REGS Committee Meeting
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Proceedings of the Standing Joint Committee on
Scrutiny of Regulations
Issue 6 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Thursday, May 18, 2000
The Standing Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons for the Scrutiny of Regulations met this day at 8:47 a.m. for the review of statutory instruments.
Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette and Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Joint Chairmen) in the Chair.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): The first item on our agenda is SOR/99-26.
SOR/99-26 -- REGULATIONS AMENDING THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE REGULATIONS, 1988
Mr. François-R. Bernier, General Counsel to the Committee: Mr. Chairman, members have received the original of the Solicitor General's reply, and the translation of that letter has now been made available to members.
In his reply, the Solicitor General states he expects the new regulations governing political activities of RCMP members to be formally enacted in late June, which I think substantially meets the time frame the committee put to the Solicitor General.
Members have a copy of the pre-published version of the regulation, subject to a later comment, that the pre-published regulation conforms in all material respects to the drafting instructions that the committee has already approved as being satisfactory.
The adoption of the proposed regulation will resolve what has been a very significant file for this committee. I thought it would be worthwhile to have the committee file brought here this morning so members can get an idea of the amount of work that has gone into this issue. This is the file in front of me.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): How many years are encompassed by that file?
Mr. Bernier: Not many years, but the issues are complex because we are dealing with Charter issues. The file actually goes to 1987, which is not long for this committee.
The lion's share of the work that was done here was done by my colleague Peter Bernhardt, who I think has done a super job on this file.
The only reservation with the proposed draft concerns a slight divergence between the French and English versions of section 57. The English version prohibits a member from stating that his opinions are made on behalf of the force.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): Just for reference, to what page are you referring?
Mr. Bernier: Section 57 is on page 1428, Mr. Chairman, of the draft pre-published regulation.
As I was saying, the English version prohibits the member from stating that his opinions are made on behalf of the force, whereas the French version also prohibits him from stating that his opinions are those or also those of the force.
In a case where the force has adopted a position on a particular issue, the French version prohibits the member from stating that he has the same opinion as the force on that issue. This is not what was intended. The French version requires correction, and this has been drawn to the attention of the department.
I am told the required adjustment can be made without delaying the enactment of the proposed amendment at the end of the notice and comment period of 30 days, which expires June 5. All that will apparently remain now will be the formal enactment of the new regulation in late June.
One for the Christians, zero for the lions.
Senator Finestone: It is quite exciting to see this. I can remember that on the overview proceedings on section 15 of the Charter, the RCMP was very difficult to deal with. They show an openness of spirit here, which I am very pleased to note.
Mr. Saada: For the record, I should like to pay tribute to our counsel and the counsel of the Solicitor General, as well as to Mr. Derek Lee for this achievement. I think this is a great achievement.
At a previous meeting, Mr. Wappel proposed to send a letter once things were resolved. I think they seem to be resolved. We ought to consider sending to the Solicitor General the letter to which Mr. Wappel referred.
Mr. Bernier: In the same vein, perhaps the committee could not only express its gratefulness to the Solicitor General but could toot its own horn. Given that the committee has already made a report to the House on these regulations, perhaps it could make a further report thanking the government and informing the House and the Senate that the matter has been resolved in a highly satisfactory fashion due to the existence of this committee.
Mr. Saada: That would be good.
Senator Finestone: Could the letter to the Solicitor General name the two hard-working legal counsel who enabled this to happen? I think it is very important to name the people involved. Is that not good?
Mr. Bernier: I think credit goes to the committee, formally. I appreciate the thought.
Mr. Saada: Mr. Chairman, I recognize the humility of my colleague, but it is important to mention specifically the efforts of our counsel.
As you know, my term as parliamentary secretary is coming to an end in a few weeks' time. I had expressed to the committee the fervent wish that this matter be resolved by then.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): In my view, it will be in the minutes and on the record that the work done by different players in the whole game is well recognized. We are pleased that the issue has been resolved satisfactorily, and it is well recognized that counsel have done tremendous work. Their persistence and hard work has produced these results, and everyone appreciates it. As chair of this committee, I particularly appreciate the work done.
