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Summary 

Canada does not have legislation that requires the collection of client-satisfaction feedback concerning services provided by government agencies and departments.  However, most departments appear to have service standards that include rules for feedback mechanisms, including submitting complaints, comments, or compliments, and time frame in which the department is required to respond.  The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has developed Guidelines on Service Standards that outline common concepts and best practices for successfully developing and managing standards for providing services to citizens and business.

I. Background 

In Canada there does not appear to be legislation that requires the collection of client-satisfaction feedback regarding services provided by government agencies or departments.  Such information is typically collected under the authority of the legislation that regulates that department, or for many institutions,[1] under the authority of the Financial Administration Act (FAA),[2] and in accordance with the Policy on Communications and Federal Identity,[3] which gives “context and rules for how the Government of Canada (GC) enables communication with the public about policies, programs, services and initiative.”[4]  All personal information “created, held or collected by the Government of Canada” is protected under the federal Privacy Act.[5]

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II.  Customer Service Standards

Most departments appear to have service standards that include rules for feedback mechanisms, including submitting complaints, comments, or compliments, and the time frame in which the department is required to respond.  This typically appears to be done through an online feedback forms. The Canada Border Services Agency, for example, includes the following in its Service Standards:

Feedback Mechanism (complaints, comments or compliments)

Service Standard 1: Feedback Mechanism - Initial Contact

Service Description: Clients are able to submit complaints, comments or compliments. Initial contact with the client is made, by phone, in response to a complaint. The main purpose is to resolve the complaint at this stage. For more information, please see our Compliments, Comments and Complaints page[[6]].  

Service Standard: The CBSA will aim to contact the client within 14 calendar days after a written complaint is received.

Performance Target: 85%

Performance Result: The CBSA will report performance results in May 2018 for fiscal year 2017–2018.

Service Standard 2: Feedback Mechanism - Final Response

Service Description: Clients are able to submit complaints, comments or compliments. In the case of a complaint, the CBSA provides a final written response.

Service Standard: The CBSA will aim to respond to the client within 40 calendar days after a written complaint is received.

Performance Target: 85%

Performance Result: The CBSA will report performance results in May 2018 for fiscal year 2017–2018.[7]

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has developed Guidelines on Service Standards,[8] which “outlines common concepts and best practices for successfully developing and managing service standards for both internal and external services to citizens and business.”[9]  When developing service standards the Guidelines stipulate it is important to consult the client in order to get input that “can shed light on aspects of the service that are viewed as most important, such as current client satisfaction levels, changes in client needs and expectations, and the roles and responsibilities of each party.”[10]  Consultation can be in the form of “focus groups, telephone or online surveys, feedback forms, and one-on-one meetings.”[11]  The Guidelines also provide the following advice as to what to include in an effective feedback mechanism:

Establish Feedback and Redress Mechanisms

Establishing a process to collect constructive information and resolve issues raised by various stakeholders is fundamental. Elements to consider include:

  • Establishing internal processes to handle comments, concerns or complaints, including possibly a point-of-service resolution mechanism.
  • Developing a tracking system that monitors client feedback and complaints. This could be an essential component of your service standard monitoring strategy. The information contained within the system can be a valuable resource to determine client satisfaction. One example is a record that includes the nature, source and description of each complaint.
  • Ensuring the redress mechanism is publicly available and easy to locate.
  • After reviewing comments, concerns and complaints, inform clients of any changes made.[12]

Many departments and agencies also conduct customer satisfaction surveys using a Common Measurement Tool (CMT) that has been “adopted by more than 30 municipal, provincial, territorial, and federal governments across Canada and around the world.”[13] The CMT is “a comprehensive survey instrument used by the Government of Canada to measure client satisfaction” using a “range of core measures.”[14]  Public opinion research done online, through telephone surveys, and qualitative research is subject to specific standards[15] and mandatory procedures.[16]

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Prepared by Tariq Ahmad
Foreign Law Specialist
October 2017


[2] Financial Administration Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. F-11, http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/f-11/FullText.html, archived at https://perma.cc/D5UY-EV6B

[3] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Policy on Communications and Federal Identity (May 11, 2016), https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=30683&section=html, archived at https://perma.cc/VU5Z-Z9PX.  According to the Policy it is issued under the authority of section 7 of the Financial Administration Act (FAA) and “applies to all institutions of the Government of Canada identified in Schedules I, I.1 and II of the Act, unless excluded by specific acts, regulations, or Orders in Council.  All other public institutions subject to the FAA, particularly Crown corporations identified in Schedule III (Parts 1 and 2), are encouraged to become familiar with this policy and to apply its principles to their own communications management.”  Id.

[4] Id.

[6] Contact Us: Compliments, Comments and Complaints, Canada Border Services Agency, http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/contact/com-eng.html (last modified Aug. 1, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/8G38-6RWN.

[7] Canada Border Services Agency, CBSA Service Standards Fiscal Year 2017–2018, http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/services/serving-servir/standards-normes-2017-2018-eng.html (last modified Apr. 1, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/83UR-EVLN.

[8] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Guideline on Service Standards, https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=25750&section=html (last modified Apr. 7, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/GB5G-S9KT.  

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. § 6, “Phase II: Plan and Develop Service Standards,” Step 3.

[13] About the CMT, Institute for Citizen-Centered Service (ICCS), https://iccs-isac.org/resources-tools/common-measurements-tool/about-the-cmt (last visited Oct. 18, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/BC8B-FBER.

[14] 2014–2015 Client Satisfaction Survey Report, Canadian Transportation Agency, https://otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/publication/2014-2015-client-satisfaction-survey-report (last modified Oct. 8, 2015), archived at https://perma.cc/P98V-VC3P.

[15] Standards for Conducting Public Opinion Research, Public Services and Procurement Canada, http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/rop-por/pratiques-practices-eng.html (last modified Sept. 1, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/7CK9-4H2L.

[16] Public Services and Procurement Canada, Directive on the Management of Communications, App. C: Mandatory Procedures for Public Opinion Research (effective May 11, 2016), http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id= 30682&section=procedure&p=C, archived at https://perma.cc/T57L-LZ2S.