An Act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act (disallowance procedure for regulations)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Gurmant Grewal  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 13th, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central I appreciate the opportunity to conclude the third hour debate on Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act concerning disallowance procedure for statutory instruments, commonly called regulations.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Vancouver Island North for seconding my bill. I am proud to recognize that Bill C-205 is the work of the collective efforts of members of all parties in the House as well as senators, particularly those who now sit on the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations which I had the honour to chair. I would like to thank my co-chair, members and the staff of the scrutiny committee for their support and input on the bill.

I would also like to thank the hon. member for Nanaimo--Alberni for allowing me this opportunity by giving away his spot scheduled for today in exchange for my bill.

While I am thanking everyone, I would also like to thank the staff of the House who helped me in the drafting of the bill. I highly appreciate the efforts made by everyone who was involved in the bill, particularly all the House leaders who were very cooperative on the bill. I am feeling very lucky that the bill will soon become law. I appreciate the cooperation I sought from members and senators.

For the people who are watching, disallowance is one of the traditional means at the disposal of a legislature to control the making of delegated legislation by giving legislators an opportunity to reject a subordinate law made by a delegate of Parliament. The disallowance procedure has been in existence in other Commonwealth jurisdictions for many years. This bill is intended to provide a legislative framework for a similar procedure at the federal level in Canada.

The bill would provide, first, a legislative basis for the procedure that is currently set out in our standing orders, so we will have a legislative footing for the disallowance procedure; and second, it would extend the application of that procedure to regulations made by persons or bodies other than the governor in council or ministers of the Crown.

In other words, all regulations in Canada would be reviewed and scrutinized by the standing joint committee or by the authority of Parliament through that committee. All regulations would be under the scrutiny and review of the elected officials in Parliament.

The Parliament of Canada is the source of all legislative authority, In fact, that authority is delegated not only to the governor in council and ministers, but also to various other regulation making authorities such as the CRTC, Canadian Transportation Agency, and many other agencies and boards.

When those agencies exercise that delegated authority to make regulations, those entities are exercising a power that finds its source in the House of Commons and in Parliament. Parliament, therefore, has not only a right but a responsibility to control the exercise of those powers which are delegated to it.

Effective parliamentary scrutiny must be accompanied by effective parliamentary control. That effective parliamentary control was not there before. This was not always the case for many years, since regulations have been subject to parliamentary oversight and scrutiny for almost three decades. The gap was partly addressed in 1986 when the government of the day agreed to be bound by standing orders providing for a disallowance procedure.

However, because of the non-legislative nature of our standing orders, the current procedure could not deal with a portion of the regulations subject to parliamentary review and scrutiny.

As everyone knows, of all the laws we see in this country, 80% of that law comes through the back door by way of regulations, and 20% we legislate in this House. All the bills that we passionately debate and vote for are about only about 20% of the total complement. So the significance of this bill is huge, and moreover, the statutory instruments in fact affect every Canadian. As we wake up in the morning and have coffee or cereal for breakfast, there are regulations which govern them. For everything every Canadian does in a day, I am sure there is some sort of impact of regulations. Moreover, for businesses the compliance costs for the regulatory burden, commonly called red tape, is huge. It is estimated to be about $113 billion. It is a huge cost to businesses.

Regulations have huge implications on the day to day life of Canadians. Moreover, there is a huge demand and need for regulatory reform in Canada and I am sure that we will be working on it. There is a need for moving from red tape to smart tape and from smart tape to smart government. For regulations where there is any overlap or anything like that, we have to reform them.

I will not take much time but I want to mention a couple of facts. When the current procedure was first implemented in 1986, it was stated that it was to be an experiment, with its success leading to a statutory disallowance procedure. The experiment has been a success, and after ignoring this for many years, this success justifies us in extending the scope of the disallowance procedure in order that parliamentary control coincides fully with parliamentary scrutiny. This can only be achieved by means of legislation. That is what Bill C-205 is going to do.

More than three decades after the enactment of the Statutory Instruments Act, I believe that the time has come for the Parliament of Canada to give itself the means to ensure the democratic control of federal delegated legislation. If my bill is passed, this legislation would be a major historic milestone in restoring accountability and democratic and parliamentary reforms for which my party, the Canadian Alliance, has been asking for a very long time. Placing the current disallowance procedure on a statutory footing will make it possible to close the gap between parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary control. It will also ensure that the procedure is legally effective.

Bill C-205 is intended to ensure that parliamentarians are in a position to exercise their responsibility for the effective oversight of the exercise of legislative powers they entrust to various delegates. This bill will restore democracy to the system rather than having bureaucrats controlling regulations that affect all aspects of Canadians' lives.

The procedure set out in Bill C-205 for the reform of the current disallowance procedure has been endorsed by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. The concerns raised earlier by some members have already been accommodated since they did not go to the principles of the bill but rather to some perceived practical difficulties.

I see that the government House leader is very anxious to have this bill go to the Senate, so I would like to conclude that a consensus has been reached among all members of the committee and the House leaders of all parties. I can assure the members that the bill is now absolutely ready to be sent for the next step. I urge and ask all members to give their unanimous consent to send this bill to the other House for it to be enacted into law. I thank members in advance for their support of this important initiative.

Since I am the last speaker before we adjourn, I wish you, Madam Speaker, and all the members of this House a wonderful summer recess break.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 13th, 2003 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

moved that Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act (disallowance procedure for statutory instruments), be concurred in at report stage.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 11th, 2003 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to its order of reference of Monday, April 28, 2003, your committee has considered Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts, and has agreed to report it with amendments.

I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

In accordance with its reference of Wednesday, June 4, 2003, your committee has considered Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act (disallowance procedure for statutory instruments) and has agreed to report it without amendment.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 4th, 2003 / 6 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to conclude the debate on Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act, or the disallowance procedure for statutory instruments.

Before I begin the debate I would like to take this opportunity to thank members from all five parties in the House who have contributed to the debate, particularly those members who have signed the supporting letter in support of the bill.

I would also like to extend my appreciation to the co-chair, the vice-chair, the general counsel and the very hard working staff of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

I would also like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice for his hard work and cooperation on this issue.

Regulations play a significant role in our lives, whether good or bad. Every day everyone is affected by statutory instruments, commonly called regulations.

As many of my colleagues already know, disallowance is one of the traditional means at the disposal of the legislature to control the making of delegated legislation by giving legislators an opportunity to reject a subordinate law made by a delegate of Parliament.

