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Canada

Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services (CA0063)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Canada Revenue Agency

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Civic Space, Fiscal Transparency, Marginalized Communities, Open Data, Public Participation

IRM Review

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

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services Why do this: Service excellence is a top priority for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and the agency is committed to ensuring high-quality services are delivered to Canadians in a way that makes them feel respected and valued. How will it be done: Over the next two years, CRA will undertake a number of key public consultation and engagement activities to respond to key challenges: - CRA currently publishes open data in various categories both on its website and on Canada’s Open Data portal. A better understanding of the public’s satisfaction with, and interest in, statistical tax publications and related data, is needed to meet the growing demand for data that is of value to Canadians. - CRA has committed to providing more information on the regulation of charities to the public in a timely manner and to ensuring the engagement of the charitable sector in support of rules that are fair, open, and easily accessible and understood. - Each year a number of indigenous Canadians miss out on potential tax benefits. Through consultation, new data, and collaboration with other government departments and stakeholders CRA will seek to empower indigenous Canadians to obtain the tax benefits to which they are entitled.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

22. Engage Canadians to improve key Canada Revenue Agency services

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will undertake public consultations and engagement to support improved access to high-value, statistical tax data and publications, increased fairness of the rules governing charities’ political activities, and better understanding of factors affecting the low rates of benefit uptake.

Milestones:

22.1. Complete an online consultation with Canadians to measure public satisfaction with, and interest in, statistical tax publications and related data.

22.2. Engage with registered charities, the public, and other stakeholders in the charitable sector to help clarify rules governing charities’ political activities:

Conduct online and in-person consultations sessions on what information is needed, what form any future rules should take, and how best to communicate them to stakeholders and the general public.

22.3. Engage with indigenous Canadians to better understand the issues, root causes, and data gaps that may be preventing eligible individuals from accessing benefits.

Responsible institution: Canada Revenue Agency

Supporting institution(s): 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.

Context and Objectives

Among the most controversial activities of the previous government was its practice of carrying out tax audits of charities engaged in political activities, particularly since these were widely seen as having targeted their political opponents, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) described the audits as 'a direct assault on freedom of expression.'[Note200: As expressed during the IRM Toronto Consultation, on 15 September 2017.] The current government ordered a stop to these audits and, more importantly, pledged to undertake a series of reforms to prevent such abuses from taking place in the future as well as improve the Canada Revenue Agency’s engagement with Canadians. This commitment addresses this important priority area. The milestones are crafted relatively clearly and specifically, although Milestone 22.3 gives relatively little detail on how a potentially large and diverse consultation will take place. However, other than in the specific context of Canada Revenue Agency audits on charities, these milestones are only tangentially connected to the OGP values. Because the audits posed a major threat to civic engagement, reforming the charity rules (Milestone 22.2) could have a transformative potential impact. However, the low impact and relevance of milestones 22.1 and 22.3, make the overall potential impact moderate.

Completion

For Milestone 22.1, the Canada Revenue Agency published an online survey on opinions toward statistical tax data in August 2016.[Note201: The survey is available at: https://sondages.outsidesoft.com/Engine/Default.aspx?surveyID=90870edd-0d52-4cd9-b03d-11f7bcb8b6e8&ds=6E&idlang=EN&respondent=dbd35b7a-247c-40f6-bbe2-dc2fa163464d.%5D However, the government’s self-assessment indicates that participation has been too low to generate sufficient data.[Note202: The draft self-assessment for Commitment 22 is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/commitment-22-engage-canadians-improve-key-canada-revenue-agency-services.%5D In response to queries from the IRM researcher, the Canada Revenue Agency said that the format is being improved to try and remedy this, with an anticipated relaunch in December 2017 and preliminary reporting of these results in June 2018. This is scored as representing limited progress in implementation, though the Canada Revenue Agency expressed confidence that the milestone would be completed on time, which seems realistic.

