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ARCHIVED - A Guide to Preparing Treasury Board Submissions

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The 2014 Guidance for the Preparation of TB Submissions includes a revised submission form, the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders, enhanced guidance on costing, tools for submission writers and new service standards for submissions. Departments and agencies have until April 1, 2014, to fully implement the updated guidance.

However, as communicated in the Guideline on Chief Financial Officer Attestation for Cabinet Submissions, a CFO Attestation letter must be annexed to all submissions that have financial implications, effective January 1, 2014.

Part I: Preamble

The purpose of A Guide to Preparing Treasury Board Submissions is to provide guidance and practical advice to federal government officials on preparing and submitting a Treasury Board submission. The Guide sets out the minimum expectations for submissions and is designed to ensure that ministers receive high–quality, integrated information as a basis for decision making. To this end, it reflects key directions the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has taken to encourage improved accountability and government–wide management.

A new approach

Improving the quality of information and accountability for results are key elements of the new approach to managing spending across government. The new approach supports managing for results by establishing clear responsibilities for departments to better define the expected outcomes of new and existing programs. It supports decision making for results by ensuring that all new programs are fully and effectively integrated with existing programs and by reviewing all spending to ensure efficiency, effectiveness, and ongoing value for money. Finally, it supports reporting for results by improving the quality of departmental and government-wide reporting to Parliament.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, in consultation with the Privy Council Office and the Department of Finance Canada, is working to ensure that the information content of Cabinet documents is strengthened to provide the information and analysis necessary to support decision making. Accordingly, in preparing memoranda to Cabinet (MCs) and Treasury Board submissions, departments will now be required to clearly identify linkages between new and existing programs, set out clear objectives, expected results and outcomes, provide details about options/instrument choices, and include rigorous costing and performance measurement frameworks.

A Guide to Preparing Treasury Board Submissions incorporates many improvements to enhance the quality of information and strengthen the linkages between policy development and program implementation and reporting.

This guide provides user–friendly drafting advice with policy–specific examples for complete context and many hyperlinks to relevant references. It clarifies planning and process expectations and provides a new submission template with improved security features.

It also introduces the new planning and assessment tools: the Management, Resources, and Results Structure Policy (MRRS Policy), which incorporates the Program Activity Architecture (PAA), and the Management Accountability Framework (MAF). Parts of the Guide have been expanded to incorporate the additional regulatory affairs expertise now at the Secretariat. In addition, recent changes implemented as part of the Policy Suite Renewal project are integrated as appropriate throughout.

The Guide also addresses Treasury Board requirements for specific information on risk and on similarities with other government programs in submissions. It sets out the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's new requirement for a separate breakdown of program evaluation costs, with sign–off by departmental heads of evaluation on the adequacy and source of funding for the "evaluation" resources, as well as the requirement for accrual accounting information. The Guide continues to emphasize the role of the Senior Financial Officer/Chief Financial Officer for submissions with financial implications.

A new structure

Part 1 provides the context for developing Treasury Board submissions and reviews the functions of the key players.

Part 2 highlights the importance of planning for the Treasury Board, presents the process behind a Treasury Board submission, and provides a few reminders.

Part 3 sets out a step–by–step approach to writing a Treasury Board submission, looking first at the necessary preparation work, then walking the drafter through the submission itself and, finally, dealing with the finishing touches.

Part 4 addresses the various authorities and gives some strategic advice and checklists to help the drafter cover all aspects required for the submission.

The appendices provide detailed information on a range of key subject areas, along with some examples of Treasury Board submissions.


A Guide to Preparing Treasury Board Submissions will be updated regularly to ensure consistency with policy and legislative changes.

The expression "federal organizations" used throughout the Guide includes departments, agencies, and Crown corporations.

1. Treasury Board

The Treasury Board (Board) is a statutory committee of Cabinet established under the Financial Administration Act. It consists of six ministers, including the President of the Treasury Board (Chairperson) and the Minister of Finance, who meet regularly to consider submissions sponsored by federal organizations. The Board's members are listed on the Secretariat's website.

In June 1997, the Prime Minister designated the Treasury Board as the government's management board. In that capacity, the Board is expected to have a comprehensive view of government operations and to provide sustained leadership in improving management practices. This is in addition to the traditional roles of the Treasury Board and its Secretariat as employer and expenditure manager.

The responsibilities of the Treasury Board include the following:

  • As expenditure manager, the Treasury Board is responsible for preparing the government expenditure plan tabled annually in Parliament (Estimates) and for monitoring program spending in government departments and agencies.
  • As employer, it sets the terms and conditions under which the federal public service attracts and retains the staff it needs. It is also responsible for the general direction of federal official languages policies and programs relating to the implementation of provisions on language of service to the public, language of work, and the equitable participation of English– and French–speaking Canadians in all federal organizations.
  • As management board, the Treasury Board provides policy direction in areas such as access to information, accounting, audit and evaluation, contracting, financial management, information technology, and real property, as well as on the management of the government's assets, privacy, security, and personnel.