Mr. Saada: Mr. Chairman, I have mentioned Mr. Lee's work, so I know it is already on the record. However, if there is any formalization of this recognition and of the people who contributed, I would very much appreciate that Mr. Lee be recognized specifically because he has been instrumental.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): That is true.
We often do not report to the House when other work is done. While this report is unique, in my view, no report is required to be tabled in the House on this issue. Once an issue is resolved, it is resolved. It is the job of the committee to resolve these issues. When the work is well done, we are appreciative.
Senator Finestone: As a point of information, on most other committees that I have ever participated, at least in the Senate, reports are tabled as they go along. If you resolve something, you table a report. Do we not normally do that on this committee? Is that what I hear you saying?
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): We have so many issues. To my knowledge, and counsel can correct me, we do not tabled a report in the House for every single issue that has been resolved.
Mr. Bernier: Certainly, we have not tabled reports as a matter of course, though the committee has done so in the past.
The only reason I made the suggestion is that at times -- and I think we have had a demonstration of that in connection with the budget, if I may slip that in -- we realize that there is, perhaps among parliamentarians, a lack of understanding of what this committee does.
This is a highly significant issue in that it deals with the Charter of Rights and affects around 2,000 members of the RCMP. I thought it presented a good opportunity to provide an example to parliamentarians of the work of this committee and the reasons for its existence. That was my focus, as opposed to recognizing counsel.
Senator Finestone: It is great educational material.
Mr. Saada: Mr. Chairman, am I correct to understand that the report on this issue was already tabled in the House?
Mr. Bernier: A report was made on the first regulation, the 1988 version.
Mr. Saada: Since we have the precedent of one report, and if there is nothing else in the same format, for the record, there seems to be an imbalance. If there was a report in 1988 on this matter and now it is resolved, it deserves the same treatment. Am I making sense?
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): I appreciate your point and I have no problem in tabling a report. My point is that when we have resolved other issues like this, we have not tabled reports.
Senator Finestone: What have we resolved since I have been here? What have we settled since this Parliament was convened?
Mr. Bernier: We have the run-of-the-mill files that are under the heading "Action Taken" on every committee agenda. I do not have them all in mind, but a number of amendments have been made.
Obviously, Charter issues do not arise on a daily basis. This file was also unique in regard to the extensive involvement of the committee in reaching a solution, which is not usual for this committee. Usually, a proposal is made and is either accepted or rejected. In this case, there was active involvement by a number of committee members in achieving this result, and I think the solution is an excellent one.
Ms Venne: With respect to the RCMP regulations, I think we should report back to the House that the committee has finally worked out a solution.
I have to wonder why you do not agree with me, although I can understand your reluctance to some extent. We do not report back regularly because the committee has a responsibility to resolve problems on its own. However, when we manage to resolve an issue such as this one, I think it is a good idea to bring this to the House's attention so that parliamentarians know what the committee is doing.
Few people, in fact, are aware of what the committee does. I believe Senator Grimard wrote an article on the subject, stating that the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee was the least popular committee. In some respects, he was right. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea to blow our own horn a little.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): I take your point. First, it is important that this matter was resolved. Second, this issue was created by the Department of the Solicitor General. We had to do so much work to achieve the objective. Should we congratulate the government now that it has resolved this issue? They are the ones who created this problem. We had to stonewall them and get the work done. The credit goes to the committee, in my view, not to the government. To congratulate the government is not appropriate. We should congratulate the committee for the good job, and our counsel, who have done an excellent job, as well as Mr. Lee.
Senator Finestone: That is how we write the report.
Mr. Bernier: I think one can acknowledge, with moderation, the contribution of the government and acknowledge, with less moderation, the role of the committee.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): It is odd that we would congratulate the government because they created the problem. They do not deserve congratulations, as far as I am concerned.
Mr. Bernier: I think the drafting can resolve that problem.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): If you can keep that in mind, then I do not have any problem.
Senator Finestone: I would like to second the motion of Madam Venne to ensure that the report is written in the right light.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): We need to let them know that we are doing a good job.
All those in favour of the motion, please raise your hands.
All those opposed to the motion, please raise your hands.
