June 4, 2003

CA

Garry Breitkreuz

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-205 sponsored by my colleague from Surrey Central who has done a lot of work in this area. It fixes some essential procedures here in the House.

The member for Surrey Central has worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents and for the people of Canada to bring a greater degree of democratic accountability to the House of Commons. He has spent many long hours in the House and in various committees in the pursuit of parliamentary reform. This bill is a product of his experience and hard work as co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee. It should be given very careful consideration.

The purpose of the bill is to provide for a disallowance procedure for statutory instruments or delegated pieces of legislation which are more commonly known as regulations. Disallowance is one of the traditional means for a legislature to oversee the creation of regulations. A disallowance procedure would give parliamentarians an opportunity to reject a statutory instrument made by a delegate of Parliament.

It is significant to note that 20% of laws in Canada stem from legislation debated and passed by Parliament. The remaining 80% of laws are made up of regulations. As opposed to legislation, regulations receive virtually no debate in the House of Commons or Senate. There is no public input or study and there is no media scrutiny.

The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations carries out the only scrutiny, which is very limited, of regulations in Parliament. This committee, although generally misunderstood, is an essential watchdog protecting democracy, controlling bureaucracy, and holding the government to account. The committee does not judge regulations on the basis of policy matter, general merit or necessity. Its study of regulations is instead limited to the questions of validity and legality. Members follow uniform and clearly defined criteria in their examination.

When the joint committee agrees that a regulation should be revoked, it makes a report to the House of Commons containing a resolution to the effect that a regulation or part thereof should be revoked. Once that report is tabled in the House the applicable procedure will depend on a decision by the responsible minister. Unfortunately, the current disallowance procedure is seriously defective.

The procedure currently practised resulted from a recommendation of the special committee on reform of the House of Commons back in 1986. Before that time there was no general disallowance procedure in place at the federal level in Canada. The government of the day placed the disallowance procedure in the Standing Orders with the intention it would remain there on an experimental and temporary basis until such time as a decision could be made to its effectiveness. If successful, it was the intention of the government to implement a statutory procedure.

In the last 16 years we have seen the effectiveness of having a so-called temporary disallowance procedure, but still nothing has been done to give it a statutory footing. The current procedure, because it is contained in the Standing Orders, limits the possibility of disallowance to the statutory instruments that are made by the governor in council or by ministers of the Crown. As a result, the considerable body of delegated legislation created, for example, by the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Agency or the National Energy Board is not subject to the disallowance procedure provided in the Standing Orders.

All members would agree that it is desirable that all statutory instruments subject to review by Parliament under the Statutory Instruments Act be subject to disallowance. There is no reason why a regulation made by the governor in council or a minister can be disallowed by Parliament while a regulation made by some other delegate of Parliament cannot.

Another defect of the current procedure is that it relies on the cooperation of the governor in council or the minister concerned to carry out a disallowance after the House of Commons has ordered it.

In itself, an order of the House of Commons cannot effect the revocation of a regulation. The authority that made a disallowed regulation must still formally intervene in order to revoke that regulation following the creation of a disallowance order. While the House could deal with the matter as one of contempt, there are no other legal sanctions or even consequences that arise from a failure to comply with the disallowance order. An order of the House of Commons that a particular regulation be revoked is not binding on the author of the regulation and cannot be enforced by a court.

Placing the disallowance procedure on a statutory footing, as this bill recommends, would remove the need for a regulation making authority to take subsequent action to give effect to an order of this House, thus eliminating the potential for conflict between Parliament and the executive. The procedure would also be made more efficient as there would no longer be a need for the House of Commons to address an order of the cabinet ordering the revocation of a statutory instrument. The legislation itself would now deem a disallowed instrument to be revoked by eliminating the need for further action by the governor in council, or the minister who adopted the disallowed instrument. Compliance with the disallowance decision would be improved by eliminating any possibility of a regulation making authority not complying with the disallowance order of the House.

