Business regulations guide

Table of contents

Introduction
Accessibility
Consumer products: labelling and safety
Food: labelling and safety
Workplace health and safety
Health regulations
Tobacco regulations
Trade certification
Media usage
Financial transactions and loans
Environmental regulations and inspections
Firearms, fireworks and explosives
Privacy and protection of personal information
Other resources

Introduction

Whether you are starting or growing your business, you need to be aware of business regulations. Regulations set the standards and rules that ensure the Canadian marketplace is safe, consistent and fair to everyone.

Depending on the product or service you are offering, or where your business is located, you may need to meet regulation standards from any or all of the following:

  • Federal government
  • Provincial governments
  • Municipal governments
  • Industry associations
  • Regulatory bodies (colleges, government approved organizations)

In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use the Canada Business Permits and Licenses Search, powered by BizPaL, to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact us to speak to someone about starting your business.

Permits and Licenses Search

Legal questions

If you have legal questions, contact a lawyer who deals with business regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada's Law Society Referral Service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or paralegal, based on your needs.

Use online:
Law Society Referral Service

Accessibility

You are responsible for ensuring that your business is accessible to people with disabilities. To learn more about making your business accessible to staff and customers, consult the following:

Accessibility laws

Make sure that your Ontario business meets accessibility standards for customer service, transportation, information and communications, built environments, employment and filing your compliance report.

Contact the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario:
1-866-515-2025
Accessibility laws

Consumer products: labelling and safety

The label you put on your product is an important way of communicating the value of that product to potential customers. You can use your labels to sell the benefits of your product to your clients, but you must follow labelling rules and standards.

The rules can be more restrictive for some types of products than for others. You should research the regulations and standards for your product before selling them.

Read Online:
Marketing, advertising and sales regulations

Consumer products labelling (non-food)

There are labelling standards for everyday consumer products (like t-shirts, office supplies and pet food) that you need to know about before you begin selling products.

The Competition Bureau regulates labelling for most “non-food” consumer products. To learn more about the rules for packaging, labelling and advertising your products, contact the Competition Bureau directly or refer to the following link:

Contact the Competition Bureau:
1-800-348-5358
Labelling corner

The Competition Bureau also publishes individual guides on labelling requirements for certain business activities and consumer products. Refer to the following guides if you need more information on a specific aspect of labelling:

Labelling - Packaging consumer products (non-food)

Learn about your responsibilities when packaging and labelling consumer products (including pet food).

Read Online:
Guide to the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations 
Consumer packaging and labelling

Labelling – textiles

Find out what your responsibilities are when labelling textiles, including how to register for a CA number.

Read Online:
Guide to the Textile Labelling and Advertising Regulations 
CA identification number

Made in Canada

Learn about the rules and regulations for using claims like "Designed in Canada" or "Made in Canada" to promote your products.

Read Online:
"Product of Canada" and "Made in Canada" claims

Product safety

It is important that your products and services meet the standards for safety set by the provincial and federal governments.

If you manufacture, import, distribute or sell products in Canada, you must ensure that they are safe for use. Health Canada provides information on the regulations for clothing, accessories, hazardous materials, household products and children’s products.

Read Online:
Consumer product safety

Food: labelling and safety

Food safety and proper labelling is an important concern for Canadians. Labelling standards for food products help make sure that consumers have the information they need about the food they are purchasing. If you plan on packaging, distributing or selling food products in Canada, you must make sure they meet labelling standards.

Food safety

Your local health unit is the main contact for information on food safety. Local health authorities are responsible for carrying out food service inspections.

You should contact your local health authority and arrange an inspection of the premises, equipment and processes to make sure your business is complying with provincial and federal legislation.

The following link provides contact information for local health authorities that perform inspections on restaurants and food businesses in Ontario.

Read online:
Local public health contacts

Food labelling

In addition to contacting your local health unit, if you are involved in the production, service or processing of food products, you will need to comply with safety standards and labelling regulations from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

Contact CFIA:
1-800-442-2342
Regulated products and sectors

Contact OMAFRA:
1-877-424-1300
Regulations for the food industry

Food labelling and advertising

Learn about the standards that apply to labelling and advertising for all food products in Canada, including how to appropriately show net quantity, quality and composition. Food labelling requirements apply to producers, manufacturers, advertisers, importers and retailers of food products.

Contact Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA):
1-800-442-2342 
Food labelling for industry

Ontario-specific food labelling regulations

Find out about Ontario’s food labelling regulations for specific food products like honey, meat, maple products, and more.

Contact Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA):
1-877-424-1300 
Label Requirements for Produce in Ontario

Foodland Ontario

Use the Foodland Ontario logo as a marketing tool for your business. You can use the logo, free of charge, on eligible Ontario food products.