Mr. Saada: Mr. Chair, perhaps I could make a suggestion. For my personal convenience, very selfishly, I have another committee meeting to attend. I am working two shifts at the same time. Would it be possible to take just a few seconds to report on the commitment I made to this committee one month ago on the disallowance issue?
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): Sure.
Mr. Saada: Briefly, this committee has the power to disallow regulations from anyone sitting in the House, which creates a problem because we cannot disallow regulations taken by organizations which are outside the House, such as the CRTC. You asked me to speak to the minister in this regard. The wish of the committee, I understand, was to examine visibility or push for it.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): To the Justice Minister?
Mr. Saada: Yes, I spoke to the Justice Minister as to how we can legislate in this regard to ensure that this committee would have a disallowance power on regulations made by this non-direct government organization, but arm's length organizations.
I have discussed the issue with the minister. I have nothing firm to report at this point, but things are moving. Reflection on this matter is proceeding, and I am looking forward to a potential resolution of this issue in the near future.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): Okay.
Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, I believe as a first step that the committee wanted to see if there was a opportunity for it to meet informally with the minister to talk about this matter. Is there any sense that the minister might be open to do so?
Mr. Saada: At this stage, the minister would like to be aware of the avenues. That is not what she told me, but it is my understanding. She wants to look at the situation, the implications, and so on. After that, I think there would be no problem scheduling a meeting with her.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): Did we ask the minister to come before the committee on this subject?
Mr. Bernier: No, I believe Mr. Saada was to approach the minister. The idea was to have an informal meeting and simply exchange views.
I am aware that our discussions are being recorded this morning. I think the idea of an informal meeting with the minister fairly soon was to have the minister come and meet committee members with an open mind. I am always a little concerned when the minister says, "Wait until I am briefed." The people who will brief her are her own civil servants. If they are opposed to something, they go in, and by the time you get to meet the minister, the minister has a position.
Mr. Saada: For the record, I should like to ensure that I was understood properly. The minister has not told me that she wanted to be briefed prior to appearing before the committee. That is not exactly what I said. I want to ensure that we are on the same wavelength.
Senator Finestone: Did we register any kind of an objection beyond asking Mr. Saada to speak with the minister? Did we have an objection to sending the minister a formal letter asking her if she would be good enough to appear before us? Have we ever done that? If not, why not?
Mr. Bernier: We sent a letter, senator, asking for an informal meeting and indicating that the committee would appreciate her appearance.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): What Senator Finestone is looking for, I think, is to have, instead of the informal meeting, a formal invitation for the minister to appear before the committee.
Mr. Bernier: We have done so, Mr. Chairman. That is what I was just indicating.
Senator Finestone: May I know when we sent that invitation and what the time delay was in her answer, if we did get an answer?
Mr. Bernier: That letter was sent December 20, 1999. Mr. Saada was essentially working on the follow-up of that letter.
Senator Finestone: Which we all appreciate and we thank him very much.
Would it not be timely for one of the joint chairs to make a phone call to the minister's assistant to try and set up a meeting? She has now been informed. She has had some informal advice. We could move to the next step with just a phone call from either one of the chairs asking for her to find some time for us.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): I can do that.
Senator Finestone: We have not had a response. We are talking about a five-month delay in a response to a formal letter. I think that is long enough, if not too long, to expect an answer.
Mr. Bernier: The inclination of the committee, then, is that the joint chair write a follow-up letter to the letter of December 20, 1999.
Senator Finestone: In case it got lost.
Mr. Saada: For the record, I have not mentioned to her the letter we sent in December, which went unanswered. I did not want to give the impression that she was aware of it and did not act on it. I have not talked to her about that.
Mr. Bernier: It did arrive, I suppose, in the minister's office on December 23, which is never the best time of the year for correspondence to arrive in an office.
Senator Finestone: I think this minister is very conscientious. This is not her fault. The letter could have fallen between the cracks somewhere.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): Since Mr. Saada has informed us about his discussion with the minister, I can make a phone call today or tomorrow. Then, if need be, we can send a follow-up letter. Would that be appropriate?
Hon. Members: Agreed.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): The next items on the agenda fall under the heading "Letters to and from Ministers."