Variants of the disallowance procedure have been in existence in other Commonwealth jurisdictions for many years. The bill is intended to provide a legislative framework for a similar procedure at the federal level.

The bill would provide a legislative basis for the procedure that is currently set out in our standing orders and would extend the application of that procedure to regulations made by agencies or bodies other than the governor in council or ministers of the crown.

I might add that Bill C-205 is consistent with the recommendations made by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, which I co-chair, and many others, for the reform of the current disallowance procedure.

The Parliament of Canada is the source of all legislative authority that is delegated, not only to the governor in council and ministers, but also to various other regulation-making authorities, such as the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency. When they exercise that delegated authority to make regulations, those entities are exercising a power that finds its source in the House of Commons and in Parliament. Parliament therefore has not only a right but a responsibility to control the exercise of those powers.

For well over 30 years now, regulations made pursuant to the enactments of Parliament have been subject to parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. The members and the staff of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations have painstakingly reviewed thousands of federal regulations.

However effective parliamentary scrutiny must be accompanied by effective parliamentary control. This was not always the case.

The gap was partly addressed in 1986 when the government of the day agreed to be bound by standing orders providing for a disallowance procedure. However, because of the non-legislative nature of our standing orders, the current procedure could only deal with a portion of the regulations subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

When the current procedure was first implemented, it was stated to be an experiment, and with its success leading to a statutory disallowance procedure. The experiment has been a success and this success justifies us in extending the scope of the disallowance procedure in order that parliamentary control coincides fully with parliamentary scrutiny. This can only be achieved by means of legislation, and this is what Bill C-205 is about.

The procedure set out in the bill has been endorsed by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. I am proud to recognize that Bill C-205 is really a work of the collective efforts of members of all parties in the House, particularly those who now sit on the scrutiny committee.

More than three decades after the enactment of the Statutory Instruments Act, I believe the time has come for the Parliament of Canada to give itself the means to ensure full democratic control of federal delegated legislation. If passed, the legislation will be a major historic milestone in restoring accountability and in democratic and parliamentary reforms.

By placing the current disallowance procedure on a statutory footing it will make it possible to close the gap between parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary control. It will also ensure that the procedure is legally effective.

This legislative proposal has been carefully designed to allow parliamentarians to exercise their responsibility for the effective oversight of regulations, while providing the flexibility required by regulation-makers to respond appropriately to a disallowance.

I am happy to say that the concerns raised by some members earlier did not go to the principle of the bill but focused on some perceived practical difficulties with the bill as it stands now. These comments have been very useful, and I am pleased to report that the members of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations have had discussions as to how the bill might be improved. A consensus was reached among all members on proposals for amendments that will address the issues that were raised.

As I have always said, this is a non-partisan issue. It is the responsibility of all members of the House to make sure parliamentary control over delegated legislation always applies.

Should the House agree to send the bill to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights I can assure the members that it is my intention to propose those amendments in order to address the concerns raised.

Bill C-205 is intended to ensure that parliamentarians are in a position to exercise their responsibility for the effective oversight of the exercise of the legislative powers they entrust to various delegates.

I will conclude with two main issues. First, the disallowance procedure has to be on a statutory footing, which the bill would accomplish. Second, the delegated authority to make regulations has been applied to the issuing of statutory instruments by governor in council, ministers, agencies and boards, but that Parliament's scrutiny only be applied to the regulations or statutory instruments made by the governor in council and ministers and not those made by the various agencies and boards. Knowing that 80% of the laws in this country are made by regulations or statutory instruments, it is very important that Parliament have the authority to scrutinize and review the regulations made by all agencies and boards.

Therefore, with the adoption of the bill, 100% of the federal regulations will be coming under the scrutiny of Parliament. I urge all the members to vote to send the bill to committee. I thank members in advance for their support on this important initiative.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 4th, 2003 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill today, which relates to the important responsibilities that parliamentarians have to oversee the exercise of the delegated law-making powers.

For the past 30 years these responsibilities have in large part been discharged by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. It has performed an invaluable service to the House and to the Canadian public in its review of statutory instruments made under acts of Parliament.

The committee examines thousands of statutory instruments each year and carefully notes any concerns they raise in terms of the committee's review criteria. These criteria focus on legal concerns rooted in the rule of law and the Canadian Constitution, particularly the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The committee carefully and diligently pursues its concerns and deals with the concerns of the authorities entrusted with that power to make regulations and other statutory instruments.

One of the ways of ensuring that its concerns are addressed is through the disallowance procedure in chapter XIV of the standing orders of the House. These procedures have worked well. The government has complied with all eight of the disallowance resolutions adopted by the House.

I fully support the principles of parliamentary scrutiny of regulations underlying Bill C-205, as well as the need to recognize the disallowance procedures in law.

However, as I noted during the last session in the debate on Bill C-202, it gives rise to a number of concerns. These concerns have to do with how disallowed regulations are to be revoked, particularly the timeframe for revocation and the challenges it might pose for the making of replacement regulations to fill gaps that may be left by this revocation. I also noted concerns about ensuring proper public notice of revocation and extending the disallowance procedures to statutory instruments made by non-ministerial bodies.

Finally, I drew the attention of the House to the absence of a role for the other place in the disallowance resolution.

Today we have before us a proposal to substitute another bill for Bill C-205. I am pleased to say that the new bill addresses the concerns that I previously mentioned.

I would like to point out that the government is committed to ensuring that parliamentarians have an effective role in overseeing the exercise of delegated legislative powers. Not only has it implemented the eight resolutions under the existing disallowance procedures in the standing orders, the government recently amended the cabinet directive on law making, which is available on the website of the Privy Council Office.

The amendment addresses the treatment of concerns raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. It establishes a series of requirements for government departments, which is extraordinarily important in the process of governance.

They are to have one or more designated persons to whom the standing joint committee may address its inquiries. All inquiries are to be coordinated by a departmental tracking office to facilitate timely responses to all correspondence from the committee. Each department is to establish appropriate timelines for responding to inquiries. If a time line cannot be met, the committee is to be advised of the need for an extension. If an inquiry involves a legal issue, the department's legal services unit is to be consulted. Each deputy minister is to receive a status report from their departmental tracking office on a regular basis. A copy of the status report is to be provided to the minister's office.

I believe that these procedures will go some distance toward improving the government's accountability to Parliament on regulation making.

These steps that have been taken clearly demonstrate the government's commitment to the principles underlying the parliamentary scrutiny of regulations. It is extraordinarily important and I urge the adoption of the bill.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 4th, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to express my support for Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act.