The Treasury Board's administrative body is the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (Secretariat).

2. Treasury Board Submissions

2.1 What is a Treasury Board submission?

A submission is an official document submitted by a sponsoring minister on behalf of a federal organization seeking approval or authority from the Treasury Board for an initiative that the organization would not otherwise be able to undertake or that is outside its delegated authorities.

Legislation, Treasury Board policies, or other Cabinet decisions usually establish the requirements for Board approval. Typical examples of submissions include seeking:

  • authority to allocate resources previously approved by Cabinet or included in the federal budget;
  • authority to make grants or contributions, or approval of amendments to terms and conditions of grant and contribution programs;
  • recommendations of approval of orders in council with resource or management implications;
  • authority to carry out a project or initiative the costs of which would exceed a minister's delegated authority;
  • authority to enter into a contract above or outside a federal organization's or minister's authority; or
  • an exemption from a Treasury Board policy.

The sponsoring minister may submit a proposal to the Treasury Board if he or she believes its collective judgment is necessary or desirable. To help present a complete picture to the Board, the minister should try to incorporate all the authorities being sought for a particular initiative into one submission.

Organizations should consult the Secretariat at the earliest possible opportunity to determine whether a given initiative requires a submission. The Secretariat may recommend that the sponsoring organization prepare a submission even if there is no explicit requirement to do so.

While submissions are a central instrument for seeking specific authorities from the Board, they also provide valuable insight into an organization's activities and contribute to the assessment by the Board and Secretariat of the federal organization's management performance. The quality of submissions is addressed in the Management Accountability Framework (MAF). With this in mind, organizations are expected to prepare submissions that meet high–quality standards. They should endeavour to exceed the requirements outlined in this guide.

2.2 Comparison of memoranda to Cabinet, Treasury Board submissions, and Governor in Council submissions

A memorandum to Cabinet (MC) differs greatly from a Treasury Board submission (TB submission) or a submission to the Governor in Council (GIC submission). An MC focuses primarily on the policy rationale and overall funding for a new policy or program initiative. A TB submission provides details on program design, specific costs, expected results and outcomes, and program delivery and implementation. A GIC submission seeks specific approval from the executive arm of government.

Even after a federal organization has obtained policy approval, it does not necessarily have the appropriate authority to carry out a Cabinet decision. Board or GIC approval is often also needed. The following table outlines differences between an MC, TB submission, and GIC submission.

Memorandum to Cabinet

TB Submission

GIC Submission


To seek approval of a policy or new initiative

To seek approval of elements for a program's design, delivery, and implementation

To seek approval of a specific order in council or specific regulations


Policy or program rationale with clear objectives, expected results and outcomes; links to horizontal objectives; relationship between new and existing programs; options and risks; opportunities for reallocation

Detailed program design and implementation plan; detailed costing; results measurement and accountability frameworks; opportunities for reallocation

Regulations, orders, appointments, corporate plan approvals, federal-provincial agreements, and asset transfers

Resource details

While sponsoring organizations normally provide cost breakdowns to central agencies, the MC often contains only high-level information on total resources required each year

Specific funding details and a clear rationale for what resources will be spent each year

Limited (cost-benefit analysis required for most regulatory submissions)

Target audience

Cabinet ministers

Treasury Board ministers

Ministers of the Treasury Board as Committee of the Privy Council

Key federal organizations involved

Organization sponsoring the MC, central agencies, and other interested federal organizations

Organization(s) sponsoring the submission (in the case of a Crown corporation, the corporation itself and the portfolio department) and the Secretariat

Federal organization(s) sponsoring the GIC submission, the Privy Council Office, the Secretariat, and sometimes the Department of Finance Canada

The Treasury Board submission transforms policy rationale and objectives into a program that will achieve those objectives. It details how the federal organization will carry out the policy initiative; why the proposed method of implementation is the best one; how the proposal contributes to government–-wide aims such as accountability, transparency, and interoperability of information; what the expected outcomes and deliverables are, as per the organization's Management, Resources, and Results Structure (MRRS); and how the federal organization will conduct monitoring and evaluation to ensure the program is meeting its policy objectives. This includes progress reports on outcomes, projected efficiency, timelines, and cost targets.

Although reference may be made to the MC and Cabinet decisions, it is generally unnecessary to repeat the policy rationale in a submission. The submission must nevertheless be consistent with the Cabinet decisions.

For more information on orders in council, please consult Appendix A of this guide and Decision-Making Process.

3. Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

As the administrative arm of the Treasury Board, the Secretariat has the mandate to support the Board as a committee of ministers.

The Secretariat is tasked with providing advice and support to Board ministers in their role of ensuring value for money and overseeing the management functions in departments and agencies.