By providing a clear legislative basis for the current disallowance procedure, Bill C-205 would, first, allow Parliament's authority to extend to all instruments, subject to review under the Statutory Instruments Act, instead of only those made by the governor in council or minister. Second, it would remove the necessity for additional action on the part of the regulation making authority in order to give effect to an order of the House that a regulation be revoked. This disallowance procedure is important to restore transparency and protect democracy in the House of Commons.

Bill C-205 reflects the all party consensus of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations on the need to strengthen parliamentary oversight of the hundreds of federal regulations made each year pursuant to legislative authority delegated by Parliament.

This private member's bill should appeal to all members of the House, regardless of partisan affiliations. Currently, the powers of the governing party, and particularly the executive, are sweeping. If members are to provide the necessary checks and balances, they must be accorded certain rights. Their views are crucial to the continued functioning of Parliament. Accepting these small changes to the scrutiny of regulations would be a significant first step in our efforts to make Parliament more responsive to Canadians. I urge all members in the House to give the bill very careful consideration and to pass it as soon as possible.

In conclusion, we on this side of the House are trying constantly to improve the democracy in this place by allowing MPs to be more effective in performing their duties here. One of the things that needs to be emphasized is that so much of what happens here concerns enabling legislation. We pass enabling legislation which then allows for a lot of regulations to be made. In effect, we are now saying that those regulations must be more carefully scrutinized. There must be a process, a mechanism, to ensure that those that are disallowed, those that are scrutinized, have the proper attention given to them.

I want to thank the member for Surrey Central for all the work he has done on Bill C-205. Many people listening to this may not be fully aware of the significance of the bill. Let me assure everyone listening that this is a very important step in improving democracy in the House. I again thank the member for bringing Bill C-205 forward. I look forward to everyone passing the bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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BQ

Caroline St-Hilaire

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-205, which is specifically designed to strengthen parliamentary control.

I take this opportunity to thank my colleague from Surrey Central for bringing this important question to the House for debate.

As a member of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, I obviously want, and it is my duty, to ensure that our rules are efficient and respectful of democracy.

It is important to point out that the purpose of the bill before us today is to provide a legislative basis for the disallowance procedure for statutory instruments by enshrining it in the Statutory Instruments Act. The current procedure set out in the Standing Orders of the House considerably limits our responsibility as parliamentarians to efficiently oversee delegated legislation.

Under Bill C-205, the disallowance procedure will now apply to all statutory instruments, which seems to me to be very important, given that it is currently limited to regulations made by the governor in council or by a minister of the Crown.

Many regulatory organizations, such as the CRTC or the Canadian Transportation Agency, escape our purview. If we want to extend the control we have over delegated legislation to all statutory instruments, it is imperative that it be provided for in an act, in addition to the Standing Orders of the House; all the more reason to pass this bill.

Many have been hesitant to have such organizations come under the control of Parliament, because of potential interference in organizations which are operating at arm's length to some extent. I do not think that it will prevent them from managing their affairs appropriately and in accordance with their mandates. On the contrary, I think that these organizations should be accountable, since they are publicly funded.

Our committee already reviews the bylaws of these organizations. It would therefore only make sense that we could repeal them. However, these organizations must not forget that they have regulatory power only because it was delegated to them by Parliament. We must never lose sight of the fact that the function of Parliament is to ensure the proper use of public funds and to legislate. It is normal, indeed essential, that Parliament have the right to oversee the use made of this delegated power and hold these organizations to account.

We vote on bills in the House, but we delegate the responsibility for regulating several aspects of these bills. These are aspects that can have a major impact on our constituents. Regulations can mean life or death for projects, individual rights or the economic survival of businesses.

When we consider the fact that the lion's share of the law that governs our society is contained in regulations, and not in the acts themselves, it becomes critical to ensure that regulatory power, this delegated power, is exercised in accordance with the purposes for which it was delegated and that the intent of the legislator has indeed been respected.