The bill introduced by the member for Surrey Central would provide a statutory basis for the current disallowance procedure and extend the application of that procedure to regulations made by persons or bodies other than the governor in council or ministers of the crown.

Bill C-205 is in keeping with a long-standing all party consensus of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations for the reform of the current disallowance procedure.

I would like to take a few minutes to deal with one particular feature of the bill. I refer to proposed subsection 19.1(10), which provides that a disallowed regulation is deemed to be repealed at the expiration of 30 days following the day on which the disallowance of the regulation was adopted by the House. It has been argued that this provision would create a situation in which the government would be deprived of the flexibility it needs to consider the implications of a disallowance ordered by the House.

A comparison between the procedure proposed in Bill C-205 and statutory disallowance procedures in other jurisdictions or with negative resolution procedures in existing federal statutes will show that the suspension of the effect of a disallowance for a full 30 days that is proposed in Bill C-205 is unique. In most other jurisdictions, as well as in federal statutes, a regulation is repealed immediately upon disallowance.

In light of these various precedents, including federal precedents, I would argue that in suspending the effect of a disallowance resolution for 30 days, Bill C-205 would provide for far greater flexibility than any other similar procedure. It is precisely in order to preserve the ability of the government to establish an appropriate alternative temporary regime where one is needed that Bill C-205 delays the effective date of revocation by 30 days. That provision strikes an appropriate balance between the need to have a disallowance procedure and the need to give a regulation making authority sufficient time to formulate an alternative course of action.

It is also of interest to note that the usual notice and comment period for proposed regulations following pre-publication in part 1 of the Canada Gazette is 30 days. If the government considers this a sufficient period of time for citizens to assess and comment on a proposed regulatory initiative often involving many pages of regulations, one wonders why a similar period, which is in addition to the minimum of three weeks provided before a resolution becomes an order of the House, would not be sufficient for civil servants to assess and react appropriately to the disallowance of a statutory instrument. Are members expected to believe that our public service is incapable of dealing with a proposed revocation within a period of 51 days while it is perfectly possible for their Australian or Quebec counterparts to do so within 21 days?

In her intervention, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage emphasized the argument that a statutory disallowance procedure would deprive the government of the flexibility needed to gauge the impact of revocation. Revocation might create a legal vacuum, it was said, and the government could find itself hard pressed to determine the alternative legal measures required to fill the legal vacuum.

Interestingly, the parliamentary secretary chose to illustrate her argument by referring to the disallowance of section 58 of the “Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations” by the House on October 3, 2001. That particular case provides an excellent example of the approach taken by the joint committee with regard to disallowance.

First I would note that the disallowance of section 58 of the fresh fruit and vegetable regulations did not create a legal vacuum, and this was no accident. In electing to disallow section 58, which provided for cancellation of a registration, the joint committee deliberately left section 57 in place, knowing that this section would allow the suspension of any registration where an establishment was found to have contravened the applicable regulations.

The standing joint committee was very careful to propose the disallowance in such a way that the repeal of section 58 would not impair in any way the enforcement capability of those administering the regulations.

The government took a full eight months to comply with the disallowance order of the House, a delay that many would say is not acceptable. The decision to proceed with the amendment of other regulations at the same time as it complied with the disallowance of the House was a decision the government made. It was neither required nor inevitable.

Effective parliamentary scrutiny requires effective parliamentary control. At present there exists a gap between the two, and Bill C-205 is intended to bridge that gap by ensuring that all regulations are subject to oversight by the House of Commons. This can only be achieved by the means of legislation and this is what Bill C-205 is about.

There has been much talk lately of a democratic deficit. Full parliamentary control of delegated legislation, with such exceptions as are warranted, would significantly reduce that deficit. It is simply an anomaly for the House of Commons to have the authority to disallow a regulation important enough to be made by the governor in council or a minister, but to lack any authority with regard to a regulation made by secondary delegates such as the Canadian Transportation Agency or the CRTC. When they exercise regulation making powers, those entities are exercising a power that was given to them by the House and the House has a right to control the exercise of that power in appropriate circumstances.

I want to congratulate the hon. member for Surrey Central on Bill C-205 and I want to state that we support the bill.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 4th, 2003 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-205, which is specifically designed to strengthen parliamentary control.

I take this opportunity to thank my colleague from Surrey Central for bringing this important question to the House for debate.

As a member of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, I obviously want, and it is my duty, to ensure that our rules are efficient and respectful of democracy.

It is important to point out that the purpose of the bill before us today is to provide a legislative basis for the disallowance procedure for statutory instruments by enshrining it in the Statutory Instruments Act. The current procedure set out in the Standing Orders of the House considerably limits our responsibility as parliamentarians to efficiently oversee delegated legislation.

Under Bill C-205, the disallowance procedure will now apply to all statutory instruments, which seems to me to be very important, given that it is currently limited to regulations made by the governor in council or by a minister of the Crown.

Many regulatory organizations, such as the CRTC or the Canadian Transportation Agency, escape our purview. If we want to extend the control we have over delegated legislation to all statutory instruments, it is imperative that it be provided for in an act, in addition to the Standing Orders of the House; all the more reason to pass this bill.

Many have been hesitant to have such organizations come under the control of Parliament, because of potential interference in organizations which are operating at arm's length to some extent. I do not think that it will prevent them from managing their affairs appropriately and in accordance with their mandates. On the contrary, I think that these organizations should be accountable, since they are publicly funded.

Our committee already reviews the bylaws of these organizations. It would therefore only make sense that we could repeal them. However, these organizations must not forget that they have regulatory power only because it was delegated to them by Parliament. We must never lose sight of the fact that the function of Parliament is to ensure the proper use of public funds and to legislate. It is normal, indeed essential, that Parliament have the right to oversee the use made of this delegated power and hold these organizations to account.

We vote on bills in the House, but we delegate the responsibility for regulating several aspects of these bills. These are aspects that can have a major impact on our constituents. Regulations can mean life or death for projects, individual rights or the economic survival of businesses.

When we consider the fact that the lion's share of the law that governs our society is contained in regulations, and not in the acts themselves, it becomes critical to ensure that regulatory power, this delegated power, is exercised in accordance with the purposes for which it was delegated and that the intent of the legislator has indeed been respected.

One specific aspect of this bill that caught my attention is the fact that after having voted in support of a resolution in the House, the text will be repealed within 30 days, whereas under existing procedure, it is simply an order of the House calling on the government to repeal the text in question.

