Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to express my support for Bill C-106.
The legislation we are considering responds to the urgent need for a permanent body to advise the government on the improvement, modernization and reform of the laws of Canada. As this bill makes clear, there are many requirements to be met if this work is to succeed. We must have openness of process and the focusing of a multi-disciplined expertise on these issues.
Something else that is required is a close attention to the matter of costs by the commission both in its methods and in its goals. This was a concern expressed by the Reform Party. It is this aspect of the legislation I want to concentrate on today.
In the context of this bill, there are two aspects to the challenge of efficiency. One is the need for the commission itself to meet the test of cost effectiveness, both in its organizational architecture and in its approach. The other is the requirement that the commission's work contribute to the cost effectiveness of the Canadian legal system in general.
The structure of the commission supports these goals. Four of the five commissioners will serve on a part time basis. The members of the advisory council will serve without pay. So will the members of the temporary study panels that the commission will create to provide expert assistance on the specific issues of the day. Hon. members will also find that the administrative and the operational arrangements visualized in the bill reflect the concerns for costs.
The legislation steers the commission away from the pitfall of trying to do everything itself. As the preamble makes clear, it will promote partnerships with a wide range of interested groups and individuals, including the academic community.
The commission will save money by sharing services wherever practical. For instance, the previous commission maintained an in-house library. The new commission will make use of existing facilities. This approach is implicit in the administrative apparatus. The commission will be served by a secretariat of no more than eight people.
Unlike its predecessor body, the commission will not retain a significant body of full time researchers but will make greater use of contract help. There are several advantages to this arrangement. The most obvious is that one avoids having to hire an in-house expert specialist for every issue or alternatively, to expend time in bringing in-house staff up to speed on new agenda items.
Hon. members will also note that the bill designates the commission as a departmental corporation. This too impinges on cost effectiveness. It allows the commission to receive gifts, bequests and other donations from outside sources and to reimburse some costs through the sales of its publications.
The important question is what it will all cost. The government said as early as in the red book and has kept saying since that the commission will operate on a budget of $3 million a year, all of which will come from funds already voted. This is Spartan fare indeed considering that the previous law commission operated on approximately $5 million a year in its last operating year. Ten years ago it would not have been possible to tackle a task of this magnitude within these limits. What makes it possible today is the structure and the modus operandi outlined in the bill. What in turn makes that possible is new technology.
The bill before us recognizes the importance of that factor. The preamble incorporates as a guiding principle the requirement that the commission use new technology wherever appropriate in order to achieve, and I quote from the bill "efficiency in its operations and effectiveness in its results". The commission will do so in every phase of its operation.
For example, a large part of law reform is research, the painstaking gathering, sharing and storing of information. The use of modern information technology will make it easier and cheaper to do all of these things. The same technology will cut other costs down to size.
For example, law reform is envisaged in this legislation as a consultative process in which people from many fields and regions will present their viewpoints and reason together. In the days when that required a convergence of experts from all over Canada to one location, that activity alone would bite large holes into the operating budget. Today fortunately, we can achieve that meeting of minds at a much lower cost by making intelligent use of information technologies, for example through on-line networking, teleconferencing and video conferencing.
These new tools can also lighten the administrative load. The birth of a new organization no longer has to mean the making of a new multi-layered mini bureaucracy. On-line networking for example makes it possible for organizations to share personnel, pay and other services. The commission will take full advantage of these opportunities.
This bill is a mandate for the pursuit of efficiency, both in the internal workings of the commission and the interpretation of its mandate.
As the bill says, one function of the commission will be to recommend measures to make the legal system itself more efficient and economical. As the commission considers which of various options for reform to recommend, it will give full weight to the
element of costs, both the immediate ones and those associated with downstream economic and social impacts.
The importance of this part of the commission's role has influenced every aspect of its design. It is reflected, for example, in the emphasis in this bill on the multi-disciplinary approach to law reform, one that involves not only lawyers but also economists, scientists and other experts. Efficient solutions can only come when we see the problem in the whole context. This applies with full force to law reform.
The failure to take costs into effect leads to system overload. It weakens the administration and enforcement of the law. It undermines the confidence and credibility that sustains the law. Because the law touches on every aspect of our national life, it is detrimental to our national well-being if we do not take these cost factors into account.
Cost effectiveness, the quality of achieving a high ratio of output to input has achieved something of the status of a common cause. It is the recognized prerequisite to Canada's competitiveness on world markets. It is the key to the sustainability of the social programs which are this country's pride and its strength. It is vital to the efficiency of the legal system which has the infrastructure for everything else.
The cost effectiveness component will also allow us to bring together legal and other experts, scientists and scholars, through these technological advances to allow them to be part of improving the law in Canada. This is going to open up the whole process of law reform and the appreciation of the law in this country.
By spending less we are really going to be able to do more. Most of all, it is going to put us back in the lead of all western nations as a country that has a law reform commission or a law commission as it is in this case. In our modern society we have to have laws which are going to evolve with society. No law can be looked on as a law that will rest in its exact form for an indefinite period of time. We constantly must be looking at our laws and appraising the needs of society for changes in the laws.
If, as some members have said, this can be done through the Department of Justice, then of course we are blind to the context at which we must look at our law. We must look at our laws separate and apart from the Department of Justice so that recommendations can come to the department from outside. That is by far the healthiest way of approaching this.
Today in our society and in the world we must be conscious of the strength of the rule of law. People look to our laws and they look to our society. Part of our society is the fabric of our laws. When investment takes place it not only looks at the economic climate but it also looks at the stability of our system and the forthrightness of our laws.
This bill is going to do a great deal to enhance an already tremendous respect for the Canadian justice system throughout the world. I am very pleased we are dealing with this bill today.