Bill S-202 (Historical)
Statutes Repeal Act
An Act to repeal legislation that has not come into force within ten years of receiving royal assent
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business
December 5th, 2006 / 5:35 p.m.
Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill S-202, the statutes repeal act, on behalf of the government.
This bill has been tabled several times in the other place since 2002. Its main objective is to improve Parliament's oversight of the coming into force of its legislation. The government supports this objective.
Bill S-202 would provide for the repeal of any act or provision of an act that has not been brought into force 10 years after its adoption by Parliament. Sometimes acts come into force on royal assent. It is also common to provide for a particular day on which they come into force. For practical reasons, Parliament sometimes chooses to delegate to the governor in council the power to make orders setting the day or days on which an act or its provisions will come into force. The government then has the discretion to decide when it is the appropriate time to bring the act or provision into force.
Members of the House can and do of course ask the government to explain why a particular act or provision is not yet in force. Bill S-202 would go further. It would ensure that every year a global view of all acts and provisions of an act that had not been brought into force within 10 years was presented to Parliament.
Under Bill S-202 the Minister of Justice would be required to table before each house of Parliament within the first five sitting days of every calendar year an annual report listing every act or provision of an act that was not still in force at least nine years after it had been assented to. Officials from the Department of Justice have already prepared and updated such a list in the course of reviewing Bill S-202. The current list includes three complete acts and provisions of approximately 60 other acts. It is expected that the first list will be the longest because of the long period it would cover. The list should be somewhat shorter in subsequent years.
As I have already noted, if an act or provision is on the list, it will be repealed at the end of the year unless the government brings it into force before then. However, there can be valid reasons why legislation might take a significant time to be brought into force. These reasons often have to do with the need to make administrative arrangements before implementing new programs or measures or the time required to coordinate them with provincial, territorial or foreign governments.
For example, the Contraventions Act establishes a ticketing regime for federal offences to be prosecuted under provincial procedures. Over the years, the federal government has concluded agreements with a number of provinces and territories whose regimes are then used to prosecute federal offences committed in those territories or provinces. However, if no such agreement can be concluded with the other provinces and territories, the Contraventions Act provides an alternative federal regime for those provinces and territories.
The provisions creating these alternative regimes have not yet been brought into force because the negotiations with the remaining provinces and territories are still ongoing. Clearly, the alternative regime should not be repealed because it could become necessary to implement it if the negotiations failed.
Legislation implementing international agreements provides another example where long delays are common. Implementation usually depends on the ratification of the underlying agreement by other states. This is something which Canada has no control over.
Also, circumstances sometimes change after legislation has been enacted. Such changes can pose problems for bringing it into force, requiring further amendments to take them into account. When a lengthy period has elapsed after enactment, the possibility of needing amendments to reflect changing circumstances is all the greater. In all these circumstances, it is appropriate that the House have the opportunity to review the matter as it sees fit, and if it feels necessary, defer the repeal.
If the government or indeed any member of the House were to consider that a particular act or provision should not be repealed after 10 years, then a resolution to that effect could be proposed to either house of Parliament. This would provide an opportunity for members to hear from the responsible minister on the matter and would increase the accountability of the government to this House.
Such a resolution could not, however, be used to protect legislation indefinitely. It would only remove an act or provision from the list for the current year. This means the following year the Minister of Justice would again have to include it on the list for that year and the process would be repeated. At the end of the year, the acts and provisions of acts that would not have been exempted by resolution would be repealed. During the following year, the Minister of Justice would publish in the Canada Gazette the list of acts and provisions of acts that had been repealed.
Bill S-202 contains an interesting exception in favour of legislation amended by Parliament in the nine years prior to the coming into force of Bill S-202. In the case of these amended provisions and of the provisions necessary for them to have effect, the nine year period should be calculated from the moment of their amendment and not their original adoption. This exception recognizes that if Parliament has amended a provision, it implies that the provision is still relevant and should not be repealed soon.
However, the exception applies only in respect of amendments made prior to the coming into force of Bill S-202 since it is presumed that once Bill S-202 would apply, it might be tempting to resort to minor technical amendments to reset the clock and avoid a difficult debate in respect of controversial provisions.
In order for the government to prepare a report to Parliament, Bill S-202 provides that it would come into force two years after it is assented to. It is expected that the first report would be the longest because it would include all acts and provisions of an act that have not been brought into force since the last statute revision of 1985 which repealed a number of obsolete provisions.