The problem is that the government has discretionary power to decide when it will repeal a regulation and also to decide whether or not it will repeal it. There is no legal way of punishing the government for violating an order of the House.

Another aspect that also deserves our attention is the fact that prior to using a disallowance procedure, there are all kinds of exchanges, letters and even promises made by the government before it amends the regulation in question.

Years can go by from the moment a regulation is deemed to contradict the spirit of the legislation and the time the government finally decides to amend it.

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations, which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage referred to during a previous debate, is a good example to illustrate that the government is not always quick to respond.

When the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations tabled a report recommending that certain articles of the regulations be repealed, more than seven full years had gone by from the time of the initial discussions with the government on the matter. That means that during this time, the government or the department or the organization continues to enforce the regulation illegally, which is an abuse of power. That is extremely dangerous in terms of democracy.

I believe that respect for our democratic institutions is extremely important. As it happens, I had the honour of being a guest speaker at the seminar on Parliament in the 21st century. I have also taken part in other events and published articles on democratic institutions and the importance of making changes that contribute to increasing the public's confidence in and satisfaction with their representatives.

One aspect that seems very serious and may have negative consequences for our democracy is the excessive concentration of power in the hands of executives. For instance, the governor in council and cabinet ministers have been given impressive regulatory power. But they hold this power directly from Parliament itself, and because of this, they must be accountable for the way they exercise this power. If the executive exercises its powers without respecting the spirit and the letter of enabling legislation, Parliament should have a legal means of intervening, and that is precisely the purpose of the bill before us.

Our system and our rules must be flexible enough to permit members to play their role to the fullest and to preserve in this place the rights and freedoms of those we represent. My fundamental belief is that members should have much more power within Parliament.

That brings us back to the very essence of our role as parliamentarians. We must never lose sight of our prerogatives, especially that of creating legislation. Of course, this is a complex task, and the very technical aspects of regulations and many other considerations make it necessary for us to delegate some of this power. But make no mistake, the supremacy of Parliament remains, as does our duty as parliamentarians to ensure it is respected.

Based on this principle, I fail to see why anyone would deprive us of the fundamental right to maintain control over this delegated legislation. No doubt Bill C-205 will be one step closer to the preservation of our parliamentary supremacy. The more democratic this control, the healthier our democracy will be.

We are pleased to give our support to Bill C-205.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 4th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-205 sponsored by my colleague from Surrey Central who has done a lot of work in this area. It fixes some essential procedures here in the House.

The member for Surrey Central has worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents and for the people of Canada to bring a greater degree of democratic accountability to the House of Commons. He has spent many long hours in the House and in various committees in the pursuit of parliamentary reform. This bill is a product of his experience and hard work as co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee. It should be given very careful consideration.

The purpose of the bill is to provide for a disallowance procedure for statutory instruments or delegated pieces of legislation which are more commonly known as regulations. Disallowance is one of the traditional means for a legislature to oversee the creation of regulations. A disallowance procedure would give parliamentarians an opportunity to reject a statutory instrument made by a delegate of Parliament.

It is significant to note that 20% of laws in Canada stem from legislation debated and passed by Parliament. The remaining 80% of laws are made up of regulations. As opposed to legislation, regulations receive virtually no debate in the House of Commons or Senate. There is no public input or study and there is no media scrutiny.

The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations carries out the only scrutiny, which is very limited, of regulations in Parliament. This committee, although generally misunderstood, is an essential watchdog protecting democracy, controlling bureaucracy, and holding the government to account. The committee does not judge regulations on the basis of policy matter, general merit or necessity. Its study of regulations is instead limited to the questions of validity and legality. Members follow uniform and clearly defined criteria in their examination.

When the joint committee agrees that a regulation should be revoked, it makes a report to the House of Commons containing a resolution to the effect that a regulation or part thereof should be revoked. Once that report is tabled in the House the applicable procedure will depend on a decision by the responsible minister. Unfortunately, the current disallowance procedure is seriously defective.

The procedure currently practised resulted from a recommendation of the special committee on reform of the House of Commons back in 1986. Before that time there was no general disallowance procedure in place at the federal level in Canada. The government of the day placed the disallowance procedure in the Standing Orders with the intention it would remain there on an experimental and temporary basis until such time as a decision could be made to its effectiveness. If successful, it was the intention of the government to implement a statutory procedure.

In the last 16 years we have seen the effectiveness of having a so-called temporary disallowance procedure, but still nothing has been done to give it a statutory footing. The current procedure, because it is contained in the Standing Orders, limits the possibility of disallowance to the statutory instruments that are made by the governor in council or by ministers of the Crown. As a result, the considerable body of delegated legislation created, for example, by the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency or the National Energy Board is not subject to the disallowance procedure provided in the Standing Orders.

All members would agree that it is desirable that all statutory instruments subject to review by Parliament under the Statutory Instruments Act be subject to disallowance. There is no reason why a regulation made by the governor in council or a minister can be disallowed by Parliament while a regulation made by some other delegate of Parliament cannot.

Another defect of the current procedure is that it relies on the cooperation of the governor in council or the minister concerned to carry out a disallowance after the House of Commons has ordered it.

In itself, an order of the House of Commons cannot effect the revocation of a regulation. The authority that made a disallowed regulation must still formally intervene in order to revoke that regulation following the creation of a disallowance order. While the House could deal with the matter as one of contempt, there are no other legal sanctions or even consequences that arise from a failure to comply with the disallowance order. An order of the House of Commons that a particular regulation be revoked is not binding on the author of the regulation and cannot be enforced by a court.

Placing the disallowance procedure on a statutory footing, as this bill recommends, would remove the need for a regulation making authority to take subsequent action to give effect to an order of this House, thus eliminating the potential for conflict between Parliament and the executive. The procedure would also be made more efficient as there would no longer be a need for the House of Commons to address an order of the cabinet ordering the revocation of a statutory instrument. The legislation itself would now deem a disallowed instrument to be revoked by eliminating the need for further action by the governor in council, or the minister who adopted the disallowed instrument. Compliance with the disallowance decision would be improved by eliminating any possibility of a regulation making authority not complying with the disallowance order of the House.

By providing a clear legislative basis for the current disallowance procedure, Bill C-205 would, first, allow Parliament's authority to extend to all instruments, subject to review under the Statutory Instruments Act, instead of only those made by the governor in council or minister. Second, it would remove the necessity for additional action on the part of the regulation making authority in order to give effect to an order of the House that a regulation be revoked. This disallowance procedure is important to restore transparency and protect democracy in the House of Commons.