SOR/94-439 -- NATIONAL PARKS CAMPING REGULATIONS, AMENDMENT
SOR/94-512 -- NATIONAL PARKS GENERAL REGULATIONS, AMENDMENT
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6A:1)
Mr. Bernier: The issue in this case is whether the government has authority to set fees for the use of national parks otherwise than by means of a regulation made under regulation 7(1)(f) of the National Parks Act.
I should point out that although the new Parks Canada Agency Act now gives the required authority for the setting of fees otherwise than through the regulation, the validity of the fees previously imposed since 1994 remains an issue and remedial legislation may be required to validate those fees.
The problem centres on the effect to be given to section 4 of the National Parks Act, which provides as follows:
4. The National Parks of Canada are hereby dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment, subject to this Act and the regulations....
The committee has taken the position that in enacting this clause, Parliament conferred a right of access to our national parks to all residents of Canada and has also enacted that this right can only be curtailed or limited by the act or by regulations made under the act. That is the effect of the words "subject to this Act and the regulations."
To the extent that the imposition of fees amounts to a restriction of rights to use parks, it was the committee's position that the phrase "subject to this Act and the regulations" means that fees could only be imposed by way of regulations made under section 7 of the act and not on the basis of purported contractual powers of the Crown at common law.
The department sought to dismiss section 4 as a general purpose clause and stated that it "should not be interpreted as a substantive legislative pronouncement." That assertion is dealt with in the chairmen's letter of October 8, 1998. As stated therein, the position is questionable from a legal point of view.
I think it is significant that in the minister's reply, although she continues to assert that the setting of fees by regulation was legal, she does not come back to that position and seek to dispute the chairmen's analysis of its weaknesses.
As I just said, in her own letter, the minister contents herself with stating that the government acted legally. Attached to her letter we have a document that sets out some of the legislative history of the National Parks Act. The letter purports to establish that because fees had previously been established otherwise than by regulation, the phrase "subject to this Act and the regulations" must not include the setting of fees administratively.
First, it could very well be the case that the setting of fees outside of regulations that was done previously in the twenties and the thirties was itself illegal. If it was, illegal practice certainly cannot be invoked as involving some sort of precedent.
Second, the persons who prepared the note for the minister appear to have been a little confused on some basic concepts. It is said that after a regulation was made authorizing the minister to fix certain motor vehicle fees, those fees were set "outside the regulations." Well, those fees were not set outside the regulations; they were set pursuant to the regulations that stated that the minister may fix fees. That is not the same thing as fixing fees in the exercise of a common law, contractual power. You are still acting pursuant to statutory powers.
The essential flaw in the argument that is presented is that the note seeks to ascertain the meaning of statutory language, namely, "subject to this Act and the regulations" and the meaning of section 4 of the National Parks Act, by reference to administrative practices of the time, without first determining whether those very administrative practices were legal. That is somewhat akin to asking the question of whether stealing is legal and then referring to a series of successful bank robberies to conclude that it is.
Mr. Chairman, I suggest that the matter be pursued with the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Senator Finestone: That is fascinating.
Mr. Bernier: It is also interesting that the dedication clause that appeared in the National Parks Act disappeared from the Parks Canada Agency Act.
Senator Finestone: Did the House of Commons ever pick up on the fact that it had disappeared?
Ms Venne: Perhaps you should keep trying to convince them, but they seem to have taken a rather firm position on the matter. I do not see how you will be able to sway them. Perhaps you could tell them that legislators are not just saying this, although they do not seem to believe what we are telling them. Have you additional arguments that you could put to them?
Mr. Bernier: We have raised a number of arguments and it would appear that some issues have been settled. We plan to let them know in what way their arguments are misconstrued. Consider the example I gave. I believe the regulations were amended either in 1928 or 1930. Pursuant to these regulations, the minister may fix fees by a process outside the regulatory regime. Yet, these fees were fixed within a regulatory regime since the authority to do so came from the regulations. It is not like saying that as the owner of land held under a common law contract, I can impose or collect fees from you. The fees established in 1930 pursuant to a clause authorizing the minister to fix such fees were set on a statutory and legislative basis. The history provided of the fee-setting process is somewhat inaccurate. We will explain matters to them further and see what transpires then.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): I think there is consensus that we follow up with the Minister of Canadian Heritage. The matter will be pursued.