Another way of looking at Bill S-202 is to think of it as a tool for assisting in the ongoing revision of our statutes.
One of the functions of statute revision programs is to repeal obsolete provisions. This could also be accomplished through miscellaneous statute law amendments which the Minister of Justice introduces from time to time as the opportunity presents itself.
The advantage of Bill S-202 over statute revision and the miscellaneous statute law amendment program is that it would launch a review each year of legislation that has not been brought into force in the previous nine years.
This bill has been significantly modified since it was first introduced in the other place in 2002. The most significant amendment has established a mechanism for deferring the repeal of a particular act or provision. This would be done by a resolution of either house of Parliament to remove any act or provision of an act from the repeal list of the current year.
This process is transparent and it is flexible. It is transparent because the removal would be debated and approved by Parliament. It is also flexible because it would not require the approval of both houses of Parliament, but only one.
The resolution process is also flexible in terms of timing since a resolution could be adopted at any time during the year as long as it was done before December 31, at which date all acts and provisions of an act remaining on the list would be repealed by the operation of Bill S-202.
Another important amendment was the addition of a requirement to publish every year in the Canada Gazette the list of acts and provisions of an act repealed under Bill S-202 in the preceding year. This would ensure a public notice of the repeals.
Finally, a transitional provision was added. It would delay the repeal of provisions amended within nine years of the coming into force of Bill S-202. This would avoid a premature debate on provisions that Parliament had considered in the recent past.
In conclusion, Bill S-202 would put in place a fairly straightforward and inexpensive mechanism to improve our legislative process. It would increase government's accountability before Parliament for the exercise of the powers delegated by Parliament to bring legislation into force.
The acts and provisions that have not been brought into force would be brought to the attention of Parliament, and in some instances I suspect, to the attention of government itself.
Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business
December 5th, 2006 / 5:25 p.m.
Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that we support the principle underlying this bill. As my colleague said earlier, 57 bills gathering dust is a lot.
I would like to go back to Bill C-11, The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. As you may recall, during our study of Bill C-2, the Bloc Québécois asked that Bill C-11 be withdrawn immediately. If the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act had been enacted and implemented while we were studying Bill C-2, we would have been able to take the time we needed to study it thoroughly. If Bill C-11 had been passed before, we could have been certain that that much at least had been done rather than wait for Bill C-2 to be passed.
Bill C-2 is currently before the Senate. We do not know when it will be returned to the House of Commons. The Christmas break is approaching and we will not resume until January. It is unlikely that Bill C-2 will be adopted or withdrawn before that, and we will still have the problem of Bill C-11, which is ready and has received royal assent, but is not yet enacted. It is just one of many bills that are gathering dust on the shelf.
On the other hand, we will probably have to revise some bills, because they have been left on the shelf too long. Amendments may be needed. There will also likely be jurisdiction issues, because certain provinces, such as Quebec, have already established measures concerning some bills. We must therefore ensure that there is no duplication and that our jurisdictions are respected. Certain important changes may have already been made, which could undermine or duplicate existing legislation.
As I said, we support this bill. However, we would like to see it go to committee. We believe three amendments are important, and I will list them. We think that they will strengthen Bill S-202.
First of all, we think that the discretionary period for enacting a bill passed by Parliament could be shortened from ten years to five years. We would like to see this amended because we find ten years simply too long. We see this when we are studying a bill in committee. Indeed, most of our existing legislation is revised every five or ten years anyway. As we all know, if this measure is not in place, this could lead to some major changes. Things change with time. We must review our legislation, make it better and more modern. Furthermore, things happen outside this House. Other legislative assemblies, including the National Assembly in Quebec and other parliaments, all carry out their own measures, which could lead to amendments to one of our 57 bills.
We would also like to require the government to explain to Parliament the reasons why it does not intend to implement legislation that has received royal assent. This is unimaginable, when witnesses have been called to appear and people have worked on a bill, sometimes for as much as two years. I remember that when we revised the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, it took us two and a half years. It would make no sense to wait 10 years before looking at it again. The government therefore should report to Parliament and explain why it has decided to give royal assent to legislation but then has opted to shelve it instead of implementing it.
This also does not reflect well on parliamentarians. People say that we pass legislation but then shelve it. They find the system very cumbersome, very slow and very long. When legislation receives royal assent, the government has to be able to implement it as soon as possible.
