Canada’s federal government considered an expanded role for a Canadian Consumer Advocate beyond what was proposed in the 2019 mandate letters, according to documents release in an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) request.
The Advocate role was included in the 2019 mandate letter to the (then) Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry to “ensure a single point of contact for people who need help with federally regulated banking, telecom or transportation-related complaints.”
Consumers Council of Canada published a position paper Time for a Real Federal Consumer Advocate, which supported the initiative because of the importance of rebuilding consumer confidence and protecting consumers. It prescribed an expanded role for the Advocate, proposing roles and responsibilities in addition to those envisioned in the mandate letters.
A June 2021 briefing memo from assistant deputy minister Frances McRae to the deputy minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development titled “For Approval: Next Steps on Consumer Agenda” sought approval to “respond to the needs of Canadian consumers more broadly” as they worked to shape the mandate of the proposed Canadian Consumer Advocate.
The document recommended including other departmental representation, including Environmental and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada. The draft letters to those organizations, to be sent by the deputy minister, included this passage:
“We also recognize that federal responsibilities in consumer protection and awareness extend beyond banking, telecommunications, and transportation. This is why I am reaching out to you, as well as to other counterparts in federal departments and agencies with a mandate in consumer protection and awareness, to facilitate a whole-of-government approach that will empower Canadian consumers.”
An e-petition similarly calling for an expanded role reached the 500 signature threshold to require a response from the government, but the 2021 election call dissolved Parliament, ending that petition process and requirement of the government to report.
A commitment to create a Canadian Consumer Advocate has not been included in the prime minister’s most recent mandate letters to cabinet ministers.