Contact Foodland Ontario: 
1-877-424-1300
How to use the Foodland Ontario logo

Municipal regulations

Many municipalities have licences specific to food handling or food preparation. To determine what municipality your business falls under, you can contact the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

Contact AMO:
1-877-426-6527 
Association of Municipalities of Ontario

The following government guides provide additional information on rules and regulations related to food safety:

Workplace health and safety

As a business owner, you are responsible for ensuring that your products and services are safe and your employees work in a healthy, safe environment.

Most employees, employers and workplaces in Ontario are covered by occupational health and safety regulations. As an employer in Ontario, your obligations include a duty to instruct, inform and supervise your workers in order to protect their health and safety.

Read online:
Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 
Workplace health and safety

Ministry of Labour

Preventing workplace illness and injury is an important part of your responsibility towards your employees and in creating a healthy and safe work environment.

You can find out more about prevention training requirements and resources for you and your employess from the Ontario Ministry of Labour Health & Safety Contact Centre.

Contact the Ministry of Labour:
1-877-202-0008
Ministry of Labour – Prevention

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)

The WSIB is dedicated to helping you with workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

Most employers are legally required to register with the WSIB within 10 days of hiring an employee. You will get several benefits from registration, including:

  • No-fault workplace insurance
  • Help getting your injured employees back to work
  • Protection from law suits

Note: You will be required to pay an insurance premium.

Contact WSIB:
1-800-387-0750 
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

To learn more about regulations for hiring employees, read our guide:
Employment regulations guide: hiring

Health regulations

If your business produces or sells health products or cosmetics, you are required to know what licences, permits and tests are needed before you produce and sell your product. Health Canada regulates health products and medical devices in Canada. To learn about the requirements for health products and medical devices, refer to the information below:

Drugs and health products (therapeutic)

You are responsible for ensuring that the drugs and health products you produce or sell are approved for use in Canada. The regulations apply to products such as cough and cold medicine, over the counter drugs, toothpaste and antiperspirant.

Contact Health Canada:
1-800-267-9675 
Drugs and health products

Medical devices

If you produce or sell medical devices, you must ensure that they have accurate labels and meet Health Canada’s standards. The labels must list the materials used, evidence of the product's safety, as well as the recall and correction procedures.

Contact Health Canada's Medical Devices Bureau:
613-954-0297
Medical devices
Class of medical devices

Natural health products

Your natural health products must meet Canadian standards for importing, distributing, storing, manufacturing, packaging, and labelling before you can sell them in Canada.

Read online:
Natural Health Products Compliance Guide 
Natural health products regulations
Product licensing

Cosmetics

If you are producing or selling cosmetics products, you must ensure that they meet Health Canada's cosmetics standards and labelling requirements.

Contact Health Canada: 
1-866-662-0666 
General requirements for cosmetics

Tobacco regulations

Tobacco regulations affect almost every business. Rules apply if you are importing, selling, or marketing tobacco products, as well as for your staff or customers who want to smoke.

In addition to the federal and provincial information listed below, contact the municipality where you will be operating for information on local tobacco laws.

Smoke-Free Ontario

Find out what your responsibilities are for marketing, packaging or displaying tobacco products. You must also follow the regulations that apply to smoking in public places like offices, shops, or bars and restaurants.

Contact your local Public Health Unit: 
Public Health Unit Locations 
Smoke-Free Ontario – How the Act Affects You

Tobacco Retail Dealer’s Permit

You need a tobacco retail dealer’s permit from the Ministry of Finance to buy or receive tobacco products for resale in Ontario.

Contact Ministry Of Finance: 
1-866-668-8297 
Tobacco Retail Dealer’s Permit

Tobacco control

If you plan to produce tobacco products or allow the consumption of tobacco products in areas under federal control, make sure you are complying with Health Canada’s tobacco regulations.

Contact Health Canada: 
1-866-318-1116 
Tobacco legislation

Trade certification

In Ontario, you need to be certified to work in certain trades. If you or your employees will be working in the trades, you must ensure that you meet any mandatory certification requirements. Examples of trade positions that require training or certification include:

  • Automotive electronic accessory technician
  • Electrician: domestic & rural
  • Refrigeration & air conditioning systems mechanic
  • Crane operators
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Plumber
  • Hairstylist

You can often become certified in your trade, even if certification is not mandatory. A complete listing of regulated trades and more information about mandatory and voluntary trade certification is available from the Ontario College of Trades (OCT).

Contact OCT:
1-855-299-0028
Trades in Ontario

Media usage

Media related industries, like music, movies, television broadcasts, phone services and internet services are regulated in Canada. If your business will be offering, using or working with these types of media, it is important to be aware of the following:

Telecommunications regulations

If you work in the telecommunications industry, including television and radio broadcasting, you should contact the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for information on the regulations that may apply to your business.

