Motion No. 2
That Bill S-2 be amended by deleting Clause 2.
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the House today about Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act and to make consequential amendments to the Statutory Instruments Regulations, because I think it is very important.
This bill might seem very technical. However, as my colleague from Gatineau often says, the devil is in the details, and that is exactly what we are seeing with this particularly disturbing bill. In my speech, I will explain why we want to remove clause 2.
First of all, clause 2 reads as follows:
In the case of a document produced by the regulation-making authority, either alone or jointly with a person or body in the federal public administration, the document or part may be incorporated only if it
There are a number of criteria, such as “contains...elements that are incidental to...the rules...” and this one:
...reproduced or translated from a document, or part of a document, produced by a person or body other than the regulation-making authority, with any adaptations of form or reference that will facilitate its incorporation in the regulation...
Already, this poses a problem. What is “a person or body other than the regulation-making authority”? We are talking about regulations that can be passed by the government, that do not necessarily have to be debated in the House.
We are wondering who exactly is a person or body other than the regulation-making authority. There is nothing to define that. The problem is really about knowing what we can expect from this government. That is what the issue is. Why do the Conservatives want to pass a bill that is essentially enabling legislation for any authority to pass regulations?
This issue of regulations is quite problematic. For instance, when the Conservatives wanted to make changes to employment insurance, it was all done through regulations. The same thing happened with Bill C-51 on safety standards. All of this, then, will be passed through regulations. Regulations are the basis of legislation.
As proof, there are hundreds of pages of regulations. For example, at the federal level, there are 3,000 regulations and 30,000 pages. However, legislation accounts for only 450 laws and 13,000 pages. Thus, there are twice as many pages of regulations, which will be exempted from parliamentary scrutiny, and I will explain why.
When we were conducting our study at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I asked a question about incorporating by reference a regulation from another country, for example a country with which we signed a free trade agreement or concluded any agreement, regardless of the criteria of the agreement.
International foreign parliaments adopt regulations, but the Parliament of Canada is not necessarily aware of the changes made in those other parliaments. We take care of Canada's business here in this Parliament. We do not know what will happen in the United States, France, or Brazil.
If we incorporate by reference legislation that falls under the jurisdiction of another parliament and it is agreed that these subsequent changes will be part of Canadian law, then we are also saying that regulations subject to review by Canadian Parliament could be changed by another parliament without MPs' knowledge. This will become part of the law without Canadians knowing it. It is ridiculous.
The last clause of the bill, clause 18.7, reads as follows:
The validity of an incorporation by reference that conforms with section 18.1 and that was made before the day on which that section comes into force is confirmed.
Does this not remind hon. members of something? The government is currently trying to pass legislation to ensure that the RCMP cannot be found guilty of violating the Access to Information Act. The government is trying to pass a law that will make anything that has been incorporated by reference valid without having to be examined by parliamentarians. That is ridiculous. We are beginning to see a trend: the Conservatives are trying to go back and legalize things that they did in the past without respecting the regulations in place at the time. That is shameful. That is why we cannot support this bill in its current form.
The bill refers to a body other than the regulation-making authority. However, that body is not defined. The bill refers to another authority, another body or another person, as I already mentioned. This term comes up several times in the bill. Anyone who reads the bill will wonder what is meant by a person or body other than the regulation-making authority. What is comes down to is that, because this is enabling legislation, this bill allows regulations to be passed through incorporation by reference without having to be examined by the government.
The bill also addresses the issue of accessibility:
18.3 (1) The regulation-making authority shall ensure that a document, index, rate or number that is incorporated by reference is accessible.
However, there is no definition of the term “accessible”. I suggested amendments in Parliament but, unfortunately, the Conservatives voted against them. They seem to think that “accessible” is a clear term that does not require a definition. If this term is as clear as they claim, why not put a definition in the law? The witnesses agree that the term should be defined. We cannot use a legal term in a bill without including a definition. That is ridiculous.
I asked the executive director of the Standards Council of Canada a question about accessibility. A criterion of accessibility is imposed on all legislative and departmental authorities, except that there is no definition for this term. Even if a department or regulatory authority is required to issue a regulation whether or not it is subject to ambulatory incorporation by reference, is it possible that a fee would be charged? We do not know. A Canadian might have to pay to access a regulation. How can fees be charged to access what is part of our legislation? That is ridiculous. If you have to plead a case in court, for example, you must have access to the regulations.
The bill has other problems, especially with respect to translation. Will all of the regulations incorporated by reference be translated into French and English? The United States is not required to translate all of its regulations by incorporation. The U.S. does not have the constitutional obligation to translate its regulations. How can we ensure that everything that is incorporated by reference is subject to our bilingualism requirements, especially if Parliament cannot examine these regulations? That is another problem.
I simply want to say that this is a very serious problem. We are passing a bill that validates all of the incorporations that have been made in the past 30 years—before this bill was passed—even if they did not meet the criteria. That is the first reason why we will not support this bill. The second reason is that the regulations would no longer be subject to parliamentary review because they would be adopted by reference. That is a big problem. The government will be adopting regulations, rates or indices, and members of Parliament and Canadians will not be aware of them and will never have an opportunity to oppose them.
In short, it is very important for all members of this House to reject this bill and to review it so we can pass something that makes sense and that will not exempt our regulations from review by Canadian parliamentarians.