The next item is SOR/98-258 -- REGULATIONS AMENDING THE CANADA PENSION PLAN REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6B:1)
Mr. Bernier: In this case, while he maintains his previous position, the deputy minister agrees to recommend the making of a legislative amendment that would authorize the making of a regulation conferring a statutory right of recovery to a deemed employer against the actual employer for contributions paid by the deemed employer to a pension plan with respect to pension plan contributions paid by the deemed employer. That seems satisfactory. Perhaps an inquiry should be made as to when such an amendment might be made.
In the same spirit of cooperation, I wonder if Mr. Wright would be prepared to have the regulation in question re-enacted under the new legislation so as to put its validity beyond question.
Senator Finestone: Is that not something that can be done in amendment to the regulations that you table in the Gazette?
Mr. Bernier: In this case, there is a lack of enabling authority. In our view, Parliament did not authorize this regulation, which confers a right of recovery. The legislation will be amended to expressly allow such a regulation to be made, although the department maintains its position that what it has done is legal.
At law, the validity of any regulation must be assessed by reference to the enabling statute as it read at the time the regulation was made. If you have, for example, a statute that says "You may make regulations respecting the sales of apples" and two years later a regulation is made respecting the sale of oranges, you immediately say "No, you were not authorized to make that regulation." It is an illegal regulation. If another year goes by and Parliament amends the statute, saying "You can now make regulations respecting the sales of apples and oranges," the regulation that was made earlier respecting the sale of oranges does not become valid. In order to assess its validity, you must always go back to what statute was in place on the day it was made. On the day that regulation was made, the statute only referred to regulations on the sale of apples. It remains illegal, even though your statute would now allow you to do so. What you must then do is re-enact the regulation under the new statute and then it is valid.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): The point is that the new statute should be re-enacted.
Mr. Bernier: Not the statute. The regulation should be re-enacted under the new authority.
Senator Finestone: Is there a new statute?
Mr. Bernier: Not yet, but the deputy minister is undertaking to seek an amendment to the statute that would provide the authority.
Senator Finestone: Could the statute that stipulates apples but forgets to say oranges legally be referred to Revenue Canada with a stipulation that money cannot be collected in the interim until the changes are made? It would be similar to a disallowance internally on regulations.
Mr. Bernier: If we were talking about a case where monies were collected from a citizen, the committee has sometimes requested that until something is fixed we do not want you to act on the regulation.
The deputy minister does not accept that his regulation is invalid. He is willing to seek an amendment, let us say for greater certainty, but he maintains his position that this regulation is valid, which is fine. There is nothing this committee can do. We are not a court of justice. If that is the position of the government, then, fine, we do have an amendment. Thus, from our point of view, the matter will be resolved because the statute will be amended.
Senator Finestone: Can a citizen who is being made by law, according to what they are being told, to pay for these things that are outside the law have access to a court for recovery?
Mr. Bernier: In some circumstances, in order to facilitate the administration of a pension plan, certain persons are deemed to be the employer. Let us consider this committee. Even though I am hired by the Library of Parliament, it would be easier to deem the committee to be my employer. Thus, the committee would have to pay the employer's contributions to the plan and then turn toward the Library of Parliament as the actual employer to recover those contributions.
In terms of this regulation, Parliament never gave a statutory right of action to the deemed employer against the actual employer. This regulation seeks to do that. It seeks to confer substantive rights on deemed employers. We have said, "Your authority does not extend that far."
Senator Finestone: Stop there, please. It is a little difficult for me to follow all that.
In using the example, you deemed this committee as an employer. This committee actually is a committee of the Crown. Can you go to the Crown and say that they owe, or this committee does not owe, or this employer does not owe the other employer and recover for this employer?
Mr. Bernier: What might happen is an actual employer, when faced with the request by the deemed employer for the refunding of the contributions, could say "I am not going to pay you."
