Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act

An Act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act and to make consequential amendments to the Statutory Instruments Regulations

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Status

Second reading (House), as of May 23, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Statutory Instruments Act to provide for the express power to incorporate by reference in regulations. It imposes an obligation on regulation-making authorities to ensure that a document, index, rate or number that is incorporated by reference is accessible. It also provides that a person is not liable to be found guilty of an offence or subjected to an administrative sanction for a contravention relating to a document, index, rate or number that is incorporated by reference unless certain requirements in relation to accessibility are met. Finally, it makes consequential amendments to the Statutory Instruments Regulations.

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.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to the incorporation by reference in regulations act.

I feel I must pause for a moment and start from the very beginning. When I first arrived in Ottawa as a newly elected member of Parliament, scrutiny of regulations, or regs, as many call it, was the first committee that I served on. I was excited about it as I had expressed an interest prior on this particular committee and the very important work that it does. I soon discovered that some of my more experienced colleagues, upon hearing the news that I had joined the regs committee, were far more frequent to express condolences to me as opposed to congratulations.

Regs is not a committee that often makes headlines, and here I will digress for a brief moment. Shakespeare once famously wrote, “Thou crusty batch of nature”. As the member of Parliament for Papineau well knows, today we often express this sentiment much differently. The point I raise, as conveyed by Shakespeare, is it is not only what one says but rather how one says it that matters.

I submit that this same principle holds true for us as parliamentarians and more so when it comes to drafting technical legislation, although what we draft would probably not be seen as to rival Shakespeare. Though our intent may be clear, it is the language that we use that is of paramount importance. Unlike Shakespeare, government regulations should be able to evolve and adapt over time, along with technology and society, ensuring that the original intent be translated into language and standards that are clear and current. That is why I am here today supporting Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act.

Members may ask what incorporation by reference is, aside from a potential new question in a future House of Commons' edition of Trivial Pursuit. Incorporation by reference, as outlined in Bill S-12, deals with a regulatory drafting technique. If the bill had a slogan attached to it, I would submit it would be called the “let us not reinvent the wheel act” when it comes to technical legislation and regulation. I would like to expand on that thought.

In Canada, we currently have many technical and highly regulated areas. Some examples of this include the regulation of medical devices, the control and collection of organs for donation and those regulations that govern shipbuilding standards. In many cases, these regulations may well be set by international or nationally recognized associations. The question is this. How do we encapsulate these regulations into legislation and, more rightfully, is there a more effective and efficient way to do that? Bill S-12 does exactly that. That is why I am here to support Bill S-12.

How does Bill S-12 work? In plain English the bill codifies the ability of government to use a commonly used drafting technique of incorporation by reference while clearly prescribing when and how the technique is to be used. Put another way, it enables regulations to incorporate external material without having to duplicate that material. by simply referencing it in the text of the regulation. This cuts down the onerous amount of material that would have to be included and duplicated in a number of regulations.

Further, by adding “as amended from time to time” to the reference of the external material, the regulation can stay current with any changes made to those standards without the regulation or legislation itself having to be amended or altered. This allows for regulations to be fluid, current and responsive. This in turn cuts down on unnecessary duplication of legislation and prevents regulations from becoming stale-dated.

Incorporation by reference is a widely used, common sense drafting technique, but this bill would legitimize it and place clear direction on its proper use.

I will provide another example of how this could work.

If a regulation provides that all hockey helmets must be manufactured in accordance with a particular Canadian Standards Association standard, the effect of that reference is to make that standard part of the regulation without actually needing to reproduce the text of the CSA standard in the regulation itself. The rules found in the Canadian Standards Association standard form part of the law, even though they are not repeated and reproduced in the regulation.

Frequently, technical standards like the Canadian Standards Association's standard used in this example are incorporated “as amended from time to time”. This means that when the Canadian Standards Association makes amendments to the standard to keep up to date with changes in technology or production methods or improvements in manufacturing and science, those changes are automatically included in the regulation; in other words, the changes made to the standard are incorporated into the regulation and become law without amending the text of the regulation. This is referred to as “ambulatory incorporation by reference”. Some people might refer to it as “dynamic incorporation by reference”.

In some cases and in certain circumstances, a legislator may desire a fluid parallel between legislation and regulation. In these circumstances, the regulations can still be frozen, based upon the regulations as they exist on a certain date. This is referred to as “static incorporation by reference”.

