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Canada

Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations (CA0053)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Innovation, Science, and Economic Development

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

E-Government, Private Sector, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Canada End-Term Report 2016-2018, Canada Mid-Term Report 2016- 2018

Starred: No

Early Results: NR

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: NR

Description

Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations Why do this: Currently, business identity information is distributed across jurisdictions in Canada, which poses access challenges for citizens and businesses alike. The federal, provincial, and territorial governments have agreed to collaborate on enhancing processes to reduce the burden on corporate registration and reporting and to provide streamlined access to corporate information through an online search. Making information about Canadian companies and organizations more accessible, discoverable, and usable, can ultimately improve corporate accountability. How will it be done: The federal government, Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and British Columbia will collaborate on the development of an expandable and adaptable digital solution.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

12. Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will provide searchable information on Canadian businesses that is held in business registries at the federal, provincial, and territorial level.

Milestones:

12.1. Launch a pilot project to provide citizens and business with online capacity to search existing federal and provincial (from Ontario, Québec, and Nova Scotia) business registries through a single search tool.

12.2. Develop a proof of concept and prototype of a digital solution for reducing burden in the areas of corporate search, registration, and reporting for Canadian businesses that is expandable to all registries across Canada in order to drive consistency in corporate data provided to the public by both federal and provincial governments.

Responsible institution: Innovation, Science, and Economic Development

Supporting institution(s): N/A

Start date: Not specified

End date: Not specified

Editorial Note: In the government’s self-assessment report, the government added the following milestone that was not included in the original action plan. This milestone will be assessed in the year two End of Term report:

Launch a pilot of the digital solution using real data in a test environment. The online corporate search component will be released for testing by users.

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Context and Objectives

This commitment addresses robust corporate accountability by enhancing the searchability and availability of information on Canadian businesses held in business registries at the federal, provincial, and territorial level. Corporate accountability is an issue of growing interest and relevance, and robust information is an essential component of civil society oversight. In Canada in particular, the federal system can create jurisdictional challenges for users seeking to navigate the open data system. However, while this commitment was generally welcomed by civil society stakeholders consulted for this report, some noted that the commitment’s potential for impact was relatively low since it focused on accessibility of information rather than the relatively small amount of information regarding corporate registration collected.[Note101: See, for example, this report from Transparency International detailing secrecy in Canada’s real estate market which facilitates money laundering: 'Doors Wide Open: Corruption and Real Estate in Four Key Markets,' Transparency International, 29 March 2017. Available at: https://www.transparency.org/whatwedo/publication/doors_wide_open_corruption_and_real_estate_in_four_key_markets.] The Centre for Law and Democracy noted that Canada ranks among the most opaque countries in the world when it comes to business information. This point of view was echoed by Publish What You Pay-Canada, who referred to Canada’s business registry system as 'complicated' and 'out-of-date,' and described this commitment as 'low-hanging fruit.'

Completion

Innovation, Science, and Economic Development created a concept prototype in late 2016. The department then partnered with seven provinces, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and with the federal government, to work towards a functional pilot which will use real data from their registries. The IRM researcher was able to view a demonstration of this pilot from Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, who are in the process of carrying out usability and functionality testing on it.

Next Steps

Several stakeholders, including the Centre for Law and Democracy,[Note102: CLD’s 2016 submission is available at: http://www.law-democracy.org/live/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Canada.OGP-AP3-Ideas.May16.pdf.] Publish What You Pay-Canada, and Canadians for Tax Fairness, have requested Canada’s OGP efforts promote transparency for Canadian corporations.[Note103: See: http://open.canada.ca/en/Beneficial_Ownership_Transparency. ] Once the program being developed under this commitment is operational, the IRM researcher recommends that the government consider expanding the amount of business information it collects. In particular, there appears to be significant support among civil society stakeholders for the establishment of a public registry of the beneficial owners of companies and trusts.[Note104: A joint letter from 23 Canadian NGOs, including several of the major civil society participants in the OGP, is available at: http://www.publishwhatyoupay.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Orgs-call-for-Beneficial-Ownership-Transparency-in-Canada.pdf. ]

IRM End of Term Status Summary

12. Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations

Commitment Text: The Government of Canada will provide searchable information on Canadian businesses that is held in business registries at the federal, provincial, and territorial level.

Milestones:

12.1. Launch a pilot project to provide citizens and business with online capacity to search existing federal and provincial (from Ontario, Québec, and Nova Scotia) business registries through a single search tool.

12.2. Develop a proof of concept and prototype of a digital solution for reducing burden in the areas of corporate search, registration, and reporting for Canadian businesses that is expandable to all registries across Canada in order to drive consistency in corporate data provided to the public by both federal and provincial governments.

Responsible institution: Innovation, Science, and Economic Development

Supporting institutions: N/A

Start Date: Not specified

End Date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Commitment Aim

Corporate accountability is an issue of growing interest and relevance, and robust access to information is an essential component of civil society oversight over private sector activities. This commitment aimed to enhance the searchability and availability of information on Canadian businesses held in business registries at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels. In particular, the commitment pledges to:

Launch a pilot search function for federal and provincial business registries; and

Develop a proof of concept and prototype for a digital solution for corporate search, registration, and reporting.

