Mission Critical

At Phoenix SPI, we pride ourselves in coming up with innovative design solutions to complex research challenges. Clients regularly look to us to undertake projects that require strategic thinking – projects which, for one reason or another, are of central importance to them. We call these Mission Critical assignments. They offer tangible evidence of clients’ confidence in us.

Mission Critical Assignments

Tax Cheater Research

How likely are Canadians to cheat on their taxes? When the CRA wanted to understand how best to motivate Canadians to comply with tax law, it turned to Phoenix SPI to survey and segment the Canadian population by their general orientations towards tax compliance. The results were used to develop communication and enforcement strategies to help maximize voluntary compliance.

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Competitive Intelligence

When the Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) was looking for areas in which it could obtain an advantage over its global competitors, Phoenix SPI was asked to conduct competitive intelligence research. Through both primary and secondary research, Phoenix SPI set out to establish a “lay of the land” to gauge the Mint’s competitiveness. The specific objectives were to identify practices common to other mints that the RCM could leverage to grow its business and to identify potential threats from other mints that must be monitored.

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CBC Strategic Plan Consultation

When CBC wanted Canadians’ feedback on the Corporation’s strategic plan, 2015: Everyone, Every way, the broadcaster looked to Phoenix SPI to undertake a consultation and parallel research. The objective of the parallel research was to help CBC better interpret the consultation results. While consultation participants reflected the views of Canadians with a particular interest in CBC, survey respondents approximated the general online public. A key challenge of the research was replicating the consultation, while at the same time getting quality feedback from respondents. To this end, unique quality control measures were put in place to ensure that the feedback was thoughtful and based on a review of the strategic plan.

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Sport Canada

For this study, Phoenix SPI was called upon by Canadian Heritage to develop a questionnaire to collect critical information used for the Sport Funding and Accountability Framework (SFAF). The SFAF is the tool used to assess the performance of national sports bodies at all levels of competition – from youth and amateur levels right up to the Olympics – and identify which organizations are eligible to receive Sport Canada funding, the amount of funds, and under what conditions.

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Service Canada Client Satisfaction

When Service Canada, the largest service delivery organization in the country, began operations, Phoenix SPI conducted its baseline survey with clients. The sampling and weighting were extremely complex, drawing clients from eight separate programs with very different clientele. Phoenix SPI was called upon to conduct follow-up research in future years.

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Infrastructure Stimulus Fund Evaluation

In the wake of the global economic downturn, the Government of Canada introduced the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (ISF) to fund projects that would provide a near-immediate stimulus to the economy. Faced with the task of evaluating how and when this economic activity reached the economy, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) looked to Phoenix SPI. A placed-mail methodology was used to survey officials who administered ISF projects in their jurisdiction (provinces, municipalities). The survey results, combined with administrative data, were reported to Parliament as part of the PBO’s mandate to provide independent analysis to Parliament on spending estimates of the government.

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New Electronic Passport

Are you interested in an e-passport? When Passport Canada needed a research program to help the agency more accurately forecast passport demand, Phoenix SPI was called upon to provide monthly data on passport possession rates and intentions to acquire a passport. Over the course of a number of years, Phoenix conducted more than 15,000 phone surveys. Results were used to better understand factors affecting fluctuations in demand for passports and allow Passport Canada to better anticipate and adapt to changing operational requirements.

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Smoking Cessation Program Evaluations

Health Canada looked to Phoenix SPI to work with its Tobacco Control program to design and implement research that would effectively evaluate the impact of youth and adult smoking cessation programs. The resulting research was comprehensive in nature, involving innovative recruitment, multiple surveys over a 12-month period, creative incentive approaches to minimize attrition, a mirror website to track actual behaviour, and a control-intervention group design to enable us to more confidently determine the actual impact of the programs.

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Rethinking CSAT; Linking it to Compensation

The Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) contracted Phoenix SPI to help the corporation identify appropriate metrics to measure customer satisfaction (CSAT) and link performance in this area to employee compensation. The evaluation involved secondary and primary data collection: 1) a compilation of industry CSAT practices; and 2) in-depth interviews with RCM stakeholders, including the President, as well as C-level executives, VPs and senior management across the corporation.

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Phoenix is often chosen for research into leading-edge topics, where thoughtful design is needed to accommodate the newness or complexity of the issue.


What do you know you know about “nutritional genomics”? With the science of nutrigenomics making advances, and commercial applications appearing on the market, the Government of Canada felt it was time to consider how these developments will affect consumers, patients, and the public more generally. Phoenix SPI was contracted to develop a research program (focus groups, followed by an RDD survey) designed to investigate how Canadians perceive genomics and to establish a basic understanding of “genomic literacy” and “nutrigenomic literacy”. The findings are informing future efforts to raise awareness and understanding of nutrigenomic research among Canadians.

The growing number of cell phone only (CPO) households in Canada calls into question traditional survey sample frames.

Cell Phones

Phoenix SPI conducted two studies for PWGSC’s Public Opinion Research Directorate (PORD) on cell phones and their impact on survey research in Canada. The 1st study involved a review and analysis of a mix of perspectives to provide PORD with a view of the current state of affairs with respect to cell phones and telephone surveys. The 2nd study was more focused in nature with the aim of understanding the relationships between a survey respondent’s status as a member of a CPO household and a range of demographic and attitudinal variables. A key implication of the research findings was that landline-only survey sampling may result in significant coverage error.

Survey response rates are a hotly debated among survey researchers, and often misunderstood issue among the general public.

Response Rates

Phoenix SPI was asked to conduct two studies on the issue of response rates. The Canada Revenue Agency commissioned Phoenix SPI to undertake research, analysis and recommendations concerning response rates in response to concern raised by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) about material based on surveys with low response rates. The final report was used in sensitive discussions with the OAG. The 2nd response rate study was commissioned by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). In response to the growing difficulty in reaching willing participants in survey research, PWGSC wanted Phoenix SPI to review relevant literature, interview experts in the field, and develop a set of best practices for use across the federal government for all telephone surveys.

The Internet has accelerated the rate at which privacy issues facing Canadians are evolving and Canadians require clear information through targeted communications to navigate the complex privacy terrain.


The Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) of Canada commissioned Phoenix SPI to conduct an RDD telephone survey of Canadians on privacy-related issues to explore Canadians’ awareness, understanding and perceptions of privacy-related issues. The research results were used to assist in evaluating and refining OPC programs and services targeting Canadians and to facilitate its communications and outreach efforts with this audience.