Bill C-205 reflects the all party consensus of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations on the need to strengthen parliamentary oversight of the hundreds of federal regulations made each year pursuant to legislative authority delegated by Parliament.

This private member's bill should appeal to all members of the House, regardless of partisan affiliations. Currently, the powers of the governing party, and particularly the executive, are sweeping. If members are to provide the necessary checks and balances, they must be accorded certain rights. Their views are crucial to the continued functioning of Parliament. Accepting these small changes to the scrutiny of regulations would be a significant first step in our efforts to make Parliament more responsive to Canadians. I urge all members in the House to give the bill very careful consideration and to pass it as soon as possible.

In conclusion, we on this side of the House are trying constantly to improve the democracy in this place by allowing MPs to be more effective in performing their duties here. One of the things that needs to be emphasized is that so much of what happens here concerns enabling legislation. We pass enabling legislation which then allows for a lot of regulations to be made. In effect, we are now saying that those regulations must be more carefully scrutinized. There must be a process, a mechanism, to ensure that those that are disallowed, those that are scrutinized, have the proper attention given to them.

I want to thank the member for Surrey Central for all the work he has done on Bill C-205. Many people listening to this may not be fully aware of the significance of the bill. Let me assure everyone listening that this is a very important step in improving democracy in the House. I again thank the member for bringing Bill C-205 forward. I look forward to everyone passing the bill.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 4th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-205 is a little bit technical. Many members are asking me some questions about the bill since I am the sponsor of the bill. I ask for unanimous consent that my concluding remarks, which were originally for five minutes, be extended to approximately ten minutes.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

June 4th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. There has been discussions with various members from all political parties. I table a document and I move:

That, the text of the said document be substituted for the text of Bill C-205; and that the bill, as amended, be reprinted; provided that the bill, as amended, retain its status and precedence; and that the motion standing on the Order Paper in relation to Bill C-205 be amended by substituting the name of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for that of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2003 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see a fair bit of support around the House for this private member's bill, Bill C-205. I hope that will carry us through the vote which ultimately will take place.

Remarks were made earlier in the House congratulating the member for introducing the bill. I also congratulate him but want to pay tribute to others before him who introduced bills similar to this one. It has been almost a tradition of joint chairs of the standing joint committee to introduce a bill of this nature to, in effect, remedially correct a small omission existing in the disallowance procedure, also referred to earlier by members.

I will abandon a lot of my formally prepared remarks because members have been good enough to recite the history, going back to the 1970s and the reform in 1986.

Essentially, the bill corrects an omission which was acknowledged even as the procedure was put into place in 1986. The disallowance procedure allows the House to disallow a regulation made by the governor in council and by a minister if the regulation does not comply with the law established by the House and the regulation delegated under procedures in law created by the House. If a minister or agency of government is delegated authority to make subordinate legislation, they must comply with the laws and the procedures put in place by the House. If not, they must correct it. In the end, if there is an impasse the House will disallow it.

The standing joint committee has done this work for almost 30 years, and 98% of the time the committee spends it time correcting errors in regulations. In many cases, the government itself will withdraw the regulation and make the corrections. A lot of work done on this is about as exciting as dry toast. In fact, the debate on the bill today will not appeal to many people because it is just that, a technical thing.

One member earlier suggested that the House did not have a disallowance procedure. We do have a procedure and we use it. The House has disallowed regulations nine or ten times over the last 10 years. The system does work but there is a piece of it that does not.

Approximately 90% of the regulations that are made are governed by the existing disallowance procedure. It is only a small segment of regulations made by agencies to which the House has delegated a power to make regulations. Examples are the CRTC, the Canadian Transport Commission and a few others. The reason the House does not and cannot disallow is that our authority to disallow is only enforceable in relation to ministers, the Prime Minister, the governor in council, and members present in the House. We can enforce in relation to them, and it works. However, for a technical reason, it is constitutional in nature. The orders and resolutions of the House cannot be enforced against citizens out there in the real world, such as an agency. Agencies do not sit in the House. Regulations made by those agencies under authority of the House sit in a no man's land, not subject to the full and final scrutiny of the House and the disallowance procedure.

We deal with defects in those regulations. We work with them all the time. We write them, deal with them and corrections are made but occasionally we have an impasse.

I have noticed that sometimes it takes a lot of extra time to hear back from agencies when the committee writes to them. Why? I am not sure why. However they know that at the end of the day the House is not in a position to disallow. The House cannot use the hammer or the nuclear option, as we sometimes describe it on the committee.

All the bill would do is remediate the missing 10% of the ambit of the net of the disallowance authority. To many people it may seem like a small thing. It is only about 10% of the volume that we do. In fact, I cannot recall a case where we actually did want to do a disallowance involving an agency. The point is that the procedures and authority that we have are incomplete. They were acknowledged as being incomplete by the justice minister in 1986 when the procedures were put in place. Anybody who sees the whole procedure understands it is incomplete. All the bill would do is complete it. We do that by placing the procedure into statute form.

By putting this in statute form, the bill would create a clock. It would provide a 30-plus day timeframe within which the bill would be deemed disallowed. The current disallowance procedure involves the House making an order to the minister, the governor in council or the Prime Minister, to revoke the instrument. In every case the government has done that when the House has ordered it. What the statute would do is directly revoke the instrument or allow the revocation of the instrument when the House makes its order, and there would be a 30-plus day period when the department could re-enact, replace or correct the revoked order. That seems like a reasonable procedure and, as colleagues have pointed out, that 30 day period exists. It does not exist in some jurisdictions, such as, I believe, Australia. The Province of Quebec has a similar procedure. In those cases, when the House does the disallowance, it is immediate and we end up with a timeframe when there is not a regulation in force.

We acknowledge in the House that there are times when it is just practically stupid to revoke a regulation and leave nothing in its place. It may cause inconvenience, extra costs and disorder. In every case, the committee takes these issues into consideration when it feels it has to move toward a disallowance. We realize the implications, and the authority of the House, through the committee, has been used very responsibly over the years.

It is not worth very much in terms of critical mass but I want to point out that about a year ago I wrote and published a pamphlet dealing with parliamentary reform. It was called “Backbench Exercises”. One of the 16 recommendations in the report was that the House remediate, fix, make complete this statutory disallowance power simply because it was an omission. It is a defect.

