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Cleaning up government polling and advertising

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On April 11, 2006, the Government of Canada introduced the Federal Accountability Act and Action Plan, delivering on its commitment to make government more accountable. The Federal Accountability Act received Royal Assent on December 12, 2006. This is one of a series of fact sheets describing proposed actions to respond to this commitment.

The context

Past political scandals raised legitimate questions about the transparency, fairness, and value for money of the procurement process for public opinion research and advertising.

What this means for Canadians

Together these measures help ensure fairness and value for money in contracting for public opinion research and advertising, and preclude those contracts from being awarded or used for partisan reasons or political benefit.

The Action Plan

To reinforce Canadians’ confidence in the procurement process for public opinion research and advertising, effective December 12, 2006, the Federal Accountability Act:

  • prohibits verbal-only reports; and
  • requires departments and agencies to send a final written report on research findings obtained under contract to Library and Archives Canada within six months of completing data collection.

The Government amended its communications policy and related procedures in August 2006 to reflect the new statutory requirement for written reports, to include a requirement that contracting be open, fair, and transparent, and to add a new definition of advertising to distinguish it from collateral services such as public relations or events management. 

The Government also requires departments and agencies to include contract information in public opinion research reports.  Executive summaries of research reports, including contract information, are to be posted on a Library and Archives Canada web site for ease of public access.

Departments and agencies have been instructed to include advertising and public opinion research activities in the department’s assessment of risks, as required by the Policy on Internal Audit.

The Government announced the pre-publishing of regulations on public opinion research in the Canada Gazette on March 31, 2007.  The regulations will:

  • prescribe the form and content of the written research reports; and
  • the manner in which the reports will be made public.

In addition, the Government has appointed 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 and determine whether further action, such as a judicial inquiry, is required.

For more information

For more information on this specific measure, please refer to the relevant section of the Action Plan, or contact us.

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