This means that only one particular version of the document is incorporated. In that case, regardless of what happens to the document after the regulations are made, it is only that version that is described in the regulation that is incorporated.

Incorporation by reference has become an essential tool and is increasingly relied upon by governments to more efficiently develop their regulations.

This approach also helps to standardize regulation in a universally understood language. That is of benefit to all.

Last year I was visited by representatives of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. One of the challenges expressed by the Canadian marine manufacturing industry is the difficulty they have in meeting different regulations in different markets that they need to access.

As members have heard before, I have said anything we can do to help Canadian industry access these markets, whether that means increased intergovernmental co-operation or collaboration, is a good thing and something I believe we should look at and support.

By incorporating the legislation of other jurisdictions with whom harmonization is desirable or by incorporating standards developed and respected internationally, regulations can minimize duplication and avoid repetition of the same material. It can avoid the need to reinvent the regulatory wheel, so to speak.

Incorporation by reference can minimize and even avoid undesirable barriers to trade, an issue that, as I pointed out earlier, has been identified by the Canadian National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Enactment of this legislation is a necessary, pertinent change for many of the reasons I have already outlined. These changes would also address the concerns raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations that I referenced earlier.

I should also add that the joint committee will continue to have the mandate to scrutinize how incorporation by reference is being used in accordance with this bill.

I submit that the enactment of this legislation is a logical, necessary next step to incorporation by reference in regulations.

Before I close, I would like to share one further point.

I am reasonably confident that most members of the House support the principles of innovation. Marketplaces are changing at record speed. Technology and new economies are emerging rapidly. I am certain that many of us could all share examples of exciting new developments that occur in their ridings, yet increasingly when I meet with a new employer who has an exciting new product or service being offered, market access is often one of the biggest barriers to trade that is mentioned. That is in large part because regulation does not keep pace with innovation.

There are a lot of good things in Bill S-12. The Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations has expressed concerns, and the government has listened to those concerns. There are more tools allowing for legislators to be able to choose, whether it be a dynamic form of incorporation by reference or a static one. Bill S-12 would allow us as legislators to have those tools for our regulatory process, not only to help open new markets but also to be able to respond to some of the international agreements that we have.

At one of the last meetings I attended with the scrutiny of regulations committee, an international accord was brought up. It is certainly a challenge for the committee and also for the government to keep up with the changes that are involved in that accord.

When the government presents something that is just common sense and is within our Canadian interest, something that would allow greater clarity and a greater understanding of the rules to allow us to be able to harmonize with other markets and encourage our industry to reach out and expand, while the term “incorporation by reference” may not make most people smile, it is an important thing.

I ask that every member in the House support Bill S-12 and move it on to the next stage. It is a common sense bill. It is a practical bill. I ask the House to support it.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the bill is riveting and is receiving enthusiastic support from around the House. We are often called upon to debate issues of the day, issues of great passion, issues that stir controversy in the hearts and minds of Canadians, and then we have other days.

Perhaps I am wrong in my sense of the debate, but I have two questions.

One is that as the official opposition, we have a question as to which documents should be precluded from incorporation by reference. There are regulations that we seek to enhance and regulations that we seek to unify with either international or national standards, but in some industries this does not work as well. I am wondering if my colleague across the way, sitting on the committee as he does, has any thoughts on that at all.

There is a second central question I have in approaching what is predominantly a technical bill.

The devil always lies in the details, both of the bill and in how we arrived at the piece of legislation. What kind of consultation went on with the provinces and industry stakeholders to arrive at this bill?

I know there have been several iterations of this piece of legislation and that the legislation has been called for and worked on for some time, but some regulations cross provincial-federal jurisdiction and how things are regulated. My colleague mentioned sporting equipment and safety gear. There are things that do not perfectly fall within one jurisdiction or another, so one would assume that there has been at least some consultation with the provinces that will be affected, particularly those provinces with a strong manufacturing base. I am thinking of Quebec, Ontario, parts of Alberta and B.C. where industries there will be affected.

Does the member know what steps the government took in those consultations? As well, are there any documents that we would want to preclude from incorporation by reference because those particular regulations are just not appropriate for a particular industry?

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really welcome a question from a fellow member from B.C. today.