Senator Finestone: Let us take it into the public sector. With all the convergence and takeovers of big companies, particularly in the telecommunications and broadcast fields, let us assume that today I am employed by Telus and tomorrow I will be employed by Bell Canada. However, Telus has been paying my pension. Telus is not the deemed employer because I am now employed by Bell Canada. I do not know if this is a real case or not, but one company has been charged to pay and the other one is the actual payor in the interim between losing my job because of convergence and getting a new job. My pension has been paid accordingly by the old employer. Is that what is implied?
Mr. Bernier: Employer contributions will always be paid. There is no impact on employees. This matter involves a limited number of circumstances in which certain people are, to facilitate administration, charged with making contributions.
Ms Venne: A person may feel that his or her rights have been violated under the circumstances.
Senator Finestone: That is what I do not understand.
Ms Venne: If a person feels aggrieved, then we cannot object to the minister wanting to resolve the problem in the future.
Mr. Bernier: No, I do not believe so.
The deemed employer is not the person who should have paid those contributions because there is what is called an actual employer out there. All this regulation seeks to do is to give a legal means to the deemed employer to sue, should it be necessary, and to provide a statutory basis for him to make his claim toward the actual employer.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Grewal): I have another committee meeting to attend. That committee is being televised and there is no agreement to substitute for me in that committee.
We were are waiting for Senator Hervieux-Payette to arrive. In the meantime, I will ask Mr. Lee to take the chair.
Mr. Derek Lee (Acting Joint Chairman) in the Chair.
The Acting Joint Chairman (Mr. Lee): The next items on the agenda fall under the rubric "New Instruments."
SI/93-30 -- ORDER DIRECTING THAT CERTAIN DOCUMENTS BE DISCONTINUED
SI/94-34 -- ORDER DIRECTING THAT CERTAIN DOCUMENTS BE DISCONTINUED
SI/99-130 -- ORDER DIRECTING THAT CERTAIN DOCUMENTS BE DISCONTINUED
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6C:1)
Mr. Rousseau: The three referenced orders were made pursuant to section 57 of the Financial Administration Act. This particular provision confers upon the Governor in Council the authority to direct that a document required by law to be laid before Parliament be discontinued if the Governor in Council is of the opinion that the information required by law is contained in the Public Accounts or in the estimates of expenditures tabled to Parliament.
In the correspondence, counsel for the committee referred to three annual reports. In two of the three cases, indications from Treasury Board were that the information requested by law was in fact contained in the Public Accounts or in the estimates of expenditures.
In the case of the annual report required of the Department of Transport, the question is whether the information contained in the estimates is complete. However, the discretionary power enjoyed by the Governor in Council pursuant to the Financial Administration Act is somewhat subjective in nature. The reason may well be that Parliament may have wanted to allow considerable latitude in this instance. In the opinion of counsel, the committee may deem the reply to be, on the whole, satisfactory.
Senator Finestone: Following the three cases we have just been looking at, I get the sense that if we are not terribly vigilant, the executive will overtake all responsibilities, or many of them, accorded to elected legislatures. Is this one of those cases?
Mr. Bernier: I believe that calls for a political comment on my part, Mr. Chairman, and I decline.
Senator Finestone: It does strike me that way, Mr. Chairman. It is not that I think they are wrong in all cases. I believe we need to have amendments and revisions. Perhaps it is because these are the types of cases we deal with as they come across our desks, and that makes me nervous.
The Acting Joint Chairman (Mr. Lee): If counsel is indicating that there is an inarguable ambiguity in the language used, then it is my view as a parliamentarian that it ought to be resolved every single time in favour of providing more information, rather than less information, to Parliament. If there is any ambiguity, it should never be resolved in favour of a departmental interpretation that would in any respect prejudice Parliament's ability to be apprised of what is going on financially. If there is an ambiguity, the department should be asked to resolve it. If they are in doubt as to how they should resolve it, they should check with the parliamentary committee to whom they report. If they are still in doubt, then they can write a letter to all MPs in the House of Commons asking them for their views. That is my suggestion.
Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, as my colleague pointed out, when Parliament gave this power to the Governor in Council to do away with certain reporting requirements to Parliament, it gave the Governor in Council the power in subjective terms. It states, "When it appears to you that the information contained in these documents previously required to be tabled is already contained in the Public Accounts, then you can do away with the tabling requirement."