Contact CRTC:
1-877-249-2782 
Licences

Music licence

When your business uses recorded music, you are responsible for obtaining the right licence(s) for that use. The Copyright Board of Canada works with individual copyright collective societies who provide music licensing. Contact the following two organizations for more information.

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) Music Licence

SOCAN is a not-for-profit organization that represents the performance rights of music creators and music publishers. They can help you learn about your obligations and obtaining the required license(s).

Contact SOCAN:
1-800-557-6226
Tariffs & forms - Music in a business

Re:Sound Music Licensing Company

Re:Sound is the Canadian not-for-profit organization that represents the performance rights of artists and record companies, and provides the legally required licence(s) for businesses. You can get help determining what licence(s) will be required, what the licensing process will be and how much it will cost.

Contact Re:Sound:
1-877-309-5770
Re:Sound

Film, video and video game regulations

Learn about your legal obligations for selling or renting films, video/DVD, or video games. If you will be showing films in public, you may need an additional licence.

Ontario Film Authority:
1-844-229-8009
Industry resources - Forms

Financial transactions and loans

Many types of financial transactions are regulated in Canada. If your business offers financial services or works with businesses that do (e.g. accounting or legal services), you should consult the following:

Financial transactions and reporting

You are required to report certain types of business transactions, including:

  • Large financial transfers
  • Currency exchange
  • Securities
  • Insurance
  • Real estate
  • Sale of precious metals and stones

Contact Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC):
1-866-346-8722 
FINTRAC – reporting entities

Financial services regulations

If you have a financial service business, such as a credit union, insurance company or mortgage brokerage, contact the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) for information on licensing and regulations.

Contact FSCO: 
1-800-668-0128 
FSCO – Our services and regulated sectors

Payday lenders and loan brokers’ licences

You must be licensed if you provide payday loans or broker services.

Contact Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS):
1-800-889-9768 
Payday lenders and loan brokers’ licences

Environmental regulations and inspections

You may need to follow environmental regulations and meet certain environmental standards depending on your business activities.

Common environmental regulations that apply to businesses in Ontario include:

Ontario environmental Certificate of Approval

You will need a Certificate of Approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) if your business:

  • Releases contaminants (pollutants) into the air, onto land, or into water
  • Provides potable water supplies
  • Stores, transports or disposes waste

Contact MOECC:
1-800-461-6290
Environmental approvals

Permits to take water

Learn about permits that are required if your business takes more than 50,000 litres of water a day from a lake, river, stream or groundwater source.

Read Online:
Permits to take water

Drinking water

Learn about the rules, reporting requirements, certification, licensing, registration and permits for water systems in Ontario, including wells and wastewater.

Read Online:
Drinking water

Wild animal and plant trade

If you will be importing, exporting or transporting certain wild animal or plant species, you must obtain the appropriate documents (e.g., licences, permits). The regulations apply to all protected plants or animals, alive or dead, as well as to their parts and any derived products.

Contact Environment and Climate Change Canada:
1-800-668-6767 
Wild animal and plant protection

Firearms, fireworks and explosives

The use of firearms and explosives is regulated in Canada. Additional regulations will apply to your business if you buy or sell firearms, fireworks or explosives.

Explosives Regulatory Division (ERD)

You must obtain a permit to manufacture, store or use fireworks and explosives devices.

Contact Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN):
613- 948-5187
Explosives Regulatory Division (ERD)

Canadian Firearms Program

Your business must be licensed to buy, sell, import, export or display firearms and munitions. You may need additional licences and permits if your business will be using restricted weapons or firearms.

Contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP):
1-800-731-4000
Importing firearms, firearm parts and ammunition
Licensing 
Information and services for businesses

Privacy and protection of personal information

There are rules that you must follow if you collect, use, store and protect client information. These rules cover information like contact information, medical records and correspondence (email, fax, letters).

Read online:
Privacy and your business

You can learn more about privacy and your business from the following resources:

Personal information protection

Find out what client information you can collect, use, or disclose while doing business, and what responsibilities you have to protect this information.

Contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC):
1-800-282-1376 
Privacy Toolkit - a guide for businesses and organizations
Getting accountability right with a privacy management program

Medical record regulations

Find out what your obligations are if your business will be handling medical records, or working with organizations involved in the collection of health information.

Contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC):
1-800-387-0073 
Collecting personal information

Personal information collection

If your business collects personal information (e.g. collection agencies, consumer reporting agencies, personal information investigators), you need to be licensed with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS). 

Contact MGCS:
1-800-889-9768 
Licenses, applications and permits

Other resources

The information and resources provided in this guide are a first step towards learning about the regulations that can affect your business. You may want to consult the following resources for additional information:

Provincial laws, regulations, consultations, and announcements

Federal laws, regulations, consultations, and announcements

You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Canada Business Ontario (CBO) community partner, contact us at 1-888-576-4444.