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 I refer to proposed subsection 19.1(10), which provides that a disallowed regulation is deemed to be repealed at the expiration of 30 days following the day on which the disallowance of the regulation was adopted by the House.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 In most other jurisdictions, as well as in federal statutes, a regulation is repealed immediately upon disallowance.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.
Subtopic: Statutory Instruments Act