For Milestone 22.2, the government conducted a robust series of consultations on clarifying the rules around charities and political engagement, and received almost 20,000 written submissions.[Note203: 'The Canada Revenue Agency's online consultation on charities' political activities,' Canada Revenue Agency, 20 December 2016. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/charities/whats-new/canada-revenue-agencys-online-consultation-on-charities-political-activities.html.%5D Civil society stakeholders who participated in the process, including the Centre for Law and Democracy,[Note204: Halifax Consultation, 12 September 2017.] generally spoke positively about the consultation as well as the resulting recommendations for reform.[Note205: 'Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities,' Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities, 31 March 2017. Available at:https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/charities/resources-charities-donors/resources-charities-about-political-activities/report-consultation-panel-on-political-activities-charities.html.%5D The government self-assessment scores this as completed, however it is difficult to assess that the rules have actually been 'clarified' since the consultation has not yet had any impact on the problematic CRA rules themselves. However, given that the consultation generated strong recommendations for reform, this should be easy to achieve within the current action plan cycle.

For Milestone 22.3, the Canada Revenue Agency carried out public opinion research with indigenous communities and vulnerable populations, including urban Indigenous Canadians, in Spring 2017.[Note206: 'Qualitative Research: The Experiences of Indigenous Communities with Tax Filing,' Prepared by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc. for the Canada Revenue Agency, June 2017. Available at: epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pwgsc-tpsgc/por-ef/canada_revenue_agency/2017/040-16-e/report.pdf. 'Barriers Associated with Tax Filing in Vulnerable Populations Qualitative Research', Canada Revenue Agency, 24 March 2017. Available at: epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pwgsc-tpsgc/por-ef/canada_revenue_agency/2017/103-16-e/vulnerable_report_en_codes.html. ] This milestone has been completed, though the self-assessment reports that a project team is still processing the gathered information to determine how to apply these findings.[Note207: The draft self-assessment for Commitment 22 is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/commitment-22-engage-canadians-improve-key-canada-revenue-agency-services.%5D

Early Results

There are no indications of early impacts from milestones 22.1 and 22.3. In terms of Milestone 22.2, the civic space has improved considerably as a result of the suspension of tax audits.[Note208: Bruce Campion-Smith and Alex Ballingall, 'Liberals suspend tax audits of political charities,' Toronto Star, 4 May 2017. Available at: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/05/04/ottawa-urged-to-give-charities-more-freedom-to-speak-out.html.%5D These not only had a major negative impact on the charities being audited, but had a chilling effect on the non-profit sector’s speech and political engagement.[Note209: Canadian Unitarian Council, Toronto consultation, 15 September 2017.] This situation has certainly improved now that the immediate threat is gone, though whether changes will be implemented to prevent potential future use of the CRA to target political opponents remains to be seen.

Next Steps

This commitment, and in particular the milestone related to charities’ political activities, is an attempt to turn the page on a particularly challenging time for civic engagement in Canada. However, Publish What You Pay-Canada, the Canadian Unitarian Council, and the Centre for Law and Democracy all noted that the real test will be whether the consultation leads to substantive reforms of rules impacting charities.[Note210: Expressed at the Ottawa consultation on 18 September 2017, the Toronto consultation on 15 September 2017, and the Halifax consultation on 12 September 2017, respectively.] If these are not complete by the end of this action plan cycle, the IRM researcher recommends addressing this important priority in Canada’s next action plan.

Both Fred Vallance-Jones and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression expressed that the government could also examine their approach to funding of journalism, and consider whether that should be included among charitable activities.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

22. Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will undertake public consultations and engagement to support improved access to high-value, statistical tax data and publications, increased fairness of the rules governing charities' political activities, and better understanding of factors affecting the low rates of benefit uptake.

Milestones:

22.1. Complete an online consultation with Canadians to measure public satisfaction with, and interest in, statistical tax publications and related data.

22.2. Engage with registered charities, the public, and other stakeholders in the charitable sector to help clarify rules governing charities' political activities:

Conduct online and in-person consultations sessions on what information is needed, what form any future rules should take, and how best to communicate them to stakeholders and the general public.

22.3. Engage with indigenous Canadians to better understand the issues, root causes, and data gaps that may be preventing eligible individuals from accessing benefits.

