replace the Procedures for Planning and Contracting Public Opinion Research dated June 9, 2009.

2. Application

2.1 These procedures apply to all institutions listed in Schedules I, I.1, and II of the Financial Administration Act, unless excluded by specific acts, regulations or orders in council.

2.2 These procedures do not apply to the following institutions:

  • Office of the Auditor General of Canada;
  • Office of the Chief Electoral Officer;
  • Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada;
  • Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages;
  • Offices of the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Canada; and
  • Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada.

3. Context

3.1 Public opinion research helps the government understand the views of Canadians and identify their needs and expectations. Its results are used to develop, implement and assess the effectiveness of policies, programs, services, products and initiatives, and to plan and evaluate marketing, advertising and other communications activities.

3.2 These procedures support the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, issued pursuant to Section 7 of the Financial Administration Act. Under the Communications Policy, all public opinion research is the responsibility of the head of communications of the department, whether the research is contracted, non-contracted, internal or external, and all related determinations are made by the head of communications.

3.3 These procedures describe key requirements for heads of communications, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the Communications and Consultations Secretariat at the Privy Council Office (PCO), the Public Opinion Research Directorate and the Communication Procurement Directorate at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), as well as Library and Archives Canada.

3.4 These procedures are to be read in conjunction with the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, the Public Opinion Research Contract Regulations, the Financial Administration Act, in particular Section 40 (2), as well as Section 15.1 of the Library and Archives of Canada Act.

4. Definitions

Public opinion research (recherche sur l'opinion publique)

As defined in the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, is the planned gathering, by or for a government institution of opinions, attitudes, perceptions, judgments, feelings, ideas, reactions, or views that are intended to be used for any government purpose, whether that information is collected from persons (including employees of government institutions), businesses, institutions or other entities, through quantitative or qualitative methods, irrespective of size or cost.

The information gathering may be associated with a broad range of activities, for example: policy research; market research; communications research, communications strategies and advertising research; program evaluation; quality of service/customer satisfaction studies; omnibus surveys with the placement of one or more questions; syndicated studies; or product development.

The following research and/or methods for obtaining opinions and/or advice are not considered to be opinion research: literature reviews or reviews of secondary sources, including reviews of already conducted public opinion research; secondary analysis of previously collected public opinion research data; and verification of performance of services or delivery of goods in contract situations.

5. Procedures statement

5.1 Objective

The objective of these procedures is to ensure that public opinion research carried out by or on behalf of the Government of Canada is well coordinated, transparent and managed in a way that provides value for money.

5.2 Expected results

The following are the expected results of the application of these procedures:

  • 5.2.1 departments carry out public opinion research in a manner that is open, fair and transparent; and
  • 5.2.2 departments manage public opinion research in a cost-effective way, to achieve value for money.

6. Requirements

Heads of communications are responsible for:

6.1 Planning and coordination

6.1.1 ensuring compliance and cost-effective application of these procedures, as well as the quality of public opinion research projects;

6.1.2 designating a public opinion research coordinator to manage all contracted and non-contracted public opinion research activities in their department;

6.1.3 ensuring that their department does not use resources for public opinion research on electoral voting intentions, political party preferences or party standings with the electorate or ratings of the performance of a political party or its leaders;

6.1.4  consulting with the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC for planned public opinion research projects prior to conducting the research or issuing a contract;

6.1.5  coordinating all contracted public opinion research activities with the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC;

6.1.6 preparing an annual plan in consultation with the Communications and Consultations Secretariat at the PCO and the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC, and advising them prior to any amendments;

6.1.7 ensuring that the annual plan includes all contracted public opinion research projects and projects deemed significant as per Appendix A, and advising the Communications and Consultations Secretariat at the PCO and the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC of all unanticipated public opinion research projects not included in the plan;

6.1.8 ensuring that the annual plan: 

  1. describes each proposed contracted and significant non-contracted research project;
  2. details the objective of each project;
  3. outlines the intended use of the results;
  4. includes the total contract value, if applicable, including applicable taxes;
  5. indicates if the project will be undertaken jointly by multiple departments; and
  6. indicates if a project will be carried out over more than one fiscal year;

6.1.9 after consulting with the PCO and the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC, submitting the annual plan and all unanticipated public opinion research projects for the approval of the Minister or the person designated in Schedule VI (Part III, Column II) of the Financial Administration Act;

6.1.10 identifying a lead department for public opinion research that is conducted jointly with other departments, who is responsible for obtaining the necessary approvals;

6.1.11 forwarding their department's approved annual plan and any other approved public opinion research projects to the PCO and to the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC;

6.1.12 forwarding all public opinion research projects described in Appendix B, except components of program evaluations, to the Communications and Consultations Secretariat at the PCO for information;

6.1.13 informing the Minister or the person designated in Schedule VI (Part III, Column II) of the Financial Administration Act of public opinion research projects outlined in Appendix B;

6.2 Contracting public opinion research services

6.2.1 ensuring that all procurement for public opinion research activities is managed by the Communication Procurement Directorate at PSPC;

6.2.2 working with the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC to develop statements of work before contracts are awarded by the Communication Procurement Directorate at PSPC;

6.2.3 managing the contract once it is awarded by the Communication Procurement Directorate at PSPC and ensuring the quality and content of the research produced provides value for money;

6.2.4 informing the Public Opinion Research Directorate and the Communication Procurement Directorate at PSPC prior to any changes to the original scope of work or any proposed amendments to the contract;