In the end, I can only submit that it is absolutely illogical for the House to have a procedure in existence involving disallowance, which it has already, that controls those to whom we delegate the authority to make subordinate law and not include all the regulations, all the subordinate instruments. It is an omission. All we are trying to put in place here is some remedial legislation, a statutory procedure, that would in effect make the whole disallowance procedure whole, complete, logical and effective.

I will of course be supporting the bill. There may be some need to fine tune it a bit at committee if it is adopted by the House, which I hope it will be, in the vote. I want to signal to those who care about this very dry, technical area that I will be working very aggressively on both sides of the House to do my very best to see that the legislation is put in place so that it will serve the House and Canadians in the future.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2003 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I also stand in support of the bill. It is very interesting to listen to debate on such a bill. Because the bill itself is an extremely technical one, the debate was focused on the material itself. Usually when we debate bills in the House, if we did not know specifically what we were talking about, we would never guess from the conversations and presentations that were put forth. Perhaps we should try to ensure that all bills and motions debated are technical.

The other interesting thing about this is, since the original introduction of the bill, I believe the House generally has become much more conscience of the need for change in Parliament. We have talked about parliamentary reform and a number of members are getting involved in trying to find ways to improve what goes on here and, in particular, to make government more accountable and more responsible.

In the original discussions we had a fair amount of opposition from the government. However this morning the one speaker from the government side, the formidable chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, spoke in favour of the bill. It does not surprise me because the gentleman certainly is a very intelligent individual who undoubtedly can understand fully the implications of such legislation, unlike perhaps some of his colleagues.

Attitudes are changing in relation to Parliament. The pettiness is starting to disappear little by little, but not quickly enough. As it does, we see much more serious debate on these issues.

In the words of a noted constitutional scholar, Eugene Forsey, a great Newfoundlander by the way, responsible government means a cabinet responsible to Parliament and a Parliament answerable to the people. I believe that says it all. There is nothing in Bill C-205 that detracts from this principle. On the contrary.

Senator Forsey was a member and joint chairman of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. He fully supported the adoption of a general disallowance procedure binding on government. It is very doubtful that such an eminent constitutional scholar would have given his support to such a procedure if he thought it was inconsistent with our constitution. Therefore, the arguments made to that point certainly are null and void. If that had been the case, I expect Senator Forsey would have been the first to make note of that fact himself.

The reality is that far from being inconsistent with the principle of responsible government, the proposed disallowance procedure serves to reaffirm the principle by ensuring that cabinet and other regulation making authorities are fully accountable to Parliament for the regulations they make in the exercise of powers delegated by Parliament. That is basically what the people in the country ask; that the laws and rules we make here are responsible, not only to Parliament but through Parliament to the people of the country.

The opposition one sees today to the adoption of a statutory disallowance procedure flows from the same source as did the opposition to the creation of a parliamentary scrutiny committee more than 30 years ago. It is a case of the bureaucracy resisting any change seen as lessening its own control and power.

The case for statutory disallowance procedure is a simple one. The Parliament of Canada is the source of the legislative authority that is delegated not only to the governor in council and ministers but also to various other regulation making authorities such as the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency, and others. That Parliament has a valid interest in overseeing the manner in which the authority is exercised cannot be doubted, and this has long been recognized in Canadian law.

For more than 30 years now regulations by these regulating authorities have been subject to parliamentary oversight and scrutiny and have stood permanently referred to the Join Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. Effective parliamentary scrutiny however, requires effective parliamentary control. The lack of an effective and adequate parliamentary control procedure was partly addressed in 1986 when the government accepted to be bound by standing orders providing for such a procedure.

We have heard other members talk about the McGrath Committee, which really was an extremely revolutionary committee. I should remind the House that the chairman of the committee, James McGrath, was also a great Newfoundlander.

Because of the now legislative nature of the standing orders however, that procedure could only deal with a portion of the instrument subject to parliamentary scrutiny, those made by the governor in council or by minister. That experiment has been a success, as even those opposed to Bill C-205 have acknowledged.

As we have seen, there has been opposition to this procedure in the past but as people begin to realize that we are really here to be responsible, number one to Parliament and particularly through Parliament to the people of the country, we have become much more conscious of having the proper procedures in place that will ensure this accountability exists and can be carried out.

I would like to congratulate the person who introduced the bill. The amount of work and background material that has been provided and the attempt to offset the naysayers in relation to their presentations factually says a tremendous amount for the interest and the dedication of the individual involved. In congratulating him, I want to say we support the bill and look forward to it coming to a final vote.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2003 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-205, submitted by the hon. member for Surrey Central. I am glad that this will be a votable motion because I think it is an important subject that we are debating here today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for what I am sure took an enormous amount of time, to actually research the issue and bring it forth in the form of a bill that could in a very precise and technical way redress what really has been a longstanding grievance within Parliament: how we can place under public scrutiny regulations that are enacted.

First I would like to speak in a general way, because in reading some of the background to the bill the first thing that struck me is that it is very technical. Probably most folks out there would wonder what on earth is going on and what are we trying to do here in Parliament.

Probably the most important thing to say is that a lot of our constituents who watch the debates in the House see us debating bills and engaging in sometimes very contentious debate that is reported in the media. Hopefully people have some sense of what is taking place in the House in terms of bills that are being debated. Then, when the bills are sent to committee, there are often witnesses called and again there is often a representation of the issues within the media, so there is some sense of transparency and disclosure about the debate that takes place.

What is important to note is that what we do in the House in terms of our legislative authority in making those bills covers only about 20% of what actually finally becomes enacted in terms of both bills and legislation coming from bills. More importantly, the other 80% ends up being encased in regulations that really receive very little public scrutiny. It is at this point that Bill C-205 would become a very key instrument in terms of bringing them under public disclosure through procedures to ensure that the limited procedures we have available to us now as members of Parliament through various committees are actually strengthened and enhanced, to ensure that there is a procedure to deal with scrutiny of regulations which may be at deviance from the legislation, contradictory, unclear or illegal.

Having said that, I hope it is an adequate explanation in a general sense of what the bill is all about.

I come from a municipal background, having been a member of Vancouver city council for 11 years, and I know that there are quite a few members of the House who have a municipal background in city council, school boards and so on. One thing that has always struck me is that in the municipal arena the way we do our business is very much up front. If one goes to a city council meeting, a public hearing or a committee meeting, the business of the council or the municipality is very much on the table. It is very visible in terms of bylaws or policy decisions that are being made.