One specific aspect of this bill that caught my attention is the fact that after having voted in support of a resolution in the House, the text will be repealed within 30 days, whereas under existing procedure, it is simply an order of the House calling on the government to repeal the text in question.

The problem is that the government has discretionary power to decide when it will repeal a regulation and also to decide whether or not it will repeal it. There is no legal way of punishing the government for violating an order of the House.

Another aspect that also deserves our attention is the fact that prior to using a disallowance procedure, there are all kinds of exchanges, letters and even promises made by the government before it amends the regulation in question.

Years can go by from the moment a regulation is deemed to contradict the spirit of the legislation and the time the government finally decides to amend it.

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations, which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage referred to during a previous debate, is a good example to illustrate that the government is not always quick to respond.

When the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations tabled a report recommending that certain articles of the regulations be repealed, more than seven full years had gone by from the time of the initial discussions with the government on the matter. That means that during this time, the government or the department or the organization continues to enforce the regulation illegally, which is an abuse of power. That is extremely dangerous in terms of democracy.

I believe that respect for our democratic institutions is extremely important. As it happens, I had the honour of being a guest speaker at the seminar on Parliament in the 21st century. I have also taken part in other events and published articles on democratic institutions and the importance of making changes that contribute to increasing the public's confidence in and satisfaction with their representatives.

One aspect that seems very serious and may have negative consequences for our democracy is the excessive concentration of power in the hands of executives. For instance, the governor in council and cabinet ministers have been given impressive regulatory power. But they hold this power directly from Parliament itself, and because of this, they must be accountable for the way they exercise this power. If the executive exercises its powers without respecting the spirit and the letter of enabling legislation, Parliament should have a legal means of intervening, and that is precisely the purpose of the bill before us.

Our system and our rules must be flexible enough to permit members to play their role to the fullest and to preserve in this place the rights and freedoms of those we represent. My fundamental belief is that members should have much more power within Parliament.

That brings us back to the very essence of our role as parliamentarians. We must never lose sight of our prerogatives, especially that of creating legislation. Of course, this is a complex task, and the very technical aspects of regulations and many other considerations make it necessary for us to delegate some of this power. But make no mistake, the supremacy of Parliament remains, as does our duty as parliamentarians to ensure it is respected.

Based on this principle, I fail to see why anyone would deprive us of the fundamental right to maintain control over this delegated legislation. No doubt Bill C-205 will be one step closer to the preservation of our parliamentary supremacy. The more democratic this control, the healthier our democracy will be.

We are pleased to give our support to Bill C-205.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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PC

Elsie Wayne

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Elsie Wayne (Saint John, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to express my support for Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act.

The bill introduced by the member for Surrey Central would provide a statutory basis for the current disallowance procedure and extend the application of that procedure to regulations made by persons or bodies other than the governor in council or ministers of the crown.

Bill C-205 is in keeping with a long-standing all party consensus of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations for the reform of the current disallowance procedure.

I would like to take a few minutes to deal with one particular feature of the bill. I refer to proposed subsection 19.1(10), which provides that a disallowed regulation is deemed to be repealed at the expiration of 30 days following the day on which the disallowance of the regulation was adopted by the House. It has been argued that this provision would create a situation in which the government would be deprived of the flexibility it needs to consider the implications of a disallowance ordered by the House.

A comparison between the procedure proposed in Bill C-205 and statutory disallowance procedures in other jurisdictions or with negative resolution procedures in existing federal statutes will show that the suspension of the effect of a disallowance for a full 30 days that is proposed in Bill C-205 is unique. In most other jurisdictions, as well as in federal statutes, a regulation is repealed immediately upon disallowance.

In light of these various precedents, including federal precedents, I would argue that in suspending the effect of a disallowance resolution for 30 days, Bill C-205 would provide for far greater flexibility than any other similar procedure. It is precisely in order to preserve the ability of the government to establish an appropriate alternative temporary regime where one is needed that Bill C-205 delays the effective date of revocation by 30 days. That provision strikes an appropriate balance between the need to have a disallowance procedure and the need to give a regulation making authority sufficient time to formulate an alternative course of action.