Specifically I will start with the first question: to which industry should this apply? Again, as the hon. member mentioned in his preamble, the devil is in the details. That is one of the reasons Bill S-12 proposes to allow us to use the tool in either static or dynamic form. The great part about it, and what has me excited as a legislator, is that we get to decide the appropriate path to progress forward.

The second question asked about consultation with the provinces. From my understanding, it is actually the Joint Standing Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations that has expressed concern with the use of incorporation by reference. It wanted the government to clarify how it codified its own regulations.

I do know, through the divisions of powers and also through court and case law that if, for example, a particular activity is being done in a particular province, it is typically addressed through provincial law, meaning that the province may decide to incorporate its own incorporation by reference, but if it passes from one province to another, then it is usually governed at the federal level.

One of the great things about our federation is that there is a constant discussion about this. Again, the court and case law on these kinds of things is quite clear.

I look forward to other questions like those of the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is an issue of concern in regard to incorporation by reference that exists not so much within Canada's borders but with respect to international standards.

Canada is a bilingual nation, and many of the standards that might be adopted are of one language. My question is in relation to that. How does the current legislation take into consideration the need for Canada to have regulations in both languages?

When we take a reference, as an example, and we say we do not have to change the details of the Canadian Gazette, because in there we now have a reference to X, which happens to be an international standard, and that document might only be in English, how does that work in terms of translation?

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is an obligation by government to make sure that regulations, especially federal regulations, are available in both French and English. That is well established by the courts, and this government has honoured that in all that it does.

The second part I would like to focus on is that this is a changing world. We live in a globally competitive economy. I would like to know from this member whether or not he supports the idea of Canadian industry reaching out and trying to open up new areas, new markets, so that Canadian industry and Canadian jobs can be advanced.

I really hope the member for Winnipeg North can bear that in mind, and I am hoping this House will support Bill S-12 as it is presented.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, whom I was very pleased to support when he brought forward legislation to free the transport of wine from one province to another.

Unfortunately, I have no enthusiasm whatsoever, but great trepidation and concern that what appears to be innocent—incorporation by reference—will do serious damage to the scrutiny of regulations in this place.

There is a reason we do not say a law is passed and then incorporate by reference large swathes of changes that do not allow the average citizen to stay on top of what is happening to laws that affect them. On the contrary, this kind of change will undermine the ability of Canadian business to know what regulations apply to them and when they have been changed.

Yes, it is true that there are systems of government that are far more efficient than democracy, but the rule of law matters in democracies, and as benign as this bill sounds, it is a dangerous move.

I cannot support Bill S-12.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's previous support of my changes to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act.

One of the challenges we have is there is a not very well understood point that the House, Parliament, has sovereignty over what treaties it becomes part of to what standards are chosen.

As I said to the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, we have the choice, as legislators, to choose static or dynamic, depending upon what is in our best interest.

I would ask the member to keep an open mind and to visit the scrutiny of regulations committee to listen in. That committee does a very noble service by ensuring that when those statutes are translated into regulations, parliamentarians continue to scrutinize to ensure that not only are the regulations bona fide as per the statute, but that they are not unreasonably burdensome.

I would encourage the member to look at Bill S-12 as being more tools in the toolbox that would allow legislators like ourselves to decide what is in our national interest.

Bill S-12 is in our national interest based on those points.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is one piece of the member's speech that is a bit unclear for me.

I am the deputy critic for persons with disabilities and the word “accessible” has a different meaning when seen through the lens of someone with a disability.

I would ask the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla to explain to the House whether the word “accessible” means that persons with visual disabilities, or hearing disabilities or ambulatory disabilities would have access to the regulations or whether the word “accessible” just means that it is out there somewhere for somebody to get.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the concerns that the member might have.

Let me be clear. Parliament would still continue to put forward statutes, statutes which would then say whether it was static or dynamic form of regulation, incorporation by reference would take place if any and then those regulations still would have to go through The Gazette process, where there would be an open process that anyone could submit to.

I know accessibility is an important part for this government. I recently raised this very point about accessibility to websites to Shared Services Canada and it was quite happy to hear that information.

I would encourage, if the member has further concerns on accessibility issues, to work with our government to again seek a better Canada, whether that means opening new markets, or ensuring that regulations are both clear and forthright and up to date or by making them as accessible through those websites as possible.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be here this evening with everyone to discuss Bill S-12 on existing rules for many products and on very specific and even very technical issues.