Responsible institution:Canada Revenue Agency

Supporting institution(s): 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

This commitment aimed to improve the landscape for civic participation in Canada. It focused on supporting Indigenous Canadians, vulnerable communities, and charities. The commitment called for carrying out a consultation on statistical tax data and consulting with charities to improve the rules around political participation. It also called for engaging with Indigenous Canadians to help them understand the rules around eligible benefits.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

Under Milestone 22.1, in August 2016, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) published an online survey on opinions about statistical tax data. Response rates were too low to generate significant data. As a result, the CRA committed to improve the survey for the second year of implementation. Regarding Milestone 22.2, the government conducted a robust series of consultations on clarifying the rules regarding charities and political engagement. It received almost 20,000 written submissions.[Note193: 'The Canada Revenue Agency's Online Consultation on Charities' Political Activities,' Canada Revenue Agency, 20 December 2016, https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/charities/whats-new/canada-revenue-agencys-online-consultation-on-charities-political-activities.html.%5D A Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities, composed of experts in the charitable sector, reviewed the consultation feedback and developed a report that was presented to the Minister of National Revenue in March 2017.[Note194: Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/cra-arc/migration/cra-arc/chrts-gvng/chrts/cmmnctn/pltcl-ctvts/pnlrprt-eng.pdf.%5D Under Milestone 22.3, the CRA conducted public opinion research with Indigenous communities and vulnerable populations, including urban Indigenous Canadians, in spring 2017.[Note195: Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc., Qualitative Research: The Experiences of Indigenous Communities with Tax Filing (Ottawa, Ontario: Canada Revenue Agency), June 2017, epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pwgsc-tpsgc/por-ef/canada_revenue_agency/2017/040-16-e/report.pdf; and 'Barriers Associated with Tax Filing in Vulnerable Populations Qualitative Research,' Canada Revenue Agency, 24 March 2017, epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pwgsc-tpsgc/por-ef/canada_revenue_agency/2017/103-16-e/vulnerable_report_en_codes.html. ]

End of term: Complete

Under Milestone 22.1, Canada released an improved, more user-friendly format of its survey in summer 2017. Participation remained low, partly due to technical difficulties, according to Canada's end-of-term self-assessment.[Note196: An archived version of the survey is available at https://cra-arc-survey-sondage.ca/f/s.aspx?s=c0cd518f-c04e-49e3-b3b1-628d79fc68a4&mode=44&lang=EN.%5D By the end of the reporting period, only 34 responses to the survey had been obtained. This milestone has been completed, despite the low response rate. Regarding Milestone 22.2, the government completed the consultation during the first year of implementation. However, no responses or reforms have been implemented yet. The completion of this milestone is difficult to assess. Although the consultation has been completed, no changes were introduced during the action plan period, though Canada's end-of-term self-assessment claimed that a response will be issued in the coming months.[Note197: The self-assessment is available at https://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/9da9faf5-deb1-48db-8f16-91055d942d65.%5D On September 14, 2018, the Ministry of Finance released proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act, which ultimately fed in to Bill C-86, currently under consideration.[Note198: See: https://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/bill/C-86/first-reading.%5D Regarding Milestone 22.3, Canada's end-of-term self-assessment states that it continues to process the results from its previous engagement and consultations to try and improve participation by Indigenous peoples in the tax and benefits system.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Civic Participation: Marginal

Canada's civil society space faced substantial pressure at the outset of this action plan, particularly as a result of a series of government tax audits of charities engaged in political activities. Although these audits have been discontinued—and this commitment addresses a crucially important thematic area—the actual effect of this commitment on access to information and civic participation is assessed as marginal. The rating corresponds to the low response rate for the survey under Milestone 22.1, the unclear impact of the consultations and engagement under Milestone 22.3, and most importantly, the fact that substantial reforms have yet to materialise from the charities discussions that took place under Milestone 22.2, though it is important to note that some changes were proposed just after the end of the action plan. However, this report summarises the results between July 2017 and August 2018 and, therefore, does not assess activities carried out beyond this period of time.

Carried Forward?

This commitment does not appear to have been carried forward in Canada's fourth action plan.


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, Civic Space

  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, Civic Space

  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