It is also of interest to note that the usual notice and comment period for proposed regulations following pre-publication in part 1 of the Canada Gazette is 30 days. If the government considers this a sufficient period of time for citizens to assess and comment on a proposed regulatory initiative often involving many pages of regulations, one wonders why a similar period, which is in addition to the minimum of three weeks provided before a resolution becomes an order of the House, would not be sufficient for civil servants to assess and react appropriately to the disallowance of a statutory instrument. Are members expected to believe that our public service is incapable of dealing with a proposed revocation within a period of 51 days while it is perfectly possible for their Australian or Quebec counterparts to do so within 21 days?

In her intervention, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage emphasized the argument that a statutory disallowance procedure would deprive the government of the flexibility needed to gauge the impact of revocation. Revocation might create a legal vacuum, it was said, and the government could find itself hard pressed to determine the alternative legal measures required to fill the legal vacuum.

Interestingly, the parliamentary secretary chose to illustrate her argument by referring to the disallowance of section 58 of the “Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations” by the House on October 3, 2001. That particular case provides an excellent example of the approach taken by the joint committee with regard to disallowance.

First I would note that the disallowance of section 58 of the fresh fruit and vegetable regulations did not create a legal vacuum, and this was no accident. In electing to disallow section 58, which provided for cancellation of a registration, the joint committee deliberately left section 57 in place, knowing that this section would allow the suspension of any registration where an establishment was found to have contravened the applicable regulations.

The standing joint committee was very careful to propose the disallowance in such a way that the repeal of section 58 would not impair in any way the enforcement capability of those administering the regulations.

The government took a full eight months to comply with the disallowance order of the House, a delay that many would say is not acceptable. The decision to proceed with the amendment of other regulations at the same time as it complied with the disallowance of the House was a decision the government made. It was neither required nor inevitable.

Effective parliamentary scrutiny requires effective parliamentary control. At present there exists a gap between the two, and Bill C-205 is intended to bridge that gap by ensuring that all regulations are subject to oversight by the House of Commons. This can only be achieved by the means of legislation and this is what Bill C-205 is about.

There has been much talk lately of a democratic deficit. Full parliamentary control of delegated legislation, with such exceptions as are warranted, would significantly reduce that deficit. It is simply an anomaly for the House of Commons to have the authority to disallow a regulation important enough to be made by the governor in council or a minister, but to lack any authority with regard to a regulation made by secondary delegates such as the Canadian Transportation Agency or the CRTC. When they exercise regulation making powers, those entities are exercising a power that was given to them by the House and the House has a right to control the exercise of that power in appropriate circumstances.

I want to congratulate the hon. member for Surrey Central on Bill C-205 and I want to state that we support the bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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LIB

Paul MacKlin

Liberal

Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill today, which relates to the important responsibilities that parliamentarians have to oversee the exercise of the delegated law-making powers.

For the past 30 years these responsibilities have in large part been discharged by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. It has performed an invaluable service to the House and to the Canadian public in its review of statutory instruments made under acts of Parliament.

The committee examines thousands of statutory instruments each year and carefully notes any concerns they raise in terms of the committee's review criteria. These criteria focus on legal concerns rooted in the rule of law and the Canadian Constitution, particularly the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The committee carefully and diligently pursues its concerns and deals with the concerns of the authorities entrusted with that power to make regulations and other statutory instruments.

One of the ways of ensuring that its concerns are addressed is through the disallowance procedure in chapter XIV of the standing orders of the House. These procedures have worked well. The government has complied with all eight of the disallowance resolutions adopted by the House.

I fully support the principles of parliamentary scrutiny of regulations underlying Bill C-205, as well as the need to recognize the disallowance procedures in law.