When I came to this place in 1997, elected as the member of Parliament for Vancouver East, I was immediately struck by the complexity of the rules that govern this place and how hard it is to really get at the essence of a matter in terms of understanding what it is that is taking place and to present that information in a way that is accessible to people, that is understandable and that takes place in a way that provides accountability for government decisions.

I know that the former NDP House leader, the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, who is now our parliamentary leader, was very involved in the McGrath commission way back in 1986. One of the interesting features of that commission is that it also addressed this issue of lack of oversight when it came to dealing with regulations.

Through the McGrath decision, with which the member for Winnipeg--Transcona was very involved, a provision was recommended and adopted to ensure that a Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations would have some ability to look at regulations and where they were at variance, to issue a report that they should be disallowed. However the interesting thing is that procedure which was enacted 16 or 17 years ago was done on a temporary basis. It has never been made permanent through a statutory order. Although it has been a step in the right direction, it has been defective in other ways and it does not include quasi-government agencies, crown corporations.

For example, when we look at organizations like the CRTC, the National Energy Board, the Canadian Transportation Agency or the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, these are important government agencies that conduct all kinds of business in the interests of public policy and of Canadians. Yet what they may or may not do in terms of regulation has no public scrutiny for procedures that exist within our Parliament. That is a very serious shortcoming and it is something that has not addressed or followed up through the McGrath commission.

The bill before us today, Bill C-205, seeks to address some of these serious shortcomings. Although I will not go into all of the technicalities of the bill, one of the key issues on which it focuses is this. Under the limited provisions we have now, where the joint committee through its deliberation establishes that a regulation should be disallowed because it is contrary to legislation or for whatever technical reason it should be disallowed, when that order or resolution is brought forward to the House, there is nothing to enforce it. This is a very serious shortcoming in that the committee must then rely on the goodwill of the minister involved to do something about it.

We have a committee that may have spent hours and hours going through hundreds and thousands of regulations. Then it may have come to a determination, on an all party basis, which makes it a very non-partisan work, and concluded that a particular regulation needs to be allowed only to find out that it is at the mercy or the goodwill of a minister to then follow up. One of the most important aspects of the bill before us today is that it would change that procedure and ensure that Parliament would have the wherewithal and the powers to ensure that where the committee had put forward for a disallowance it would be enforced through a parliamentary procedure. That would be a vast improvement over what we have now.

While obviously the bill has to go through more debate, I hope very much that it will continue to receive very strong support from all sides of the House. It is part of a larger question about the modernization and the democratization of Parliament.

I am one member of a committee that is dealing with the modernization of Parliament and we have been looking at other parliamentary entities such as Australia and the U.K. We are trying to learn what other places do so we can use that to improve the transparency, the efficiency and the accountability that exists within this place.

Again, I congratulate the member for the work he has done. I would suggest that this bill is one very specific thing that we could agree to do to improve democracy in this House and to ensure that Parliament is in control of its own business. I would urge members to continue to support this bill.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2003 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-205. It is not a very voluminous bill, being only two pages in length, but it is far more important than its size would indicate, since its purpose is to monitor the application of statutory instruments adopted by the government.

I will explain what I mean by that. Those listening may think it sounds simple for the government to pass legislation and then afterward the related statutory instruments. But what the public does not realize is that those instruments are not passed in this House, in other words are not subject to a vote by members and naturally do not reflect the representativeness of those elected to represent the people here.

That is basically what this bill is intended to do. The Bloc Quebecois agrees with this bill, which does not come from a Bloc MP. We agree with it because its objective is to establish a mechanism which would allow the House, once a statutory instrument were adopted by the government, to demand the non-adoption, or disallowance, of a statutory instrument, or a portion thereof.

Thus the deputation in this House would have the opportunity to vote or to oblige the government to explain itself and to submit for approval of the House the text of that regulatory instrument, or a portion thereof.

This is something of great importance, and I will give you an example to show why. I am my party's transport critic and currently a member of the legislative committee examining Bill C-17, the Public Safety Act. I will not go into all the complexities, all the dangers this bill represents for our rights and freedoms. I will limit myself to giving the people of Quebec and of Canada one example from Part 7, which addresses the Explosives Act.

Bill C-17 adds some new offences to the Criminal Code, including a prohibition from knowingly manufacturing in whole or in part an explosive from an inexplosive ammunition component. This represents the addition of a new offence.

And what do inexplosive ammunition components comprise? Any cartridge case, bullet, or projectile used in a firearm. Thus an additional offence under the Criminal Code is being added in connection with the manufacture of explosives.

Gun owners, hunters and other people came to tell the committee that it made no sense for this bill to prohibit them from making their own ammunition, among other things, when the guns were being used for recreational purposes.

The government is telling all those people who demonstrated their opposition by appearing before the committee that they must wait for the regulations and that, when the regulations come out, individuals whose use is personal will be exempt.

However, when this bill is adopted, the regulations will not be issued. So, obviously, I understand the hunters, recreational gun owners and firing range groups who are saying, “Listen, now you are prohibiting us from doing this, and this is dangerous because we can be considered criminals”. And Bill C-17 as it relates to the Explosives Act is not simple. For example, it says, “For the purpose of ensuring compliancewith this Act...aninspector may...at anyreasonable time, enter and inspect any...factory—”

This means, therefore, that this bill will also allow for the appointment of inspectors who will be able to inspect homes. I will not go into how this violates rights and freedoms because they do not need a warrant, for one. Suffice it to say that this could have very serious implications.

Again, we want to defend the interests of Canadians, the average citizens we represent. Those who hunt or engage in target practice are asking whether they will be able to pursue their hobbies and carry on as they did before. In committee, the government told us, “You will see once the regulations have been tabled”. I am glad that Bill C-205 is before the House and I hope that it will be passed.

If ever the regulations were not consistent with the interpretations of representatives of civil society, in terms of the Explosives Act for example, this House would have to be able to request disallowance of the part of the statute that did not deliver the same message as that delivered to the organizations representing hunters and firearms owners who engage in target practice, in order to more properly represent the interests of the men and women who practice these sports and reload their ammunition.

This bill provides a mechanism. As my colleagues have pointed out, there could be a resolution in the House to disallow a statutory instrument or a portion thereof. The bill provides that a resolution shall be deemed to have been adopted on the fifteenth sitting day after the report is presented, unless, before that time, a motion to the effect that the resolution not be adopted is filed. Consideration of the motion shall be on the Wednesday next.