In the case of the Department of Transport report, a question arose as to whether the information previously found in the department's annual report was in fact included in the Public Accounts or estimates of expenditures. Parliament made it clear that the opinion of the Governor in Council took precedence.
Parliament could have been more objective and clearer in terms of awarding this power, which would have allowed for some control after the fact. In the face of an apparently subjective provision, we can only conclude that the Governor in Council believed the information is already being provided to Parliament. From a legal standpoint, it is rather difficult to argue that there is no basis for this order.
Senator Finestone: Mr. Chairman, I do not think that this matter is not well-founded. Wherever there is a question of doubt -- and I heard what our chairman has just said -- one must be doubly vigilant in an open and democratic society where there is a possible infringement on the rights of parliamentarians, who are the elected representatives of civil society. If the surveillance is not as diligent as this committee has attempted to make it, then, over time, you lose the responsibility and the rights for which you were elected. I am not saying that the Governor in Council must and can do certain things, but the "must" and the "can do" are very different. We must be very careful in that regard.
It would appear that it is in other places and therefore accessible, and that accessibility must be widely understood and available to those elected members who, in the final analysis, are the decision makers. The government can present its points of view and goals, but they must ratified by the decision makers, who are the parliamentarians, the legislators.
The Acting Joint Chairman (Mr. Lee): Perhaps we should continue to lean toward requiring an interpretation that the documents must be in existence -- the information must be in existence -- and that we are disinclined to allow the complete, subjective, control interpretation that the statute apparently appears to provide. When in doubt, Parliament will never shortchange itself.
Mr. Bernier: It did.
Senator Finestone: Transparency is the goal in all government undertakings. The easier the access to the goals and the undertakings of government, the better we are in a democratic society. That is why I would like to see this pursued.
Mr. Bernier: Mr. Chairman, this does concern transportation. I think that the members of the transportation committees in the Senate and the House are the people who have the expertise to make a decision as to whether the information they have in the Public Accounts and the Estimates is, indeed, equivalent to the information they used to get through the annual report of the department. Perhaps a letter could be sent to the chairs of those committees, drawing their attention to this issue and leaving it to them to decide whether they feel the information is now equivalent. If it is not, then they can pursue it with the Prime Minister's Office or the PCO.
The Acting Joint Chairman (Mr. Lee): Colleagues may be aware there is a subcommittee of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee which, at this very time, is reviewing the proposals of Treasury Board on financial reporting to Parliament. If we could have a letter prepared sooner rather than later, then I am sure that letter would be very useful to our colleagues who are working on that issue right now. Coming out of that, we might find a resolution.
Senator Finestone: Does one presuppose the other? Can we not do both? I think it would be a good idea.
Mr. Bernier: One could copy the letter to the transport committee to that committee.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): If I understand correctly, we are not asking that the work be duplicated. We are seeking assurances that the information previously available continues to be available. If all of the information required by law found in the annual report is contained in another document in a similar format, then -- We are not worried about producing more paper, but rather about ensuring that complete information is available.
Estimates of expenditures and Public Accounts are not quite the same thing. The Public Accounts detail expenditures, while the estimates are spending projections. Normally, an annual report provides an account of a department's activities and expenditures. It is a matter of checking the accuracy of the figures against the budgets allocated.
I agree with Mr. Lee. Before we research the matter any further, we should find out whether the annual report, which was probably tabled to the Transport and Communications Committee, and the Public Accounts contain the same information and whether the committees that examine these reports are satisfied.
The Acting Joint Chairman (Mr. Lee): Hopefully, the tone of the letter would be to encourage our colleagues to get rid of the subjective test currently found in the statute.
Mr. Bernier: I do not know under which government section 157 of the Financial Administration Act was passed. I suppose it is a neutral comment. That is the problem. Parliament is owed information requirements. Instead of taking the time to decide on a case-by-case basis that this requirement is no longer needed -- that is to say, I am content with seeing it disappear -- it gives a discretion to the executive to say, "You decide for me what I need to see." Perhaps section 157 of the FAA should have been scrutinized more harshly by parliamentarians when it was put before Parliament.