I will make most of my comments in English and I will try to understand not only the substance of this Senate bill, but also the future process for Canadians who will be affected by this statute.

In general, an important distinction to make is that the official opposition, through the good work of our member for Gatineau, will support the bill through to second reading and study at committee.

Some have called the bill a technical housekeeping bill. It attempts to bring together a number of different ideas and allows for certain powers that are meant to help the Canadian economy, regulatory authorities and government to have some sort of consistent standards.

We heard from my friend from Saanich earlier that there may be some concerns as to the supremacy of Parliament to continue to make standards that fit with our traditions and our cultural institutions.

We have also raised some significant questions that bear consideration at committee as to what “accessibility” will actually mean once this bill becomes law, as it seems it might. We never would want to say a piece of legislation is not of great urgency, but this is one of the pieces of legislation that the government saw fit to begin the midnight sittings.

I know all my hon. colleagues across the way love midnight sittings and are keen for them. They are chest-thumping right now as I speak and it is the more the merrier. Maybe we could see the clock at 11:50 p.m., if there were some sort of consideration to this.

The important thing in looking at the way the bill has come together is that the source has to be mentioned. There may be some openness to my earlier suggestion. We may or may not test the room a little later.

However, the source of this bill is important, as it is comes from the Senate. There is a lot going on in the Senate right now. It is not focused like a laser. The NDP and Canadians might argue that it is having some institutional challenges. Therefore, while the bill itself might seem somewhat innocuous and neutral in tone, its source is given new suspicion because Canada's so-called chamber of sober second thought might not be so sober these days and might not be giving much second thought to things because of the preoccupation of accounting practices and the recent involvement of the Prime Minister's Office in trying to manage certain problems for the government.

The government uses private members' legislation quite frequently to move what are obviously parts of the government agenda. Rather than using the many tools available to it, it goes through a back door, through the private members' bill route.

The government is also increasingly uses the Senate to introduce bills that fit into the government's particular mandate, and the scrutiny, if one can call it that, that goes on in the Senate is obviously much less. The amount of oversight from the public and the amount of openness from the red chamber is greatly diminished.

While this is a technical bill, its implications actually have a great effect on the everyday lives of people and the businesses and people who we seek to represent. It sets out the rules and how rules will then be incorporated from regulations and standards.

With respect to my friend from Okanagan—Coquihalla, over a number of elections there has been much turnover in this place. We sometimes lament that because we lose that institutional knowledge from time to time, the wisdom and experience. However, it also brings in new energy and excitement for particular committees, of which there is little to be found. I am glad we found a new member from British Columbia who brings the rigour and excitement to the regulations and standards committee, a committee wherein sometimes it is a straw-drawing exercise as to who ends up there, yet it is fundamentally important.

The committee is not often fought over, not the way one would usually fight over appointments to committee, but the scrutiny of regulations committee is a vital committee to a lot of businesses that rely on this. There might not be a wide audience for this debate tonight because it is a niche market one might say. However, those who are interested are extremely interested in what Parliament will do with this legislation and that we get it right.

What is important and at the heart of the matter is a bill originating from the unaccountable, unelected and now under investigation Senate causes us to pay a bit more attention. We want to ensure that the way this legislation was put together was done right and that somebody with some seriousness was involved in its creation. This legislation has some iterations, so we will give it the serious consideration it deserves because of the impacts about which I talked.

We mentioned in the earlier discussion this evening what regulations one might extrapolate from this, such as safety equipment, sports equipment, medical equipment. If regulations drawn up in some dusty civil servant's office are done poorly and then complied with, then those regulations come to life and have some effects and in some cases very serious effects.

I had the opportunity to move a piece of private members' business in my first term here. I was early up in the lottery and moved a bill to remove a type of chemical toxin out of a product that was a softener for plastics. Lo and behold, the bill had wide appeal because it was a known carcinogen, it was an endocrine disrupter and it affected children particularly. The bill received unanimous support of the House, passed through the House, but died in the Senate now that I recall the full story.

Going through the process of seeing the legislation through, it was the regulations that industry suddenly became very excited about and it started making patently outrageous claims, as was proven in the end, because it was worried about harmonization.

