House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education In British Columbia Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the House give its consent to move to private members' business?

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education In British Columbia Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education In British Columbia Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

December 5th, 2006 / 5:05 p.m.

Liberal

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
Private Members' Business

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a very short and simple question for the member. Would the provisions that this bill provides apply to this bill?

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. The bill itself becomes a piece of legislation like any other. In fact, if we look at clause 6 of the bill, it says:

This Act comes into force two years after the day on which it receives royal assent.

Therefore, prima facie, it would not be subject to repeal because it will have been in force within the required period.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, if there is a problem and there are certain reasons that this could take some time, does the member think it is a problem if the bill were extended for a longer period of time? Could he find an example where if that was necessary that might be a solution?

In addition, is there any mechanism whereby the bill could be brought forward to the House on notice? That would give members a day or so to discuss it, have a small one hour debate or something, so that it does not go by unnoticed as something that was the will of the people and Parliament and would just disappear.

Finally, a thought I have had over the years, does he think it might be worth discussing whether all laws of Canada should have a sunset clause? Then they would be looked at unless it was decided otherwise by Parliament? There are many laws that are out of date, are too old, and need amending to match other bills, et cetera.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I briefly indicated in my speech that from time to time there are good reasons. First of all, if the act or some sections of it are conditional upon other things happening, obviously we do not want it to come into force.

For instance, if we adopted the bill regarding health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages, there may be provisos and transitional provisions for certain companies or whatever that until they changed their label that they would not be required to reprint all their inventory or something like that.

Theoretically, there could be things where things have to happen. International treaties is an interesting one. Something as complicated as the Kyoto agreement, if there was a need to legislate that, that legislation could not come into force until in fact all the treaties were properly ratified by all the participants, and so I can see that.

With regard to the member's question regarding sunset clauses of basically all legislation, when I look at the book that just lists the statutes of Canada, I shudder to think what would happen if all of them were subject to sunset clauses. I have a feeling that Parliament as a whole would grind to a halt from going back and revisiting things.

I suspect that the tradition in Parliament has been to respond to the work as it becomes necessary. There are people who are vigilant on every piece of legislation, not only ministries, but the stakeholders outside of Parliament who come and make presentations to say that the circumstances have changed in the way we do things since we brought this in, that the technology has changed, that kind of thing.

I think the House has been responsive to stakeholders' needs, to government's needs, and to the needs of the people of Canada to act in the best interests of the people of Canada. On that basis, although it sounds like a good idea, I would think that maybe we ought to think about that tomorrow morning and see if it still sounds like a good idea.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

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

5:35 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

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

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, this private member's bill addresses an issue which is of some significant concern to every legislator, or at least it should be. That is the constant debate we have, and I suppose it is the essence of democracy, as to whether we over-govern ourselves. Sometimes maybe we pass legislation in reaction to current incidents to deal with what is at that point a hot topic issue and then within months or certainly within years, the law is no longer necessary. The law has become irrelevant, but it sits on the books until there is a move either by the government of the day or through a private member's bill to repeal the legislation.

Bill S-202 provides a mechanism, although I have to say with some reservations that I am not sure it is the proper mechanism, that would deal with those laws that have become outdated, irrelevant or no longer necessary but are still sitting on the books.

Every so often we will see in the popular media an example of a law, sometimes it is a municipal bylaw, other times it is a formal piece of legislation at the federal or provincial levels, that is held up to ridicule because it is so out of date. The one I always think of is the provincial law that required someone to walk in front of a horseless carriage, as it was called at that time, after a certain hour of the day waving a lantern in order to protect domesticated animals from being struck by the vehicle. That was on Ontario's books until well into the 1960s, if not the 1970s.

We hear of those kinds of examples. To some degree they hold the particular legislature up to ridicule that such an irrelevant and out of date piece of legislation would still be on the books.

I want to congratulate the member for Mississauga South who has brought this bill before the House for debate.

Having praised it to that extent, I have to express the reservation which is the risk we have of applying this bill, if it did become the law of the land, and legislation which is still relevant, necessary and useful could be struck down and made useless due to inattention by the government of the day. A law may have fallen into some lack of use, even for an extended period of time, but it may still be necessary given a change of circumstances in the country.

I am proposing how we should deal with this as opposed to it being an automatic absolute under the circumstances as set out in Bill S-202. A clause should be added that would provide some saving grace under certain circumstances. I am looking forward to the bill going to committee. Hopefully it will get through the House and will be addressed more extensively in committee so that that possibility could be addressed. The difficulty is that if the bill is approved in principle, that type of deviation from the principle may not be acceptable to the committee. It may not be acceptable under our rules and it may be ruled out of order. That causes me some concern. However, I think it is the way we need to go.