6.3 Conducting the research and reporting on findings

6.3.1 forwarding draft research instruments for contracted public opinion research to the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC for review, no less than five working days before conducting fieldwork;

6.3.2 ensuring that complete and accurate documentation on contracted public opinion research activities, including estimates, contracts, justification of the choice of supplier, amendments to contracts, information on contract values, information on the intended use of the research, and dates of data collection, is forwarded to the Public Opinion Research Directorate at PSPC to be entered into the Research Information Management System (RIMS) database;

6.3.3 forwarding, on request, research instruments, analysis plans, survey data, data tables, reports and status updates to the Communications and Consultations Secretariat at the PCO for review;

6.3.4 ensuring that the senior officer of the organization conducting the research on behalf of the department confirms in writing that the public opinion research complies with the political neutrality requirements in 6.1.3;

6.3.5 providing electronic copies of separate English and French public opinion research final reports and executive summaries of all contracted research projects as required under the Public Opinion Research Contract Regulations, that meet the requirements of the Standard on Web Accessibility, to Library and Archives Canada and to the Library of Parliament within six months after the completion of any data collection; and

6.3.6 ensuring that the executive summaries outline how the results are expected to be used, as well as the total contract value.

6.4 Monitoring and reporting

Within departments

Heads of communications are responsible for:

  • 6.4.1 monitoring compliance with these procedures in their department.

Government-wide

The Public Opinion Research Directorate and the Communication Procurement Directorate at PSPC as well as Library and Archives Canada are responsible for:

  • 6.4.2 monitoring the implementation of these procedures in their areas of responsibility, and informing the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat of any significant or systemic non-compliance issues.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is responsible for:

  • 6.4.3 addressing any significant or systemic non-compliance issues;
  • 6.4.4 monitoring government-wide compliance with these procedures; and
  • 6.4.5 reviewing these procedures and their effectiveness five years after their implementation.

7. Consequences

7.1 Consequences of non-compliance with these procedures can include any measure allowed by the Financial Administration Act that the Treasury Board would determine as appropriate and acceptable in the circumstances.

8. Roles and responsibilities

8.1 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is responsible for:

  • 8.1.1 advising public opinion research coordinators in departments, PSPC, the PCO and Library and Archives Canada on the interpretation of these procedures.

8.2 Public Services and Procurement Canada is responsible for:

  • 8.2.1 advising departments on compliance with legislative and policy requirements as well as contracting options;
  • 8.2.2 providing advice on public opinion research projects, including research objectives and methodologies and research instruments, as well as on government-wide and industry standards;
  • 8.2.3 developing and updating standards for Government of Canada public opinion research; 
  • 8.2.4 maintaining the Research Information Management System (RIMS) database;
  • 8.2.5 publishing an annual report on all contracted public opinion research;
  • 8.2.6 developing government-wide public opinion research procurement tools;
  • 8.2.7 delivering information sessions and promoting training opportunities to departments about conducting public opinion research;
  • 8.2.8 developing best practices and tools for departments;
  • 8.2.9 managing the procurement process for all contracted public opinion research and chairing bid evaluation processes; and
  • 8.2.10 reporting contract values to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat upon request.

8.3 Library and Archives Canada is responsible for:

  • 8.3.1 posting on its website separate English and French final reports and executive summaries for contracted public opinion research, as provided electronically by departments.

8.4 The Privy Council Office is responsible for:

  • 8.4.1 performing a central role in the leadership, challenge, strategic direction, and coordination of departmental and horizontal public opinion research activities.

9. References

10. Enquiries

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Telephone: 613-957-2400
Toll-free: 1-877-636-0656
TTY: 613-957-9090

Communications and Consultations Secretariat
Privy Council Office

Public Opinion Research Directorate
Public Services and Procurement Canada

Communication Procurement Directorate
Public Services and Procurement Canada

Library and Archives Canada

Library of Parliament


Appendix A: Public opinion research submitted to ministers for approval in the annual plan

Public opinion research is included in the annual plan and submitted for the approval of the appropriate Minister or the person designated in Schedule VI (Part III, Column II) of the Financial Administration Act in the following cases, except if identified in Appendix B:

  1. The public opinion research is carried out under contract; or
  2. The public opinion research is non-contracted but is deemed to be significant when it meets at least one of the following conditions:
    1. it supports legislation, regulations or litigation;
    2. it supports government and/or departmental priorities;
    3. it addresses the development of new government policies, programs, services or initiatives;
    4. it touches on issues that are of high public interest or sensitivity; or
    5. it relates to any other important or high risk issue.

Appendix B: Public opinion research submitted to ministers for information

Public opinion research, whether contracted or non-contracted, is submitted to the appropriate Minister or the person designated in Schedule VI (Part III, Column II) of the Financial Administration Act for information, if it falls under one of the following categories:

  1. Research studies that are components of program evaluation projects and that meet both of the following criteria:
    1. the studies are conducted with experts in the field or with known program stakeholders, who are defined as individuals or organizations with whom the program has had previous direct contact during program outreach to the target audience in the application process, or as program beneficiaries or recipients of a grant or contribution; and
    2. the program evaluation projects are included in the annual Departmental Evaluation Plan approved by the deputy head;
  2. Public opinion research that is being conducted jointly, for which the department does not have the lead; and
  3. Any other public opinion research project of which the Minister needs to be aware.
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