However, as I noted during the last session in the debate on Bill C-202, it gives rise to a number of concerns. These concerns have to do with how disallowed regulations are to be revoked, particularly the timeframe for revocation and the challenges it might pose for the making of replacement regulations to fill gaps that may be left by this revocation. I also noted concerns about ensuring proper public notice of revocation and extending the disallowance procedures to statutory instruments made by non-ministerial bodies.

Finally, I drew the attention of the House to the absence of a role for the other place in the disallowance resolution.

Today we have before us a proposal to substitute another bill for Bill C-205. I am pleased to say that the new bill addresses the concerns that I previously mentioned.

I would like to point out that the government is committed to ensuring that parliamentarians have an effective role in overseeing the exercise of delegated legislative powers. Not only has it implemented the eight resolutions under the existing disallowance procedures in the standing orders, the government recently amended the cabinet directive on law making, which is available on the website of the Privy Council Office.

The amendment addresses the treatment of concerns raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. It establishes a series of requirements for government departments, which is extraordinarily important in the process of governance.

They are to have one or more designated persons to whom the standing joint committee may address its inquiries. All inquiries are to be coordinated by a departmental tracking office to facilitate timely responses to all correspondence from the committee. Each department is to establish appropriate timelines for responding to inquiries. If a time line cannot be met, the committee is to be advised of the need for an extension. If an inquiry involves a legal issue, the department's legal services unit is to be consulted. Each deputy minister is to receive a status report from their departmental tracking office on a regular basis. A copy of the status report is to be provided to the minister's office.

I believe that these procedures will go some distance toward improving the government's accountability to Parliament on regulation making.

These steps that have been taken clearly demonstrate the government's commitment to the principles underlying the parliamentary scrutiny of regulations. It is extraordinarily important and I urge the adoption of the bill.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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CA

Gurmant Grewal

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Surrey Central, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to conclude the debate on Bill C-205, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act, or the disallowance procedure for statutory instruments.

Before I begin the debate I would like to take this opportunity to thank members from all five parties in the House who have contributed to the debate, particularly those members who have signed the supporting letter in support of the bill.

I would also like to extend my appreciation to the co-chair, the vice-chair, the general counsel and the very hard working staff of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

I would also like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice for his hard work and cooperation on this issue.

Regulations play a significant role in our lives, whether good or bad. Every day everyone is affected by statutory instruments, commonly called regulations.

As many of my colleagues already know, disallowance is one of the traditional means at the disposal of the legislature to control the making of delegated legislation by giving legislators an opportunity to reject a subordinate law made by a delegate of Parliament.

Variants of the disallowance procedure have been in existence in other Commonwealth jurisdictions for many years. The bill is intended to provide a legislative framework for a similar procedure at the federal level.

The bill would provide a legislative basis for the procedure that is currently set out in our standing orders and would extend the application of that procedure to regulations made by agencies or bodies other than the governor in council or ministers of the crown.

I might add that Bill C-205 is consistent with the recommendations made by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, which I co-chair, and many others, for the reform of the current disallowance procedure.

The Parliament of Canada is the source of all legislative authority that is delegated, not only to the governor in council and ministers, but also to various other regulation-making authorities, such as the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency. When they exercise that delegated authority to make regulations, those entities are exercising a power that finds its source in the House of Commons and in Parliament. Parliament therefore has not only a right but a responsibility to control the exercise of those powers.

For well over 30 years now, regulations made pursuant to the enactments of Parliament have been subject to parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. The members and the staff of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations have painstakingly reviewed thousands of federal regulations.

However effective parliamentary scrutiny must be accompanied by effective parliamentary control. This was not always the case.

The gap was partly addressed in 1986 when the government of the day agreed to be bound by standing orders providing for a disallowance procedure. However, because of the non-legislative nature of our standing orders, the current procedure could only deal with a portion of the regulations subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

When the current procedure was first implemented, it was stated to be an experiment, and with its success leading to a statutory disallowance procedure. The experiment has been a success and this success justifies us in extending the scope of the disallowance procedure in order that parliamentary control coincides fully with parliamentary scrutiny. This can only be achieved by means of legislation, and this is what Bill C-205 is about.

