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Federal Accountability Action Plan, April 2006

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Cleaning up government polling and advertising

Delivering on our commitment

  • A requirement to publicly release, in writing, polling findings within six months
  • A legislated commitment to fairness, openness, and transparency in the procurement process for advertising and public opinion research

"In 2004-2005, 621 POR  [public opinion research] projects were initiated by the government and coordinated through PWGSC for a contract value of $29 million, using the services of 74  research firms."

-Public Opinion Research Annual Report, 2004-2005 Public Works and Government Services Canada

Why we are doing this

The Government of Canada uses public opinion research and advertising to listen to and communicate with Canadians. They are vehicles through which government captures public awareness and concerns, maintains focus on the needs of citizens, and reaches Canadians with information on its programs and services.

Recent political scandals regarding sponsorship and advertising activities, however, have raised legitimate concerns about the transparency, fairness, and value for money of the procurement process in these areas. In her November 2003 report, the Auditor General raised concerns about lack of compliance with contracting rules; the manner in which public opinion research and advertising contracts were awarded; poor documentation; and the failure of oversight mechanisms to detect, prevent, and report violations.

The Federal Accountability Act will:

  • prohibit verbal-only reports; and
  • require that departments and agencies, within six months of completing public opinion research data collection under contract, send to Library and Archives Canada a final written report on research findings. See footnote 3

In addition, we will introduce the following measures:

  • We will amend the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada and related procedures by June 2006 to:
    • reflect the new statutory requirement for written reports;
    • include a requirement that the contracting of government advertising and public opinion research be open, fair, transparent, and competitive; and
    • include a new definition of advertising to distinguish advertising from collateral services such as public relations, events management, and public-service announcements, following consultations with key stakeholders in the industry.
  • We will appoint an Independent Advisor for a period of six months to:
    • conduct a full review of public opinion research practices discussed in Chapter 5 of the Auditor General’s November 2003 report that the previous government refused to allow Justice Gomery to consider by explicitly exempting them from consideration;
    • determine whether further action, such as a judicial inquiry, is required; and
    • provide a final report to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, who will make the report available to the public.
  • We will require that departments and agencies post public opinion research contract information and executive summaries of completed projects on the Internet for ease of public access. See footnote 4
  • We will instruct all departments and agencies to conduct risk-based audits of their advertising and public opinion research activities and processes.

What this means for Canadians

These measures will ensure value for money in public opinion research and advertising contracts, and will preclude those contracts from being awarded or used for partisan reasons or political benefit.

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