It starts in Parliament, then is referred to a committee, where it is amended before going to the Senate, where more witnesses are called. It goes through all the steps needed to receive royal assent, then it is shelved. This makes no sense to us.
The third amendment we would like to make pertains to clause 3 and reflects the fact that members of the Senate are not elected. We therefore propose to amend clause 3, which reads as follows:
3. Every Act or provision listed in the annual report is repealed on December 31 of the year in which the report is laid unless it comes into force on or before that December 31 or during that year either House of Parliament adopts a resolution that the Act or provision not be repealed.
We would like to replace this clause with the following:
3. Every Act or provision listed in the annual report is repealed on December 31 of the year in which the report is laid unless it comes into force on or before that December 31 or during that year the House of Commons adopts a resolution that the Act or provision not be repealed.
These are amendments that the committee could discuss. It could look at whether it is possible to find common ground.
In general, Bill S-202 is good because these changes are needed. We cannot allow very important bills to be shelved.
I find that Bill C-11 was extremely important and there are currently people who will not disclose any wrongdoing as long as we have not resolved the problem with Bill C-2. Repealing Bill C-11 would not have taken any effort. The legislation was ready. We could have just continued with Bill C-2. The one was not in competition with the other. They were based on each other, in any event. I still do not understand why the government refused to implement Bill C-11, which was shelved.
I also wonder what becomes of these bills afterward. Bill C-2 will likely be passed eventually. I imagine it will come back from the Senate and we will pass it. However, what will become of Bill C-11? What happens to bills that are shelved? Will Bill C-11 become obsolete and have to be repealed? We have to ask these questions.
We will therefore support Bill S-202, but the reservations I expressed must be taken into account. I think that five years is better than 10 years. When we study some acts after 10 years, there are so many changes and amendments to make that it can take two or three years to go through committee. I saw it happen with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I also saw it happen with Part II of the Canada Labour Code. We spent months and months amending Part II, which had not been reviewed for 15 years. We have to set limits so that, as we asked with Bill C-2, the act can be reviewed every five years to assess its effectiveness. We will strike a committee to determine whether it is working well. If it is not, we need the power to amend it quickly and ensure it does work well.
The Bloc Québécois supports sending Bill S-202 to committee, where members will discuss its application with witnesses.
Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business
December 5th, 2006 / 5:05 p.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
moved that Bill S-202, An Act to repeal legislation that has not come into force within ten years of receiving royal assent, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is quite an honour to present Bill S-202 to the House.
The members may wonder why it is an S bill. This bill was tabled in the other place by Senator Tommy Banks. It went through all stages of the legislative process, a very rigorous process. It has passed in the other place and is now referred to the House of Commons for consideration. It is now brought to the order paper and is before us like any other private member's bill. We are at second reading and we will go through the normal process that we otherwise would. I wanted members to be aware of that, and certainly the public.
I find Bill S-202 to be a very constructive bill. Its short title is called the statutes repeal act. It is an act to repeal legislation that has not come into force within ten years of receiving royal assent.
The public may wonder how both the House of Commons and the other place can do all of our work, do all the due diligence, get the bill passed and get royal assent, yet the bill is not be put in force. In other words, it is not active law. It sits in limbo until a subsequent government decides to proclaim the bill and put it into force, and there are some reasons for that. However, two full bills, which are over 10 years old, have received royal assent, but they have not been proclaimed. About 57 other pieces of legislation, which are amendments to other acts, are also over 10 years old and they still have not been proclaimed in Parliament by the government of the day.
We have to ask ourselves if we should have a procedure in which we can effectively create a sunset clause, with reasonable provisions. Should there be good reason for a bill not being proclaimed, or not being put into force, there will be an opportunity to do that without frustrating all of the work that has been done.
In checking the work already done already, I must admit this is a lot more complicated than members may think. There are a lot of constitutional and procedural questions and a lot of questions about what happens if a provincial jurisdiction has enacted similar provisions, but the Government of Canada has not. For example, if we repeal provisions, will that affect the provincial jurisdiction and the application of the law? There were some excellent questions on behalf of all hon. senators who participated in the debate.
Bill S-202 received third reading in the Senate on the June 22. The bill could prevent legislation, which has received royal assent but has not been brought into force, from sitting on the books indefinitely. The bill would not apply to acts which come into force upon royal assent, which means they would automatically come into force, or acts that come into force on a day specified within the legislation.