The procedure set out in the bill has been endorsed by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. I am proud to recognize that Bill C-205 is really a work of the collective efforts of members of all parties in the House, particularly those who now sit on the scrutiny committee.

More than three decades after the enactment of the Statutory Instruments Act, I believe the time has come for the Parliament of Canada to give itself the means to ensure full democratic control of federal delegated legislation. If passed, the legislation will be a major historic milestone in restoring accountability and in democratic and parliamentary reforms.

By placing the current disallowance procedure on a statutory footing it will make it possible to close the gap between parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary control. It will also ensure that the procedure is legally effective.

This legislative proposal has been carefully designed to allow parliamentarians to exercise their responsibility for the effective oversight of regulations, while providing the flexibility required by regulation-makers to respond appropriately to a disallowance.

I am happy to say that the concerns raised by some members earlier did not go to the principle of the bill but focused on some perceived practical difficulties with the bill as it stands now. These comments have been very useful, and I am pleased to report that the members of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations have had discussions as to how the bill might be improved. A consensus was reached among all members on proposals for amendments that will address the issues that were raised.

As I have always said, this is a non-partisan issue. It is the responsibility of all members of the House to make sure parliamentary control over delegated legislation always applies.

Should the House agree to send the bill to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights I can assure the members that it is my intention to propose those amendments in order to address the concerns raised.

Bill C-205 is intended to ensure that parliamentarians are in a position to exercise their responsibility for the effective oversight of the exercise of the legislative powers they entrust to various delegates.

I will conclude with two main issues. First, the disallowance procedure has to be on a statutory footing, which the bill would accomplish. Second, the delegated authority to make regulations has been applied to the issuing of statutory instruments by governor in council, ministers, agencies and boards, but that Parliament's scrutiny only be applied to the regulations or statutory instruments made by the governor in council and ministers and not those made by the various agencies and boards. Knowing that 80% of the laws in this country are made by regulations or statutory instruments, it is very important that Parliament have the authority to scrutinize and review the regulations made by all agencies and boards.

Therefore, with the adoption of the bill, 100% of the federal regulations will be coming under the scrutiny of Parliament. I urge all the members to vote to send the bill to committee. I thank members in advance for their support on this important initiative.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
Permalink
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Some hon. members

Question.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
Permalink
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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NDP

Wendy Lill

New Democratic Party

Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity tonight to ask the government side about an important issue which I raised a couple of weeks ago in the House. This is the issue around a CPP disability case for a Regina man named Mr. Foster. I want to raise it again in hopes of coming to some sort of understanding of the government's actions in this case.

Basically, here it is. Mr. Foster is a 60 year old man from Regina who has been unable to work since having two strokes in the late nineties. After four years of denied applications, appeals, poverty and illness, Mr. Foster finally was advised that the review tribunal had accepted his appeal, yet incredibly he has been told by her department that it will overturn the appeal.

Mr. Foster worked for 32 years as a caretaker of an apartment building before suffering his strokes, and he contributed to CPP throughout that time. He first applied to CPP disability in 1999 but was rejected, saying that he could still do light work. His next appeal in March 2001 was denied, citing lack of new evidence. Mr. Foster then tried to get a neurological assessment but it would cost $1,000, which he could ill afford.

At this point, Mr. Foster already was quite discouraged. He started the process in 1999 and about two years later he was not much further ahead. His wife had severe diabetes and they were living off her disability income, which was not enough. In 2000 they were forced to declare bankruptcy. His adviser was worried because Mr. Foster's mental capacity was starting to deteriorate.

Finally, after a cognitive screening by an occupational therapist, which essentially stated he was unemployable, Mr. Foster's appeal was accepted on February 10, 2003. After almost four long years, Mr. Foster finally got what he deserved in the first place, namely his CPP disability, except that Mr. Foster was advised recently that the minister would try to overturn his successful appeal with no explanation. It is the explanation that I am hoping to garner today.