The number of statutes we know that are sitting on our books that should be repealed are fairly numerous from what I have been led to believe. I cannot say I have done a full study of that, but there are a number that are sitting on our books. It would be good to get them off our books.

It is back to the issue of overgovernance. Every so often when we have one of these pieces of legislation that is the law of the land that was intended for these specific purposes and was passed originally for these specific purposes, another issue arises and the law applies to that set of facts, but we end up with an unintended consequence, one that is negative and was never intended by the legislation. That is always the risk of having that old legislation sitting there.

Just on a side point, one of the tragedies of the government refusing to fund the Law Commission comes into play here. One of the roles the Law Commission could have had assigned to it is to review, either all of our legislation or at least segments of our legislation, already passed, already law, and identify those bills that were no longer necessary, had become irrelevant, were out of date, and where we could see no future use for them.

It would have been a very good task for the Law Commission to have performed. The members of the commission had the expertise and could very well have taken on that assignment. As I said earlier, it is badly needed to be done. With the Law Commission no longer being funded, it is not something we could assign to it.

It is quite clear that we do not have the ability, and I say that within the Department of Justice, nor do we have the resources in terms of personnel to do that overall review of all of our legislation. The Law Commission would have been very conveniently available to have that task assigned to it. It is no longer able to do it, and certainly the Department of Justice does not have the resources to do it.

I want to make one final point before I conclude. One of the other flaws that I see in the legislation, and I am sure it was not intended and it may not be possible to include it in the legislation, is that we have all sorts of pieces of legislation that still do function in part. They provide a role in terms of providing legislative infrastructure for activities in the country or, in some cases, prohibiting activities, but there are other parts of the same law, because they have become out of date, that are irrelevant.

The bill does nothing to assist us in reviewing those pieces of legislation or, more specifically, those parts of the legislation that are no longer relevant. We have no ability under the bill, if it were to become law, to place in the infrastructure of our legislative system an ability to review those laws that are still valid, but only in part.

Those are some of the flaws that I wish to point out to my colleague from Mississauga South. This of course will be a free vote when it comes to second reading. I do intend to support it, but I do have some reservations regarding the bill and I hope we can resolve those problems at committee.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, statute revisions rarely make headlines in the newspapers; however, they relate to the essence of our mandate as parliamentarians, which is to legislate. I have taken a close look at Bill S-202 and I would like to share my understandings of this initiative.

The idea behind Bill S-202 is straightforward. Any legislation that has been adopted by Parliament but has not been brought into force within 10 years would be repealed unless it can be demonstrated in this House or in the Senate that it should be preserved.

Bill S-202 would apply to legislation that does not come into force after receiving royal assent or on a particular date. It would apply when Parliament determines that the government would be in a better position to decide when it would be appropriate to bring the legislation into force by proclamation or by order of the governor in council.

The minister of justice would be required to table an annual report each year in Parliament within the first five sitting days of each calendar year. The report would list all acts and all provisions of an act that were assented to at least nine years earlier and have not yet been brought into force. This report would provide Parliament with an overview of all the outstanding legislation that could be repealed at the end of the year if nothing was done to bring them into force or to defer their repeal.

Ministers responsible for any legislation appearing on the list would have to evaluate the consequences of their repeal. If everyone agrees that the legislation should be repealed, no further action would be required. Bill S-202 provides that at the end of the year in which a report is tabled, the acts and provisions listed in that report would be repealed. It would be repealed by the simple operation of Bill S-202.

However, there may be valid reasons why legislation might take a significant time to come into force. These reasons often have to do with a need to make administrative arrangements before implementing new programs or measures, or with a need to coordinate with provincial and territorial governments or with foreign governments. If this were the case, Bill S-202 would provide as a resolution that either House of Parliament could exempt an act or provision of an act from being repealed at the end of the year. Such a resolution might be sought by the responsible minister or by any parliamentarian who would be interested in preserving the legislation.

Unless it was brought into force the following year, the exempted legislation would appear again in the following year in the annual report of the minister of justice and the process would take place once again. Bill S-202 clearly limits the scope of such resolutions. It can only exempt legislation from being repealed in the current year. If necessary, resolutions could also be sought in subsequent years in respect of the same legislation.

At the end of the year, the acts and provisions of acts that were not brought into force or exempted by resolution would be repealed. During the following year, the minister of justice would be required to publish in the Canada Gazette the list of acts and provisions of acts so repealed.

Bill S-202 also contains transitional provisions for 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 would be calculated from the moment of their amendment and not their original adoption.