We often have the case where it says in the bill that it will come into force upon receiving royal assent, or that the bill will come into force, or active law, on a date indicated in that bill. However, there are bills that do not say that. They in fact have a coming into force clause; that is they will come into force when the government says they will, or an unspecified time.
Unless either the House of Commons or the Senate takes action, the bill would cause these acts to automatically be repealed if they have not been brought into force within 10 years of receiving royal assent. There are exceptions for provisions that have been amended before the bill comes into force. For instance, if there has been some action on that bill within the last 10 year period, there are provisos that this 10 year period would be extended for 10 years beyond when an amendment had been made.
According to testimony in the Senate, the Department of Justice was very active. As I have said, there are only two statutes that are affected by Bill S-202 in their entirety. They are the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act, which passed in the early 1980s, and the Canadian Heritage Languages Institute Act from 1991. However, there is individual legislation amending the other pieces of legislation. I have examples of some 57 other acts that would be affected by this, but I will not to read them into the record. I am happy to provide hon. members with copies of them. It is in the Senate record should members like to look at some of those.
The short title of the bill is the statutes repeal act. Clause 2 says that the justice minister must within the first five days that the chamber sits in any calendar year give a report to the House of Commons and the Senate. The report must list every act or provision of an act that received royal assent more than nine years before December 31 of the previous year that has not come into force. In other words, on day one of the 10th year, we would have a report to both Houses of Parliament. This means the government of the day would have virtually a full year to determine whether it better take some action, or make some changes, or supercede it, or repeal it or somehow address it. If it does not, then this bill would in fact trigger.
Clause 3 states that any act or provision, which was listed in the annual report and has still not come into force by the end of the 10th year, would be repealed as of December 31 of that year unless either chamber adopted a resolution that the act or provision would not be repealed.
Clause 5 provides that any provision that was not in force and would have been repealed under the prevailing procedure would not be repealed if it had been amended at any time during the previous nine years. Ten years after that amendment, the provisions of the bill would apply if the amendment itself was not brought into force. If there is no action on a bill or an amendment to a bill within 10 years of it receiving passage in both Houses, then the cards fall and it would be repealed.
Bill S-202 has had three predecessor bills in its life. The original hearings were back in 2002. Senator Banks confirmed that the intent of the bill was not to impair government flexibility, and that is important to note, but to ensure that any act or provision that had not come into force within 10 years after being given royal assent was revisited. That is the important aspect of Bill S-202. It would provide a period during which we would have to look at it and find out whether action was necessary one way or another. Failing that, the act or the provision would automatically be repealed.
There are four options now with the possibility of a resolution in either House for stalling the appeal.
First, some provisions that are more than nine or ten years old may have been recently amended, for example, to correct an anomaly or problem. Is the intent of the bill that a provision that Parliament has recently considered be automatically repealed? The intent is not to do that. It is to ensure that there is some activity. As the senator has pointed out, there has to be some sort of sunset provision.
Second, what happens with a provision that is partially in force or in force in some but not all provinces? The Contraventions Act, for example, requires negotiations with a province before it can be brought into force in that province. The question really is, would such acts be partially repealed with respect to provinces where they were not in force?
The third option is with respect to international treaties. They may require implementing legislation and there could be a 10 year time lapse before international ratification was actually complete. The question would then be, how would the bill deal with this situation?
Fourth, justice officials were also concerned that the bill would cause an automatic repeal with no provision for publication of the statutes or provisions repealed.
I want to assure members that Bill S-202 has addressed all of those concerns. It has done so through changes providing: first, that a resolution adopted by either chamber operates to ensure that the provision is not repealed; second, that amendments to a provision before a bill comes into force to extend the period for another 10 years; and third, that all repealed acts or provisions must be listed in the Canada Gazette.
The bottom line is Bill S-202 does in fact respond to the questions that have been raised by justice officials and others with regard to us getting ourselves into a situation where we may cause some unintended consequences. The conclusion is that is not the case.
The senators who examined the bill also raised concern with Bill S-202. Could the repeal of a list of provisions be done by motions involving a senate and/or the House of Commons or is some form of assent or approval by the Queen's representative also required?