In the course of the first year of implementation, the government also added a separate milestone to this commitment. That milestone aimed to pilot the digital solution and release it for testing by users.

Status

Midterm: Complete

Under Milestone 12.1, Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada created a concept prototype in late 2016.[Note97: The Business Registry Search Pilot was released online at https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/067.nsf/eng/00003.html?OpenDocument.] The department then partnered with seven provinces—British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador—to advance progress toward a digital solution, the Multi-jurisdictional Registry Access Service (MRAS) (12.2). The government approved MRAS in September 2016. The service facilitates searches across the different business registries and provides streamlined extra-provincial registration and direct notifications of changes in corporate information among registries. The prototype MRAS was completed in March 2017. Thus, by the time of the midterm assessment, both 12.1 and 12.2 had been completed.

End of term: Complete

In the midterm self-assessment, the government added a third milestone to the commitment text. However, the OGP Support Unit did not receive an updated version within a year of the due date for submission of Canada's action plan. Therefore, the IRM researcher cannot consider the new milestone in the overall assessment of the commitment.

The new milestone was presented as follows:

12.3 Launch a pilot of the digital solution using real data in a test environment. The online corporate search component will be released for testing by users.

Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada launched the Multi-jurisdictional Registry Access Service pilot in March 2018. It connected sample registries together to test the search, registration, and notification components. In June 2018, the search component of the pilot, Canada's Business Registries search service, was released as a beta version. It provides coordinated access to core business registry information for over 80 percent of corporations operating in Canada. The government currently has made it available for user testing.[Note98: The beta is available, as of 13 September 2018, at https://beta.canadasbusinessregistries.ca/search.]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Business identity information is distributed across jurisdictions in Canada. This poses access challenges for civil society watchdogs, journalists, and citizens, as well as for businesses themselves seeking to research the corporate landscape. This commitment aimed to simplify and consolidate this system. It planned to make information about Canadian corporations more accessible, discoverable, and usable. Several stakeholders—including the Centre for Law and Democracy,[Note99: The Centre for Law and Democracy's 2016 submission is available at http://www.law-democracy.org/live/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Canada.OGP-AP3-Ideas.May16.pdf.] Publish What You Pay-Canada, and Canadians for Tax Fairness—have requested that Canada's OGP efforts include a focus on Canadian corporations.[Note100: See “Beneficial Ownership Transparency,” Government of Canada, http://open.canada.ca/en/Beneficial_Ownership_Transparency. ] Additionally, data integration and the removal of cross-jurisdictional challenges to accessing information are important action areas.

The creation of the Multi-jurisdictional Registry Access Service pilot is a positive step towards improving the accessibility and searchability of corporate registry information. It connects federal, provincial and territorial registry systems making data easier to find. However, it does not affect the main obstacle to accountability in this specific sector: namely the limited amount of information that the government collects, particularly around ownership and beneficial structures. Publish What You Pay-Canada—which referred to Canada's business registry system as “complicated” and “out-of-date”—described this commitment as “low-hanging fruit.”[Note101: This was expressed at a consultation in Ottawa on 18 September 2017. It echoes sentiments expressed by a variety of stakeholders.] Similarly, in terms of integration, the projects certainly reflect the right direction to move in. However, given the narrow scope of the information being provided, it is difficult to score the projects as major steps forward. Further and more ambitious steps to consolidate cross-jurisdictional information could certainly be scored as such.

Carried Forward?

The third commitment of Canada's fourth action plan addresses corporate transparency. It includes a requirement for federal corporations to hold beneficial ownership information. On this issue, civil society stakeholders have been highly vocal. The action plan also addresses jurisdictional challenges. One commitment includes a pilot project on common, cross-jurisdictional data standards in line with the Open Data Charter (10.5).


Canada's Commitments

  1. User-friendly open government

    CA0064, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. Financial transparency and accountability

    CA0065, 2018, E-Government

  3. Corporate transparency

    CA0066, 2018, Beneficial Ownership

  4. Digital government and services

    CA0067, 2018, Capacity Building

  5. Open science

    CA0068, 2018, Capacity Building

  6. Healthy democracy

    CA0069, 2018, E-Government

  7. Access to Information

    CA0070, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. Feminist and inclusive dialogue

    CA0071, 2018, Capacity Building

  9. Reconciliation and open government

    CA0072, 2018, Capacity Building

  10. Open government community

    CA0073, 2018, Capacity Building

  11. Enhance Access to Information

    CA0042, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  12. Streamline Requests for Personal Information

    CA0043, 2016, E-Government

  13. Expand and Improve Open Data

    CA0044, 2016, E-Government

  14. Provide and Preserve Open Information

    CA0045, 2016, E-Government

  15. Define an Approach for Measuring Open Government Performance

    CA0046, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Develop Open Government Skills across the Federal Public Service