This exemption recognizes that if Parliament were to amend a provision, it would imply that the provision was still relevant and should not be repealed soon. However, the exemption would apply only in respect of amendments made prior to the coming into force of Bill S-202. This means that for future legislation that amends provisions that were not in force, Parliament would have to re-enact them to ensure that they were not repealed by Bill S-202 less than 10 years after their enactment if they were still not in force.

In order to allow the government and other interested persons time to prepare for Bill S-202, it provides that it would come into force two years after it is assented to. This is reasonable, since the first report would likely be the longest because it would include all the acts and provisions of acts that have not yet been brought into force since the last statute revision in 1985, which repealed a number of obsolete provisions.

What are we to make of Bill S-202? The power to bring legislation into force is delegated to the government when the timing for such implementation requires flexibility. The bill would impose some limits on these powers, with a view to improving parliamentary oversight of how they are exercised or perhaps, more accurately, how they are not exercised.

If Bill S-202 were adopted, we would be assured that provisions that were not in force over nine years after their adoption would come to our attention. We would be able to ask the government to explain why they were not in force. It would bring to our attention acts and provisions of acts that might otherwise be overlooked.

Bill S-202 would provide an incentive to government to carefully reconsider on a regular basis what action should be taken with respect to legislation that had not yet been brought into force. Bill S-202 appears to be a worthwhile bill. I look forward to hearing the views of other hon. members as to its merits.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this bill today. It is an important initiative for the member opposite and I congratulate him on it.

I come from a background of municipal government. I was a councillor and mayor for a number of years in a small town in Alberta. We went through this type of process a number of years ago. When we looked at old bylaws, it was amazing to see what kinds of bylaws were left on the books. Some of them as years went by were quite funny. We had one where a horse could not be tied to a fire hydrant. This was in the nineties and nobody was riding horses in the town anymore. That is maybe a lighter side of what we are trying to do here.

We support this legislation because it makes good sense. It also makes good housekeeping sense to be able to every once in a while stand back and have a look at what has happened. The fact that something like 65 pieces of legislation have been on the books for a period of 10 years and are not being used or have not been put into action means that we need to do a better job of looking at what we are doing. There is a listing of these acts and provisions and if that list is put forward it should be subject to automatic repeal. I believe that in the spirit of cooperation all parties have agreed that this is a reasonable thing to do. It is a good move by the member opposite to propose this bill which came from the Senate.

Keeping order in the House of Commons is the proper thing to do because we have enough trouble as it is keeping track of all of the statutes, bills and motions that come before the House. The proper thing to do would be to look over things that are redundant every once in a while.

Our party also thinks there should be a sunset clause on most legislation. Every once in a while we should stop and review legislation to ensure it is still doing the job it was originally intended to do. I believe that many of the programs that were put in place based on legislation and some other legislation that deals with specific issues that we face as a government and as Canadians, are not doing the job any more. Money has been put forward and either the need has disappeared or times have changed to a point where that particular function is no longer necessary. This kind of ties into the whole issue of this repeal of legislation bill.

This will be a very worthwhile exercise but at the same time we could be looking further to see exactly what has been put in place. I suppose we could do this through the budgetary process which allocates funds to different programs through the system we use in the House for supply. The budget process would be a good opportunity to have a look at the programs to which money is being allocated to ensure they are still of value and are necessary.

One of the questions that has been asked was whether the operation of the bill could be limited. For future statutes, it would be possible for the House to include a provision that says that the statutes in question would remain law notwithstanding the provisions of the repeal of legislation act. This would cover off any concern about moving forward and it would be particularly useful for statutes relating to international treaties.

Treaties are special issues. International treaties are negotiated by the government and then introduced in the House. However, over a period of time many may need amending or may need to be looked at to ensure they are still necessary. The House would be able to pass a resolution to keep a statute alive if needed.

I believe there are aspects of this bill that would cover off all the situations that could arise and, for statutes that are presently on the books, the House could pass legislation to keep those statutes that it deems important in effect.

This does not mean that one quick brush stroke will cover them all. There will be exceptions. However, we will have an opportunity to analyze each piece of legislation to ensure each statute is still relevant and to ensure we leave the ones in place that need to be in place.

It is important that we review this on a regular basis because, as we all get busy and governments change from time to time, we need to ensure that changes are made on a regular basis in order to keep things current and to ensure there is not a huge backlog to go over at any particular time.

The member from our party mentioned quite a few of the issues that deal with legislation and ministerial issues but this is a worthwhile bill and I am glad the member chose to sponsor it and bring it forward.

Statutes Repeal Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 6:06 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:06 p.m.)