Section 17 of the Constitution Act states that the legislative power rests in the Parliament composed of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons. Senators felt it might be preferable if the legislation contained some recognition of the Crown. This is where the Senate gets into some aspects, which I do not often hear in this place, with regard to the constitutionality.
Justice officials were of the view that the bill itself was the legislative mandate required for the repeals and that the process in the bill was analogous to a sunset clause, which provided for the repeal at a specific time. The officials also referred to section 2.2 of the Interpretation Act, which provided for a deemed repeal in the case of provisions that were spent or no longer operative. Thus Parliament can anticipate a repeal that takes place some time later, but according to the rules established by Parliament itself.
In the case at hand, the rules would be established by Bill S-202. In other words, the bill would provide the mechanisms in which we could deal with this problem. In the view of the justice officials, this would overcome any constitutional difficulties with the repeals triggered by the bill. As I said, there are some 57 acts which are affected, but I will not go there.
To summarize, the only way this really comes up is if the legislation says that bill will come into force on a date to be specified by order in council, that is by the cabinet. When there is no specified date or it does not say it come into force on royal assent, then somebody has to do something down the road to trigger it.
There are a number of instances where there is good reason why we would not want to make it come into force immediately. There are transitional provisions and things to get prepared for it coming into to force. We understand that when we bring in new legislation, there are or can be consequences to a broad range of stakeholders. Therefore, the form of having an enforced clause sometimes is desirable and necessary.
In the case before us now, the Senate has discovered there are bills, having gone through all of the process in both Houses, sitting collecting dust in limbo. Also some 57 other acts have all kinds of interesting amendments. I cannot imagine what those people, who thought these were important at the time, are feeling. I am getting a little worried about the whistleblower legislation, Bill C-11. It has been over a year now, in the last week of the last Parliament.
When we have done the work, when Parliament has passed it, all Houses, when it has royal assent, we want to know it has happened. If it does not happen, maybe the House has to consider another amendment, something to the effect that if a bill does not get royal assent within a reasonable period of time, reasons should be given. That is accountability.
I thank Senator Banks for all of his hard work. I commend the senators for their due diligence on this. I have satisfied myself that they have asked all the important questions and considered, as part of their review, the important questions of the day. They have referred us a bill which is in very good shape.
I ask all hon. members to support Bill S-202.
Statutes Repeal Act
October 31st, 2006 / 10:10 a.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to sponsor in the House of Commons Bill S-202, which was proposed by the hon. senator, Tommy Banks, and which was passed by the other place on June 22.
The bill seeks to establish appropriate provisions to repeal any legislation that has not come into force within 10 years of receiving royal assent. Failure to proclaim a bill passed by Parliament is simply unacceptable.
I trust that all hon. members will give speedy passage to this responsible piece of legislation from our other place.
First reading of Senate Public Bills
October 31st, 2006 / 10:10 a.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, at the same point in routine proceedings, tabling of Senate public bills, I rose as the sponsor of Bill S-202 and asked if I could briefly explain the bill. The Speaker responded:
We do not normally speak on Senate bills. The hon. member for Mississauga South is asking for unanimous consent to give a brief explanation of the bill.
Unfortunately, unanimous consent was not forthcoming.
Mr. Speaker, I refer you to Marleau and Montpetit, chapter 21 under “Private Members' Business”, at page 900 under “SENATE PUBLIC BILLS SPONSORED BY PRIVATE MEMBERS”, which I believe this is the case. It states:
Some private Members' public bills originate in the Senate and are sent to the Commons after passage by the Senate. When the Speaker calls “First Reading of Senate Public Bills” during Routine Proceedings, the Member sponsoring a Senate bill in the House is permitted to give a brief explanation of its purpose, without engaging in debate. The motion for first reading is then deemed carried without debate, amendment or question put, and the bill is automatically added to the bottom of the order of precedence for Private Members' Business without having gone through the draw process.
All bills coming before this place have a very important matter to consider by hon. members either in this place or from the other place. I believe this particular bill is excellent and I was hoping to have the opportunity to make a brief explanation on Bill S-202 for the benefit of all hon. members.
Statutes Repeal Act
October 30th, 2006 / 3:15 p.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
moved that Bill S-202, An Act to repeal legislation that has not come into force within ten years of receiving royal assent, be read the first time.
(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)
Message from the Senate
September 18th, 2006 / 11:05 a.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill to which the concurrence of this House is desired:
It being 11:05 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.