Interpretation Policy

An interpretation policy is an overarching document that outlines the commitments, practices, and tools to be applied by a department or agency when providing Canadians and businesses with information and guidance on regulatory obligations to be met. It also identifies the conditions under which written responses to questions will be provided.

Agency Context

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) was created to contribute to public confidence in the Canadian financial system. OSFI’s legislated mandate is to:

  • Supervise federally regulated financial institutions and pension plans to determine whether they are in sound financial condition and meeting minimum plan funding requirements respectively, and are complying with their governing law and supervisory requirements;
  • Promptly advise institutions and plans in the event there are material deficiencies and take or require management, boards or plan administrators to take necessary corrective measures expeditiously;
  • Advance and administer a regulatory framework that promotes the adoption of policies and procedures designed to control and manage risk;
  • Monitor and evaluate system-wide or sectoral issues that may impact institutions negatively.

The above mandate is carried out with due regard to the need to allow institutions to compete effectively and take reasonable risks.

This interpretation policy applies to interpretations provided to stakeholders in respect of regulations administered by OSFI that are made under legislation governing federally regulated financial institutions and pension plans.

Predictability

Plain Language commitment

OSFI is committed to providing regulatory interpretations that are clear, unambiguous and relevant to the enquiry. OSFI will provide responses to regulatory questions in the official language in which the question was posed.

Providing Guidance and Building Awareness

OSFI promotes stakeholder involvement in a number of ways in order to build awareness and ensure consistent internal and external communication of regulatory compliance requirements. Measures include:

  • Publication of various guidance documents on OSFI’s website, including: regulatory and legislative advisories, rulings (based on private rulings that have been altered to guarantee individual stakeholder privacy),
  • Publication of Qs&As in relation to regulations that receive regular enquiries from stakeholders,
  • Provision of a website subscriber alert service that informs stakeholders of issues that may be of interest including consultations with respect to the making of regulations, and
  • Publication of a twice yearly electronic newsletter (InfoPensions) on pension issues including descriptions of how OSFI applies selected provisions of the legislation and regulations.

Responding to Questions

OSFI responds to two forms of requests for regulatory interpretations, described below.

1. General regulatory questions:

Stakeholders having questions of a general nature on a regulation that is administered by OSFI may contact OSFI by telephone, by mail, or by e-mail.

OSFI generally responds to questions in the same method used by the stakeholder to contact us, unless a response using a different means was requested (such as in writing). Prior to responding to such enquiries, OSFI may seek additional information from stakeholders.

2. Requests for ruling:

Stakeholders may seek a more formal interpretation in the form of a ruling to obtain OSFI’s views in writing regarding the application or interpretation of specific provisions of regulations under the federal financial institution statutes.

Requests for rulings are subject to a service charge and are processed in accordance with the OSFI Service Standards.

Ruling requests must be submitted in writing and should be addressed to:

Director, Precedents Unit
Legislation and Approvals Division
255 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0H2

Service

Service Commitment

OSFI adheres to the Government of Canada Communications Policy which includes a commitment to deliver prompt, courteous and responsive service that is sensitive to the needs and concerns of the public and respectful of individual rights.

OSFI has also adopted a Statement of Values and Code of Conduct to guide how it conducts its business. The following values and behaviours are recognized and considered essential to the success of the organization:

  • respect for people
  • professionalism
  • integrity

Service Accountability

OSFI is committed to providing a level of service that meets the expectations of our stakeholders. OSFI maintains an enquiries service (telephone, e-mail, letter mail and fax) that receives enquiries and responds to stakeholder questions or concerns. The enquiries service employs an electronic database that tracks stakeholder contact and ensures that all questions or comments receive a response when required. Where the enquiries service cannot itself respond due to the nature of the subject matter, the service will consult with appropriate individuals within the organization to ensure action is taken or a response provided, as necessary.

Staff Training

OSFI is committed to ensuring that staff have the necessary skills and technical knowledge to provide accurate and consistent responses to regulatory questions. Internal procedures and reference materials have been developed for this purpose.

Stakeholder Engagement

Commitment to Stakeholder Engagement

OSFI is committed to engaging stakeholders, as appropriate, when developing, reviewing or refining practices and materials pertaining to regulatory guidance. OSFI routinely undertakes consultations with the industry on regulatory guidance.

Stakeholder Engagement Practices

Stakeholders are engaged through a number of means, including:

  • Formal consultations on regulations and guidance issued by OSFI – such consultations ensure that the development of guidance takes industry views and concerns into consideration,
  • Industry surveys, which are publicly released, provide feedback on how well OSFI is performing as a regulator in general and give feedback on many specific aspects of the regulatory regime, including regulatory requirements,
  • Regularly scheduled meetings with industry associations such as the Canadian Bankers Association, the Trust and Loan Companies Association, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Association of Canadian Pension Management, among others – such meetings provide a forum for OSFI and industry associations to share information, including upcoming guidance, what issues are of concern to OSFI and conversely, what issues are of concern to the industry, and
  • Speeches to industry, which allow OSFI to discuss particular areas of interest or concern and to outline any steps the regulator is taking to address the issues at hand.

Improvement

OSFI is committed to continually improving its level of service with respect to the provision of regulatory interpretations to core stakeholders (i.e., federally regulated financial institutions and pension plans).

2014 - 2015

Earlier this year, OSFI engaged in a consultation with industry stakeholders to identify any areas in need of improvement with respect to interpretation practices.  On March 25, 2015, OSFI released the results of its Regulation Interpretation Stakeholder Consultation that identified two areas for improvement, including the publication of service delivery standards in relation to enquiries and the implementation of a client feedback process to assess satisfaction with OSFI’s handling of enquiries.

2015 - 2017

During this period, OSFI took steps to implement improvements identified as a result of the stakeholder consultation. OSFI will continue to monitor its performance in this area and make any additional improvements, as appropriate. A summary of steps taken and results can be found in the Regulation Interpretation Update on Improvement Priorities.