The chemical we were talking about was meant to soften plastic, as I said, and it was used in the production of blood collection bags and the tubes that connected them to the patient. There was a hue and cry from the Canadian industry that said if my bill were to pass and this chemical were removed, there were no alternatives. The comment from Industry was that people would die on the operating tables in Canada because of the bill. It was a pretty strong claim and it left a number of members of Parliament wondering if they would be committing murder by voting for my bill.

Then we found out, through regulations and standards, that the Americans had already moved toward eliminating this known carcinogen and that the Europeans had been for a number of years well in advance of Canada in taking known carcinogens out of the industrial system. In the end, one could only describe it as some sort of apathy and laziness on the part of Canadian industry, which had simply not been forced or required to move to the international standard in the production of these blood bags and the tubes that connected them to patients.

It was a strange moment because it became so technical. We started with a good principle that was supported by the House, but the whole debate boiled down to and hung in the balance over some regulation and standard that we as parliamentarians had little to no knowledge of it. Most of us do not come to this place with the experience and enthusiasm of my friend from Okanagan—Coquihalla, certainly not so specific a knowledge as to know whether this chemical was required.

Needless to say, we brought in some witnesses from Europe and the United States and they corrected our Canadian industry. Our industy quickly replaced the known carcinogen and replaced it with something much more innocuous and nobody died. A few less people might have had their endocrines disrupted and maybe a bit less cancer was caused.

If this is a housekeeping bill, which it appears to be in some ways, then what happens at committee becomes quite important. As members of Parliament, we do not have the wherewithal or the particular expertise to know whether this form of regulation should be moved and whether it is static or dynamic or whether it is good for this circumstance or that. We are going to rely on expert witnesses.

We just recently had the Library of Parliament conduct a study for the official opposition. We asked the library a very simple and specific question. Of all the legislation that had been moved through the House since the Conservatives came to power and until now, not in a majority but the previous minority Parliament, of all the amendments that had been moved by any member of the opposition, what per cent had been rejected?

I thought it would be high, but I did not realize that it would be this high: 99.3% of all amendments were rejected. Some members on the other side, on the blue team, might claim that 99.3% of the amendments were terrible. I see a few votes. I hesitated to ask the question.

We need to understand where amendments come from and the process for a bill. Oftentimes, committee members rely on the testimony of the witnesses in front of us, because 99% of the time, they know more than we do. What we do as MPs is try to weigh the testimony in front of us and understand what is the most credible and what is backed up by the most evidence. We then move that into an amendment and work with the Library of Parliament to construct an amendment that would improve the bill.

If that is how the legislative process is meant to work, then clearly, if virtually 100% of all the amendments proposed and worked on by the New Democrats and the Liberals are being rejected out of hand, the process, for political reasons, is not working very well. It is no great disservice to us in the opposition alone. However, it is a disservice to the members of the Canadian public who sent us here, because we are choosing some sort of political expediency rather than accepting the idea that maybe the legislation as crafted the first time is not perfect. For a bill as technical as this one, I would hope that because it does not stir as many of those ideological and partisan motivations, the government members on the committee, who form a majority, will be open to amendments, regardless of who moves them.

If we have said that the thing is important for industry and important for the consumers who rely on the products, then certainly getting the legislation right is also important. It is important that we hand over powers to move these static and dynamic regulations up through standards, that we not duplicate the process and that we do that well. However, we should not do some sort of roughshod approach to regulations in general because sometimes, and I would suggest that this comes more from my colleagues across the way than it does from our side, in the political dynamic, all rules and regulations are treated as always bad, always inefficient and always cumbersome. Of course, that is not true. Of course, a society without rules and regulations to guide the manufacturing of products and the cleanliness of the water we seek to drink and the safety of our roads would be chaotic.

It may often be politically appealing to suggest that the problem with our economy right now is red tape. I ran a small business before getting into politics, and there were some things I encountered that made no sense. There was heavy duplication or having to answer questions that had nothing to do with the business I was running. However, I understood the general purpose and intent, which was to ensure that it was not caveat emptor only that guided and protected the consumer. It was not simply a case of picking up that package of hamburger or that new car off the lot. If the regulations are not going to protect people, and government is not going to play that role, then it is simply one's own wherewithal and the interest of the producer to always hold to higher standards. Most producers and manufacturers do, and some do not.