Perhaps the details of this case seem tedious but I outlined them to show the lengthy and unnecessary process which persons with disabilities are forced to go through. I wish I could say that this case is unique, an anomaly, but that is just not true. The one uniqueness of Mr. Foster's case is that he persevered in his appeals for four years, thanks to the support and persistence of his adviser and his family. Most applicants do not have the strength to go that far, but it should not be so difficult to obtain this support in the first place.

Will the minister explain to me how it is that her department has come to the conclusion that Mr. Foster does not deserve the support of the CPP program, a program into which he has paid throughout his working life in the sincere hope that he would never have to access it? Why on earth is the department denying this man what is rightfully his and to what he is entitled?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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LIB

Diane St-Jacques

Liberal

Ms. Diane St-Jacques (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Dartmouth will understand that, for reasons related to privacy, I cannot comment on this individual's case. However, I can confirm that, last year, less than 2% of applications for leave to appeal to the Pension Appeals Board were made on the minister's behalf.

The Canada pension plan disability benefit represents an extremely important part of Canada's social safety net, and it provides handicapped Canadians who are unable to work with income support until they are entitled to their retirement pension.

Each year, we pay benefits totalling $2.8 billion to 280,000 persons, as well as to 90,000 of their children. We know that severely handicapped Canadians face challenges. Our goal is to provide disability benefits to each eligible individual who applies. Only those applications from individuals who do not meet the eligibility requirements set out in the Canada pension plan are turned down.

The Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities has undertaken an in-depth review of the Canada Pension Plan Disability Program. I want to thank the subcommittee for this work and for its broad consultation with Canadians, because the government is looking forward to studying this report as well as the suggestions and recommendations it contains.

As the program's administrators, it is absolutely imperative that we make sure that decisions are founded in law. Only when a serious error in law has been made do we seek the authorization to appeal a decision made by a review tribunal in favour of a client.

In addition, the determination of eligibility for CPP disability benefits is a complex process requiring the careful assessment of many factors. To ensure that their decisions are fair to the client, the CPP staff often has to request additional medical information, which may further delay the processing of applications.

To encourage those eligible to apply, we must enhance the understanding the public has of the Canada Pension Plan Disability Program. In recent years, the approval rate of initial applications for disability benefits has increased. In 2001-02, we approved 38% of all initial applications, compared to 32% in 1999-2000.

We will continue to ensure that all clients who meet the program's eligibility criteria are treated equitably and receive the benefits they are entitled to.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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NDP

Wendy Lill

New Democratic Party

Ms. Wendy Lill

Mr. Speaker, I understand the confidentiality of a particular case but I want to make the point again that this man, Mr. Foster, spent four years in a very vulnerable, very ill condition of disability, trying to work his way through the system. At the end of that period, he won a review tribunal appeal. At that point, it seems to me that it is up to the government to respect the decision of the tribunal and to give this person, who is in a very vulnerable state, the assistance that he needs.

If we cannot be there for people who are severely disabled, then this program is a sham. It is not working. Clearly we need to ensure that it is working for Canadians. It is not working now. I hope that message is being sent loud and clear.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
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LIB

Diane St-Jacques

Liberal

Ms. Diane St-Jacques

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, to urge eligible people to submit an application, we have to do better to make the public understand what the CPP Disability Program is.

Allow me to explain what we are doing to help the public. We are working with private insurers and doctors, who direct their clients to the Canada pension plan, in order to give them specific information on eligibility requirements.

We are also sending, to more than 26,000 general practitioners, guides that outline the medical conditions required for disability benefits. We also phone applicants to explain our decision in their case before we send them a letter.

Again, we are going to continue to ensure that all our clients who meet eligibility criteria are treated fairly so that they may receive the benefits they are entitled to.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:23 p.m.)

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Statutory Instruments Act
Permalink

June 4, 2003