Federal consumer site to add provincial information

TORONTO — The federal government’s consumer information portal now includes information from the provinces and territories.

The Canadian Consumer Information Gateway was originally launched in June 2000 as a federal consumer information site. On Thursday, Industry Canada announced that the site will act as a portal for numerous provincial and territorial departments.

“It was quite a job, because we’re talking about over 250 provincial ministries and agencies, and 38 federal departments and agencies,” said Michael Jenkin, Industry Canada’s director-general for consumer affairs. “That’s one enormous source of information.”

The aim of the site is to let consumers get information on issues such as automobiles, tenant rights and product recalls, in three steps or less, Jenkin said.

Users can get information relevant to a topic at both the federal and provincial level. For example, if someone is looking for vehicle information, they could get Transport Canada information on recalls, and information on how to register a new vehicle in a specific province or territory, Jenkin said.

“You don’t have to know who’s responsible for what, no matter what government it is, and what department,” Jenkin added. “What we’re aiming for is, in a very few number of clicks, optimally three, to get people to what they need to know in detail right away.”

But the site doesn’t actually link to provincial databases, said PaulaVieira, the gateway’s project manager. Industry Canada has created an index of metadata information in an Oracle database. Users can type in search terms and get a list of search results, which in turn provide an abstract, contact info and a links to each institution.

One of the aims is to make it user-friendly, Industry Minister Brian Tobin said. “Even I can use it without training,” he quipped during a news conference at Toronto’s Eaton Centre, where the gateway was launched.

Tobin suggested Industry Canada chose the venue — which had no visible security measures aside from two private security guards — in order to encourage consumers to shop despite the ongoing terrorist threat.

“The backdrop of the events of September 11 — the need for Canadians to take back their lives, I can’t think of a more appropriate place to hold this press conference today,” he said.

“In the last 24 hours, the Government of Canada has announce some $280 million worth of initiatives to ensure our personal, physical security. The next step in responding to the threat is to take our lives back.”

Other politicians who attended the conference included: Stephen Kakfwi, premier of the Northwest Territories; Norm Sterling, Ontario’s minister of consumer and business services; and Walter Noel, Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of government services.

“Many consumers are involved in electronic commerce, but they’re not too familiar with it,” Noel said. “We have to make sure that we provide the tools to enable them to succeed in the electronic and conventional worlds of commerce.”

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