    CA0047, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Embed Transparency Requirements in the Federal Service Strategy

    CA0048, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Enhance Access to Culture & Heritage Collections

    CA0049, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement

    CA0050, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. Increase Transparency of Budget and Other Department of Finance Information

    CA0051, 2016, Capacity Building

  21. Starred commitment Increase Transparency of Grants and Contributions Funding

    CA0052, 2016, Capacity Building

  22. Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations

    CA0053, 2016, E-Government

  23. Increase the Availability and Usability of Geospatial Data

    CA0054, 2016, Capacity Building

  24. Increase Openness of Federal Science Activities (Open Science)

    CA0055, 2016, Capacity Building

  25. Stimulate Innovation through Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0056, 2016, E-Government

  26. Align Open Data across Canada (Open Data Canada)

    CA0057, 2016, Capacity Building

  27. Implement the Extractives Sector Transparency Measures Act

    CA0058, 2016, Capacity Building

  28. Support Openness and Transparency Initiatives around the World

    CA0059, 2016, Aid

  29. Engage Civil Society on Open Government

    CA0060, 2016, Public Participation

  30. Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making

    CA0061, 2016, Capacity Building

  31. Promote Open Government Globally

    CA0062, 2016, Capacity Building

  32. Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services

    CA0063, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  33. Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0030, 2014, Open Data

  34. Starred commitment Open Data Canada

    CA0031, 2014, Open Data

  35. Canadian Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0032, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. Open Data for Development

    CA0033, 2014, Capacity Building

  37. Open Data Core Commitment

    CA0034, 2014, Open Data

  38. Starred commitment Open Science

    CA0035, 2014, Science & Technology

  39. Starred commitment Mandatory Reporting on Extractives

    CA0036, 2014, Extractive Industries

  40. Open Contracting

    CA0037, 2014, Open Contracting and Procurement

  41. Open Information on Budgets and Expenditures

    CA0038, 2014, Fiscal Transparency

  42. Digital Literacy

    CA0039, 2014, Capacity Building

  43. Open Information Core Commitment

    CA0040, 2014, Right to Information

  44. Consulting Canadians

    CA0041, 2014, Marginalized Communities

  45. Starred commitment International Aid Transparency Initiative: Publish plan to make CIDA activities available and accessible

    CA0010, 2012, Aid

  46. International Aid Transparency Initiative: Implement plan

    CA0011, 2012, Aid

  47. Opening Government of Canada Records: Increase access to archived federal documents at Library and Archives Canada

    CA0012, 2012, Records Management

  48. Opening Government of Canada Records: Issue new mandatory policy on document classification

    CA0013, 2012, Records Management

  49. Opening Government of Canada Records: Make classified information available online

    CA0014, 2012, E-Government

  50. GCDOCS: Deploy wave one of electronic record and document management solution

    CA0015, 2012, E-Government

  51. GCDOCS: Deploy across federal government

    CA0016, 2012, E-Government

  52. GCWEB: Develop consolidated web presence

    CA0017, 2012, E-Government

  53. GCWEB: Implement new platform

    CA0018, 2012, E-Government

  54. Data.gc.ca: Expand number of datasets available

    CA0019, 2012, E-Government

  55. Data.gc.ca: Implement data.gc.ca portal

    CA0020, 2012, E-Government

  56. Data.gc.ca: Improve standardization of data

    CA0021, 2012, E-Government

  57. Government of Canada Resource Management Data: Publish resource management and performance data

    CA0022, 2012, E-Government

  58. Government of Canada Resource Management Data: Enhance search and data tools

    CA0023, 2012, E-Government

  59. Consulting Canadians: Develop new platform for consultation

    CA0024, 2012, E-Government

  60. Consulting Canadians: Develop standard approach to use of social media

    CA0025, 2012, E-Government

  61. Consulting Canadians: Pilot a crowdsourcing initiative

    CA0026, 2012, E-Government

  62. Consulting Canadians: Enable use of common online tools

    CA0027, 2012, E-Government

  63. Open Regulation: Federal regulators to post forward regulatory plans

    CA0028, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  64. Open Regulation: Simplify engagement activities

    CA0029, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  65. Open Government Directive: Issue Directive on Open Government

    CA0001, 2012, E-Government

  66. Open Government Directive: Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0002, 2012, E-Government

  67. Starred commitment Open Government Licence: Issue Open Government Licence

    CA0003, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  68. Starred commitment Open Government Licence: Adopt Open Government Licence

    CA0004, 2012, Records Management

  69. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Pilot of online request and payment service

    CA0005, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  70. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Implement ATI Solution

    CA0006, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  71. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Make completed ATI request summaries searchable

    CA0007, 2012, Right to Information

  72. Virtual Library: Begin design of virtual library

    CA0008, 2012, E-Government

  73. Virtual Library: Launch virtual library

    CA0009, 2012, E-Government