It makes recommendations and provides advice to the Board on policies, directives, regulations, and program expenditure proposals relating to the management of the government's resources. Its responsibilities for the general management of the government affect initiatives, issues, and activities that cut across all policy sectors managed by federal departments and organizational entities (as reported in the Main Estimates). The Secretariat is also responsible for the comptrollership function of government.

Under the broad authority of sections 5 to 13 of the Financial Administration Act, the Secretariat supports the Treasury Board in its role as the general manager and employer of the federal public service.

3.1 Secretariat guidance and support

Secretariat analysts serve as a primary point of contact between federal organizations and the Secretariat. They play a key role in maintaining an integrated view of federal organizations' management practices. They are charged with preparing an analysis and recommendation for each submission presented for the consideration of Board ministers. When analyzing a submission to the Board, the analyst seeks advice on the federal organization's submission from Secretariat colleagues with required subject matter expertise. These may include:

  • relevant policy centres (e.g. transfer payment analysts in the case of a grant or contribution submission, or Labour Relations for compensation matters);
  • relevant program sector (for advice on financial, management, or program matters);
  • Centre for Excellence in Evaluation (to assess evaluations and results–based management and accountability frameworks (RMAFs));
  • Internal Audit Sector (to assess audits and risk–based audit frameworks);
  • Chief Information Officer Branch (to assess major investments and information management/information technology (IM/IT) systems, or to assess plans for developing/improving services delivered to Canadians and Canadian businesses);
  • procurement and project management experts (where projects, contracting, or real property are involved);
  • Canada Public Service Agency (to assess EX–4 or EX–5 organization and classification); or
  • Regulatory Affairs (for advice and analysis of regulatory and GIC submissions).

This is to help ensure that relevant centres within the Secretariat have an opportunity to provide input and guidance on the direction to be taken by a submission.

3.2 Review of a Treasury Board submission

After consulting with colleagues, the Secretariat analyst will work with the federal organization's contacts in the corporate area and with program managers to:

  • Provide feedback and advice on the draft submission. Although this could concern any element of the submission, the Secretariat analyst will typically focus on matters such as policy requirements; clarification of authorities required; the proposal; the cost and source of funds information; and whether and how the submission should be amended to tell a clear "story" to Board ministers, with compelling justification and rationale.
  • Provide a challenge function to ensure that the submission has been thoroughly analyzed in light of considerations such as authorities, priorities, affordability, effectiveness, program delivery, protection of public funds, performance measurement, program integrity, costs and funding, risks, and support to the organization's corporate MRRS.
  • Discuss options for scheduling the submission for consideration by the Board. Once issues have been clarified and addressed and a submission is ready for the Board, the Secretariat analyst will officially schedule it for an upcoming Board meeting. He or she will then prepare advice to the Board ministers, providing an overview of the submission and related issues along with recommendations. As the date of the Board's scheduled meeting approaches, the submission and the Secretariat's advice will be reviewed by senior Secretariat officials. This may result in further requests for information or clarification from the federal organization. A delay in responding could cause the submission to be rescheduled.

Treasury Board submission drafting may involve a number of drafts. The time required for this process and related liaison between the Secretariat and the sponsoring organization varies, but is two to three months on average, depending on the submission's complexity and the number of submissions being advanced simultaneously.

3.3 Treasury Board Submission Centre

Coordinators for Treasury Board submissions in federal organizations also liaise closely with the Secretariat's Treasury Board Submission Centre (TBSC), which coordinates all Treasury Board submissions.

The TBSC receives and processes all submissions and presentations to the Treasury Board from federal organizations. It provides logistical support for Board committee meetings and handles scheduling and the creation and distribution of material for Board meetings. It also ensures that the Board's decisions are conveyed to the organizations sponsoring the submissions.

4. Role of Departments, Agencies, and Crown Corporations

To ensure that departments assess financial risks, respect financial authorities, and implement efficient and effective financial controls before programs are put into operation, departments must include Senior Financial Officers (SFOs) (or Chief Financial Officers (CFOs)) in the process when developing and implementing new programs or major projects, or when making changes to existing programs that will have or are likely to have material financial implications.

Most federal organizations have procedures for obtaining the approval and signature of the minister, which include obtaining the sign-off of key players such as the deputy head, (senior financial officer (SFO) or chief financial officer (CFO)), sponsoring assistant deputy minister, legal services, internal audit services, etc. The federal organization's (SFO) has a particular responsibility in this regard and must attest to the deputy head that, in his or her professional opinion, the information in the submission is fairly presented, proper analysis has been carried out, and due diligence has been exercised, and to recommend proceeding as proposed in the submission.

Initial contact with the Secretariat is usually via the organization's corporate services staff at an early stage in the process. This is to help pave the way for a complete TB submission mindful of Treasury Board policies.