I represent a riding that has a large agricultural base. I can sit with the farmers and ranchers in my area, particularly on the ranching side, and they will say the same thing: they need good, solid, clear regulations. Business people often talk about clarity. They want to talk about certainty. They want to know what the rules are so that they can anticipate and make the investments they need to make over the long term so that their businesses are healthy and they can hire more people. What they do not like is uncertainty or rules that change for political reasons or some blowing-in-the-wind, weather-vane approach to the rules that guide us. Business hates that, particularly the larger they get and when they are more capital-intensive businesses.

I am now thinking of what has gone on with the Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act, which are regulations to guide industry and people to make sure that we try to balance that natural tension between the environment and the economy to ensure that while we are creating prosperity and wealth, we are not downgrading and degrading our natural ecosystem and environment, because over time, we know where that leads. We have enough examples in the world to understand that. However, I do not think, when it comes to climate change, we are taking it at all seriously in this place and perhaps in other Parliaments as well.

The government took a memo from industry, particularly from the oil and gas lobby recently, prior to last summer. The memo included 12 recommendations, requests for changes to the Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act, principally. The government moved all 12 through, but not through open debate here in the House. It moved them through omnibus legislation.

I talked to some of the industry reps about this. They had no idea they were going to get all 12 accepted. They were more in a negotiating position. They were offering up their first volley and would get something less back and would negotiate down. They were a bit shocked. The downside for industry, and I would suggest the downside for the government, is that it has eroded the faith of the public as to whether those laws are in place to protect our fisheries and our environment and whether they are strong enough. There are new doubts and aspersions cast upon the oil and gas industry writ large, the good actors and the bad. The companies that keep a good safety record and the ones that do not are all painted with the same brush. That is unfortunate for industry. That creates more uncertainty.

In the attempt to smooth over those rough edges of regulations and standards, the government ended up poisoning the conversation for many Canadians who have natural and normal considerations and concerns when talking about a large-scale development, be it the oil sands or a pipeline out of a particular place or a large mine. That does not seem right to me, and it is not balanced. It has actually drawn back the conversation a number of years, when we have spent decades building up strong and healthy protections for the environment, and almost a century for our fisheries, and they are now gone. Canadians then have to turn to other means and other understandings and conversations, because their voices are going to be heard. Whether Conservatives try to shut us down or not, it is going to happen.

In terms of this legislation and what we do when we get it to committee, it is going to be absolutely critical that the government play nice in allowing witnesses from sometimes both sides of an issue. There may be consumer protection groups, civil liberties groups and accessibility groups, as my friend from Toronto raised earlier, that may have some questions. When we talk about accessible, let us define it.

Official languages groups, I think, will absolutely be interested in this, because generally speaking, and my friend from British Columbia will verify this, international standards are written in the so-called language of business: English. While we are guided by laws in this land that should protect both official languages, there is a bit of a rub. If a consumer or an industry in a francophone community seeks to get a regulation with some clarity, are they going to pay for the translation to understand that? Is the Quebec government going to have concerns? I imagine that it will. It may be well and good to say that we have rules and laws on the books already to protect official languages, but those laws are not being applied.

There is no end to the examples from this government. Just look at the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre. Today, the government was asked what it intends to do since the Commissioner of Official Languages said that there could be a serious problem for people who end up in trouble on the water. He said that what is in place is inadequate. The government is saying there is no problem.

However, there is a problem when a francophone on a boat has to communicate with an anglophone at a marine rescue sub-centre who knows only two or three words of French. This is unacceptable and against the law, but so it is and so it shall remain unless the government changes its policies. It is imperative that it do so.

It is not good enough to say that we have many laws to protect our two official languages. That may or may not be true. We will see what happens in committee.

I could provide a number of examples of committees where the NDP supported a bill for which the testimony and all the proposed amendments were rejected by the government. The NDP then had to vote against the bill because it was not very good. The government says that the NDP votes against everything, but that is not true. We simply want better.

The consumer confidence impact of the bill is also quite important. Canadian products are known the world over for quality and innovation. We have been on the leading edge of some of the greatest inventions and innovations in history. Yet we have seen a steady moving away from that basic science, which is concerning, both to those in industry and those in science. It is not in every case that scientists sit down in the laboratory and know the product they are going to achieve in the marketplace. That is not the way science often works. There is a litany of examples of things that we now rely upon, such as the computer, the BlackBerry or the automobile that did not start off as inventions. They started off as basic science and understanding. That needs to still be there.

