Canadian General Standards Board celebrates 80 years!

June 3, 2014

A book of letters and documents.

A book of letters and documents contains the original letter that led to the establishment of the Canadian Government Purchasing Standards Committee.

It all started with a letter. On June 5, 1934, the President of the National Research Council (NRC), Henry Marshall Tory, reached out to the deputy ministers of 16 federal government departments, requesting a meeting to discuss purchasing standards for the federal government.

At that time, several departments were buying goods ranging from varnishes and paints, to clothing and textiles, but there were no purchasing standards. Mr. Tory wanted to create uniform specifications and eliminate duplication for a more cost-effective method of federal government purchasing.

The Canadian Government Purchasing Standards Committee was founded, and met for the first time on June 13, 1934, at 10:00 a.m. The Committee remained a part of the NRC until 1965, when it was transferred to the Department of Defence Production, which eventually became PWGSC. In 1980, the Committee's name was changed to the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB).

One of the people involved in the early process later became Prime Minister of Canada!

The Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson was Secretary of the Committee of Inquiry into Price Spreads. That group's work contributed to the establishment of the Canadian Government Purchasing Standards Committee.

In the beginning, the focus was on specifications for purchasing goods for government departments,” said Begonia Lojk, Director of the CGSB. “We still focus on government needs, but the areas are broader and more challenging. The fundamentals have never changed; it is about protecting health and safety, about ensuring performance and about engaging stakeholders early in the process to assemble their collective knowledge into CGSB standards.

In the 1950s, the CGSB entered into an interesting area of standardization for the general public at the request of the Right Honourable C. D. Howe. The Consumers' Association of Canada had made the case for standardization in garment sizing. Although it may seem quaint today, the variation in advertised sizes was a real consumer issue. The department stores Eaton's and Simpson's came together to help the CGSB develop these standards.

The CGSB continued to evolve over the years. In the 1970s and 1980s, standards incorporated more environmental requirements, and in the 1980s and 1990s, with the development of management systems by the International Organization for Standardization, the CGSB offered certification programs for these standards.

Today, standards are more complex than ever. They are no longer simply technical specifications. Standards must incorporate principles of sustainability, risk management and consumer perspectives, such as ease of use. Over the last few years, the CGSB has published standards in areas that reflect societal values and expectations.

The members of the CGSB team understand the importance of the work they do. They are currently working on a standard for radon gas mitigation. In a recent interview, Roberta Bondar, the first Canadian woman in space, talked about the need to check for radon gas in older homes.

Maybe when it's ready, we'll send her a complimentary copy of the CGSB standard.

-Begonia Lojk, Director of the CGSB

We recently published a standard on research ethics boards that provides a common platform for governance, membership, operations, ethics review processes and quality management,” said Ms. Lojk. “That is as far from an engineering standard as you can get.

These days, the CGSB develops standards for a wide and interesting range of products and services, including fuels, the Canadian flag (since 1965), protective gear for first responders, toy safety, transportation of dangerous goods, organic aquaculture and many other products.

The CGSB also provides certification services to support government procurement, including certification programs for items such as furniture, gloves and vapour barriers, which allow potential suppliers to get their products pre-qualified. The Board also certifies quality, environmental and occupational health and safety systems.

Our priority is to support the national interest in health and safety, security, economic benefits, welfare of people and the environment, and quality of life in Canada,” said Ms. Lojk. “The CGSB feels very privileged to be protecting Canadians.

On Friday, June 13, the CGSB will celebrate its history at 10:00 a.m., the same time it all began 80 years ago. Join the CGSB team in the Millennium Hall, in Portage III, between Towers A and B, to mark this milestone of service to Canadians.