Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you and all your colleagues who have helped run this Parliament, as well as everyone who makes this place operate so well. We are very gifted to live in such a strong democracy, Canada. I love our country and I want a better life for all my kids, so it is an honour to stand in this place and join the debate on behalf of the people of Okanagan—Coquihalla.
I would like to talk about Bill S-2, the incorporation by reference in regulations act, which the government has put forward in order to create greater certainty. In my speech today, I would like to touch upon a few different things.
We have heard time and time again that incorporation by reference has had a very common, long-standing use by drafters to be more efficient in the drafting of regulations. Let us say there is a reference in a set of regulations to the Criminal Code. Rather than having to print out the entire code, a reference can simply be made to it, with the expectation that someone would be able to quickly open up the Criminal Code, find the relevant provision and therefore not have to reproduce the entire Criminal Code in a set of regulations. This is efficient for the drafters and legislators who have to look at these regulations, for example, the Joint Standing Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations, as well as preventing everyday citizens from having to read through things that are not relevant beyond a basic reference.
Let us take a step back and talk about why Bill S-2 is relevant today, why it is important and needed.
If we go back to the 1960s and 1970s, many of us probably grew up listening to members of Parliament. They stood in their places in this chamber and discussed what was important to them, such as wanting more oversight on consumer protection and more discussion about regulations that would allow better health and safety in workplace environments.
As democratically elected people do, they listened and put forward various rules, but as they did that, they found that by simply putting statutes into place, oftentimes there was not enough in the statutes to direct officials in the various ministries who were delegated the authority to act under those laws and, thus, the need for regulation. What we saw was the rise of the regulatory state, where it was no longer appropriate. In many people's perspective, there have always been two different schools on regulation making. One is that highly competent professionals are given the discretion to apply administrative rules, but, again, those are subject to issues of fairness because not everyone can agree on what is fair.
Therefore, the system went to being more of prescriptive administration, where certain key things were laid out. The reason regulations were so important was because oftentimes the law would give broad outlines of what was wanted and then the department that was delegated the authority, working with the minister and the justice department, would then draft administrative regulations to ensure that most, if not all, situations were anticipated.
As we grew in stature, as the economy and the population grew, as well as demands for better protections, whether we are talking about transportation or consumer protection, these regulations began to increase. Therefore, there were concerns about oversight, which I believe the justice minister of the day, John Turner, decided, at the beckoning of colleagues from all across this place, that there needed to better oversight of these administrative regulations. Therefore, the Joint Standing Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations was created, an opportunity for parliamentarians from both chambers to ensure that what was being debated in both houses and passed into law was found in the regulations and that nothing contravened any of the obligations of government, such as the Bill of Rights, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that all official bilingualism was being kept.
Since then the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations has basically had the purview of every single directive and regulation under the Statutory Instruments Act, and I have had the great honour of working with the council and the committee of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations. Peter Bernhardt and his team are very committed Canadians. They feel very strongly and work very hard for all of us, and as parliamentarians we need people like that to make good choices.
Often we hear, either in this place or in reports, that there is no consensus-building in Ottawa. I want to say just the opposite. The reason many people do not know about the Joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations is that everything is done by consensus, or at least 99% of it.
That is because we have our debates here. The democratic vote is taken. The will of Parliament is expressed and becomes law. Then the laws are put into place by independent regulators or departmental regulators, and that is important. If issues come up, we have already had the debates and the will of Parliament has already been expressed. The only question is how we carry forth. Is there a drafting error? Is there an area where we need to make clarification?
The joint standing committee has done very good work over the years. It has a number of roles. It is an immensely powerful committee, and I am privileged to sit on it. I am privileged to learn a little bit more about the other place and have an opportunity to work with senators, because there are senators who care very deeply about the future of Canada, just as we do.
Over the years, the committee has made growing use of incorporation by reference. Why is that? It is because incorporation by reference is a long-standing drafting technique. As more regulations come into effect and our economy becomes more integrated with the world economy as well as with overlapping provincial regulation, it only makes sense that there needs to be a common understanding, and incorporation by reference makes it easier for everyone to be able to read what the law means under the regulations.
Bill S-2, the incorporation by reference in regulations act, is a response by government. It is a guidebook, so to speak, as to when and where incorporation by reference would be used, whether it be static, which is just a simple reference to a particular document as it was at that time, or dynamic, where there may be changes.
We have heard from a number of people, including myself in previous speeches, about Canada's enormous capacity in technical expertise. We lead the field in reaching international consensus because we have such strong standards at home and are able to share those standards while including other countries' standards.
I would like to take a step back and also point out that it is not just the rise of the regulatory state since the 1960s. Other things have also affected us. In the 1990s and early 2000s, there was globalization. Technology has changed the way businesses interact and the way we interact as people, and it happens on a daily basis.
When we talk about these things, we talk about Canada's place and standing in the world and how we are making sure that our great Canadian products have better access to markets.
The previous Liberal government's five international trade deals have been cited many times in this House. With this government, there are 43. That is important to note, because as we open up tariff-free access to Canadian products, we also have to make sure there are no barriers. One example of a non-tariff-based barrier to trade might be a standard in one country that is not accepted in the other. We may have the best widget, food product, or, in my case in Okanagan—Coquihalla, bottle of wine, but if it does not harmonize with that standard, we cannot send it there. This becomes a very real issue.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice mentioned earlier, a good example of that is the co-operation between President Obama and this government beyond the border in making sure that the interregulation trade councils are able to harmonize where it makes sense for everyone. I will reiterate: where it makes sense for everyone. We are sovereign nations, but it is sometimes in our enlightened best interests to work with others.