As international trade is so important to Canada as a trading nation, we need to get these international standards aligned properly and make sure that the regulations and standards we design are able to fit yet do not diminish us as a nation. This is important. Everyone should agree that in the pursuit of that trade, we do not diminish ourselves and say that we will accept lower standards for health and safety or for the quality of the products we have. That would be contrary to the aspects of good and fair trade.

In this bill, we have a number of things that are important. Yet it will probably be at the committee stage when we will see the willingness of the government to do what good governments do, which is work with the opposition to make things better. There is no chance, it is just impossible to imagine, that the first incarnation of this bill was written perfectly without a comma or period out of place and without a word that needs to be taken away or added.

The New Democrats will be there to study the bill vigorously at committee and ensure that it is the best piece of legislation possible.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
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May 23rd, 2013 / 7:10 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

This bill is obviously very technical. It seems rather difficult to understand and to apply. My colleague alluded to the extent to which the regulations can be applied. Naturally, he talked about the two official languages, in particular their use in rescue operations.

Could my colleague point to other situations that could possibly pose a problem with respect to the regulations and regulatory provisions to be implemented?

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
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May 23rd, 2013 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of examples that prove that the official languages are not a priority for this government. The Conservatives talk about it, but they take no action.

One question must be raised. Is it possible that the regulations and the standards could be in English and that a Quebec company would have to have them translated? Who would pay for that? These regulations are very technical. The language is not very clear for the uninitiated person who does not know English very well and who wants to decipher the objective. It is also legislation. It is a regulation with some power. Who will pay for that, if required? I do not know.

Does the government intend to work in both official languages when it comes to all the regulations? I do not think so. We have questions. I believe that there is a way to ensure that all francophones in Canada will be winners with this bill. However, we still need answers.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 7:15 p.m.
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Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, this is not really a question. It is a comment. The member is absolutely correct that basic research and investigator-driven investigations are very important. Just a couple of days ago, I announced more than $400 million for basic research. What the member might also want to know, and here is some trivia for him, is that the laptop computer was actually invented as a result a government asking scientists to come up with a computer that would actually fit in a briefcase.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
Government Orders

May 23rd, 2013 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, that in debating is called a smackdown.

That is an interesting piece of trivia. We have had two now. We had one earlier in my friend's speech, and now we know where the laptop came from. I did not know that.

I have often said that if we left it solely to government to try to invent something like the BlackBerry, just in and of itself, it would be 40 pounds and would work at a distance of 200 feet. It would not be all that great, because the government is not well designed to do that kind of innovation in and of itself. However, it is meant to stir and stimulate that innovation and bring together the best minds. That is a good role for government.

The BlackBerry, perhaps, is no better example. The government invested heavily. The oil sands would be another example. The government invested heavily across the country in developing the technology and in stimulating the type of investment that allowed it to start being profitable and commercially viable.

While innovation in and of itself can come from government, there have been some concerns, and the minister is well aware of them, about too much of a move toward only commercialized science. That is science that, from the moment it starts, is purely designed for that commercial moment. While it sounds pretty good in a press conference, the minister will also know the way science works. Innovators do not know what they are going to get when they start. The best minds are open to those possibilities. We need to attract those best minds. We need to allow them the space to make those mistakes, because that is what science is. It is a series of repeated mistakes until they find the way through and find the inventions and innovations that lead to a better quality of life for everybody.

I thank the member for the tidbit. I did not know that about the laptop.

Incorporation by Reference in Regulations Act
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May 23rd, 2013 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a former federal researcher, having worked for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, an academic once told me that the best researcher is somebody who is humble enough to know that he or she does not know everything. I paid attention quite closely to the speech given by my hon. colleague and was surprised at how far the government has gone in refusing to recognize a number of amendments, which has proven that it does not have an open mind, thinks it has the only truth and is arrogant enough to believe that. I find it strange that it is bragging about its openness to science when the a priori of science is to recognize that we do not know anything and that we learn from others and the experimental process.

With regard to this legislation, if we had that perspective, how much could we improve this legislation?