This bill establishes a mechanism. Statutory instruments could be passed under legislation, such as Bill C-17 amending the Explosives Act, regarding which representatives of civil society had requested in committee regulations to protect their rights and freedoms.

Bill C-205 guarantees members the ability to defend the interests of average Quebeckers and Canadians. We will be able, here in the House, to act as their advocates and introduce amendments to statutory instruments that could threaten or violate their rights and freedoms. These regulations would be subject to a vote and a review process. This would surely satisfy representatives of civil society, of the men and women who elect us to defend their interests.

All too often we are forced to admit to them that we have no control whatsoever. Statutory instruments are a good example of this lack of say: members of the House have no control over them. It is up to the government, often ministers, to prepare the regulations, which are then submitted to executive committee. There is a procedure, but it completely excludes members, the men and women that are sent here by the public to represent them.

Bill C-205 will allow us to submit the regulations that are not in the interests of our constituents for approval in the House. For this reason, understandably, the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-205. We hope that all members will support it, and that the House will pass it unanimously.

Statutory Instruments Act
Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2003 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act, is intended to provide a statutory basis for our current disallowance procedure and to extend the application of that procedure to regulations made by persons or bodies other than the governor in council or ministers of the crown. This bill is consistent with recommendations made by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations for the reform of the current disallowance procedure.

Criticism has been levelled about the fact that the revocation of a disallowed regulation 30 days after its disallowance by the House would create a situation in which the government would be deprived of the flexibility it needs to consider the implications of a disallowance. This is a specious argument. Why? Disallowance would almost invariably take place after long and extensive discussions with the responsible department and, in practice, a regulation making authority would have ample time to consider both alternatives to its regulation and the consequence of a repeal.

Second, disallowance will usually only take place after the joint committee has specifically advised the responsible minister it is being considered. Even after a disallowance resolution is tabled in the House, Bill C-205, in keeping with the current procedure, requires that the resolution can only become an order after 15 sitting days. That means the government will always have almost a month in which to decide whether or not it will object to disallowance. In practice, if the House is not sitting, the period will be even greater.

In addition, it is precisely in order to preserve the ability of the government to establish an appropriate alternative temporary regime where one is needed that Bill C-205 suspends the effective date of revocation by 30 days. This is more than what is provided by other disallowance procedures in the Commonwealth.

For example, repeal of the subject regulation is immediate upon adoption of the disallowance motion in the following jurisdictions with such procedures. In the Commonwealth of Australia. New South Wales; Victoria; Queensland; South Australia; Tasmania; Northern Territory; and Western Australia. In New Zealand, it is immediate or on such later date as is specified in the resolution. In our very own province of Quebec, it is immediate or on such later date as is specified in the resolution. In Saskatchewan, the subject regulation is to be repealed or amended by the regulation making authority on receipt of the resolution forwarded by the clerk of the legislative assembly. In Manitoba, the regulation is to be repealed or amended by the regulation making authority in accordance with the resolution of the legislative assembly.

If civil servants in those jurisdictions are capable of providing advice to their ministers with respect to the regulatory measures that are needed following the revocation of a disallowed provision within 15 sitting days, why would this be an insurmountable difficulty for our federal civil servants?

The procedure proposed in Bill C-205 gives a full additional month before the revocation takes place. This feature is unique and provides the federal government and other regulation making authorities with greater flexibility than any other statutory disallowance procedure.

Again, if the government, in any particular case, believes that the standing joint committee failed to take certain factors into account, such as the time required to put in place a replacement regulation, it is free to make that case in the House of Commons and to ask the House not to disallow.

It is also of interest to note that the usual notice and comment period for proposed regulations following pre-publication in part I of the Canada Gazette is 30 days. If that is a sufficient period of time for citizens to assess and comment on a proposed regulatory initiative, often involving many pages of regulations, one wonders why a similar period, which is really in addition to the minimum of three weeks provided before a resolution becomes an order of the House, is not sufficient for those advising the government or other regulation making authorities to assess and react appropriately to the disallowance of a regulation.

Are members of the House expected to believe that our public service is incapable of dealing with a proposed revocation within a period of 51 days while it is perfectly possible for their Australian or Quebec counterparts to do so within 21 days?

It should also be noted that the usual procedure in the federal statutes that provide a negative resolution procedure is for the revocation to take effect immediately upon adoption of the resolution in question. The existence of these federal precedents is sufficient to dispose of the claim that Bill C-205 imposes an impractical burden on regulation making authorities.

Here again the fact is that Bill C-205 is more generous in that regard than any previous federal legislation in that it suspends the effect of a disallowance order by a full month following its adoption.

Finally, it has been argued that by leaving in the hands of the government the power to revoke a disallowed regulation, the current procedure provides a fail safe mechanism against a rash or ill-considered disallowance.

The fact is that the procedure proposed in Bill C-205 already provides a mechanism for the reconsideration of a disallowance resolution. Under proposed subclause 19.1(4), any minister may request that a debate take place on a disallowance resolution put forward by the standing joint committee. That mechanism provides the government with an opportunity to make its case to the House of Commons that the revocation of any particular regulation would have unforeseen consequences or create a damaging legal vacuum. If a valid case is made, the House will refuse to approve the disallowance. If the government is unable to make a convincing case then the House will approve the disallowance. Either way, it is the collective judgment of the House of Commons that prevails.

The argument in favour of a statutory disallowance procedure is that the Parliament of Canada is the source of the legislative authority that is exercised, not only by the governor in council and ministers, but also by various other regulation making authorities, such as the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Accordingly, Parliament has a valid interest in overseeing the manner in which the legislative powers it has delegated to such bodies and agencies is obvious and has long been recognized in Canadian law. Effective parliamentary scrutiny requires effective parliamentary control. The existing procedure could only deal with a portion of the regulations subject to parliamentary scrutiny, those made by the governor in council or by a minister.

In order for the scope of the disallowance procedure to coincide with the scope of parliamentary scrutiny, Bill C-205 is necessary. There has been much talk lately of a democratic deficit. Full parliamentary control of delegated legislation with such exceptions as are warranted would significantly reduce that deficit. The procedure that is proposed by this bill is one that has been endorsed by parliamentarians of all parties and that has been the subject of unanimous recommendations by various committees of this parliament.

I believe the time has come for Canada to give parliamentarians back the means they require to ensure the accountability of public authorities for their exercise of law making powers given to them by Parliament. Bill C-205 gives us this procedure and I support it.