Again, we have the rise of the regulatory state. We have globalization. We have increases in technology. Everything is accelerating, so it only makes sense to start to clarify when these incorporation by references would happen. I will give the House a good example domestically of how this would help.
It is very easy for someone to use a smart phone find out what the current interest rates are. It is easy for someone to find out what the consumer price index is. However, if we were to fix that in regulations and make reference to the rate of interest as set by the Bank of Canada, it may be difficult to say in static reference what that is. Most people would just say that the rate is calculated for a certain tariff or certain fee with the consumer price index. Now they would be able to go online and find out what that current rate is. That makes it more certain and easy for people to access. That is a basic incorporation by reference that should be dynamic.
Should we be using this tool of dynamic incorporation by reference on everything? I would say no, but that is why we are having this debate here. We need to determine when it is appropriate. The scrutiny of regulations committee has raised concerns about it, and that is why we need to put in place a bill that would specify when to use it. This would empower us as legislators. It would clarify for government departments when it is not appropriate. It would clarify it for the justice department, which drafts many of the regulations. As I said, it would also make it easier for individuals and businesses locally to be able to determine what they would need to do.
I want to quickly go back to how this would benefit Canadian businesses internationally, because this is an important area for me. For example, Canadian marine manufacturers have said to me that when they are trying to sell their products abroad, their products need to be certified to international standards. It makes no sense for us to have regulations here in Canada that basically reproduce a whole international standard when we can simply make reference to it as that international standard changes, as it often does.
We are not alone in this world. We are a dynamic country, but we are still small in terms of size. We certainly punch above our weight, and I am going to continue to advocate for whatever we can do in that way.
The important thing here is that when we allow incorporation by reference, we are allowing Canadian businesses to succeed, and when Canadian businesses succeed, not only does it put food on the table because workers are able to draw income from good work, but it is also something we take great pride in.
While I am on the need to harmonize these regulations, I will mention that the hon. Minister of Industry met with his provincial colleagues about a week ago to discuss interprovincial trade barriers. Many of these barriers are regulatory, and they have a profound impact on wine producers in my province. We have the same situation at home, and I am thankful that the Minister of Industry has been able to create a consensus with all of his provincial colleagues that the status quo is no longer tenable. I applaud that. We also need to make sure we are doing the same thing here.
I have heard some criticisms and I am going to repeat some of them, although I am going to just incorporate them by reference. I am also going to give a little feedback that I hope will address some hon. members' concerns.
One concern has to do with official languages. Some people have said that the regulations will not be in English and French. That is absolutely false.
Everything that goes through the Canada Gazette process has to be done in both of Canada's official languages, and that will continue. That is important for people to know. Those regulations are produced by Canadian regulators, and they need to be in both official languages. All of us agree that it should be that way.
Second is accessibility. Some people have pointed out that accessibility means different things to different people. I will provide an example.
If I were to open a standards for Canadian electricians textbook and look through it, it would not matter if it was English or French. I would not be able to understand it, because I do not have that technical expertise. Many times these standards are in very specific industries. They have specific jargon and require specific expertise. The Government of Canada should work with those existing authorities and, through our technical committees, make them as clear as possible.
We could email the regulations to every single person in Canada, but most people would find them either irrelevant or else unreadable because they lacked the expertise or training to apply those standards.
It is important to note that the Internet is making things more accessible all the time. Many people utilize Google to go onto international websites of different languages. Suddenly they are able to read that website in very good English. Of course, as those algorithms continue and as the scope of the Internet's reach continues to enlarge and gather more data on how we speak and what we mean by certain things, that accessibility will only get better, so it is important to note that technology is, to a large extent, really making it easier for anyone to access information.
There have also been some issues raised about retroactivity. On the Standing Joint Committee for Scrutiny of Regulations, we ask ministers on a regular basis to consider legislation as a remedy for a situation that was not originally contemplated and needs to have the force of law behind it. This happens on a regular basis.
What we are mostly talking about here are references in regulations that basically say “as amended from time to time”. That should not be controversial. It just means that when a new safety apparatus or standard has been put forward, that is the new standard. We are the ones who decide that. If we do not like it, as Parliament we can ask the government to change the standard. We do the choosing.
I also want to address the sovereignty issue. This House, combined with the Upper Chamber, decides what the law is in Canada. That is something I believe in.
I would like to give a good example of the rhetoric of the NDP. It sometimes does not always follow consistently from committee to here in the House. We had members of the NDP at the joint standing committee raise concerns around the convention on international trade in wild fauna and flora. It is an international convention that protects wildlife so that humanity can maintain our world heritage of these different endangered species. I think all of us would agree that it is an important thing. That is why we are part of it. However, New Democrats said they were upset that the government had not yet acted upon the latest convention, because it has to go through the regular gazetting process, and they were complaining about it. They were saying it was not appropriate.
Perhaps with the use of incorporation by reference, the moment Canada, along with anyone else, agrees with an international convention, it could become regulation automatically. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot have the benefits of the regulatory state without saying that things we all agree on should be done and put in place right away. It should not take years to put in place simple changes when they could be put in place quickly through incorporation once everyone on the international stage has been involved.
The NDP sends out these different messages. That approach does not create certainty and it does not always contribute to the public good. I do admit that there are some legitimate criticisms, but there are trade-offs in every policy, whether we are talking about trade or a new measure coming forward. The NDP only wants to see the negative side.
. We know our country was built on hard work and sacrifice. We know that Canadians are fair and practical people. We know that when Canadians compete, they can succeed. They need their government to make sure they have access. Bill S-2 is a meaningful approach that would give certainty to the government, to Parliament, and our businesses and would create better outcomes. That is how this place should work.