Senator Finestone: Having said that, I would hope that the letter indicates the need for transparency in government because that is what we are being criticized for out there when we are told that we have no role. All the power is vested in the hands of the executive and Parliament does not count. The minute you let that pass, you allow the next breach in the wall and soon the wall will come tumbling down. I want the letter to reflect that, please, namely, how unpleasant things are let to happen, sometimes inadvertently.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Sometimes people who make decisions in good faith do not realize the consequences of their actions. Often, these consequences are not obvious at the time the decision is made. The spirit of the letter must reflect this fact.
SOR/98-31 -- ORDER RESPECTING THE REMISSION OF A PORTION OF THE CUSTOMS DUTIES AND EXCISE TAXES ON IMPORTS OF CERTAIN WOOLEN FABRICS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6D:1)
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): The next item on our agenda is SOR/98-31.
Mr. Rousseau: In the matter of this order, the department acknowledged that the recommendation preceding the order should have contained a reference to the enabling legislative provision, namely section 132(1)(c) of the Customs Tariff. It promised to include such a reference in future orders. Therefore, the committee should consider this matter closed.
SOR/98-221 -- ORDER AMENDING THE ADVANCE INCOME TAX RULING FEES ORDER
SOR/90-234 -- ADVANCE INCOME TAX RULING FEES ORDER
SOR/92-114 -- ADVANCE INCOME TAX RULING FEES ORDER, AMENDMENT
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux Payette): The next items for our consideration are SOR/98-221, SOR/90-234 and SOR/92-114.
Senator Finestone: Does that mean it is settled or not?
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): It is settled because they agree with us and they will correct it.
Mr. Rousseau: The amendment was brought in at the request of the committee to remove the regulatory requirement that a person wishing to obtain an advance income tax ruling pay a deposit of $400. As noted in the commentary, the Minister now uses his contractual power to require the payment of such deposits. Therefore, the committee may now close the file.
SOR/98-378 -- ORDER AMENDING THE DIRECTION TO THE CRTC (INELIGIBILITY OF NON-CANADIANS)
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6E:1)
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): The next item is SOR/98-378.
Mr. Rousseau: The referenced order was not laid before Parliament as required by law. Ultimately it was, albeit not within the prescribed time period. Again, the committee can consider this file closed.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Is the order not then invalid because of the delay?
Mr. Rousseau: No. The only consequence, as my colleague mentioned in his letter, is that technically, this could be treated as a contempt of the House. However, this is a matter for the House to decide.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): We could send them to jail.
Ms Venne: What is the standard time frame involved?
Mr. Rousseau: The copy of the order should have been laid before Parliament in either October or November of 1998 and we were advised that this was done in August of 1999. The department acted after the matter was brought to its attention.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Had we not brought this to their attention, nothing would have been done.
Mr. Bernier: Madam Chairman, I suggested to my colleague yesterday that if it were the policy of the Government of Canada to deduct $100 from a deputy minister's salary for every day that the department was late in laying an instrument before Parliament, such oversights would happen far less frequently.
Senator Finestone: Before you go to the next order, in light of the fact that it is often not the minister's fault that he or she does not get these things, wherein does the difficulty lie? Does it lie in the timetable of the House or the House leaders' potential lack of information as to the importance of democracy and process? Where is the block when the recommendation comes through and the minister or the ministry agrees that it needs to be done but it does not get done for another year and a half? Is it because of the flow of that legislation to the House? Is it because omnibus bills do not come through that often? I do not know where the blockage resides. That is what I would like to understand.
Here we have almost two feet of letters and correspondence for something that was undertaken and agreed to but did not get through the House. The House breaks for a summer recess and a Christmas recess. I would like though know where that stoppage occurs in the process, which is so slow that 12 years or 2 years later what was said would be done was not done. There does not seem to be a lack of will to do it, so where is the blockage?
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): That rests with the department wishing to amend its regulations. In our parliamentary system, that responsibility always rests with the minister. Technically, the department must act on the matter. I would not blame the House of Commons for any delays or other circumstances beyond the department's control. The department is responsible, first and foremost, for ensuring that its documents are in the right place at the right time, that they are adopted on time and that a proper follow-up is done. I do not think the system is flawed. Ultimately, the department is responsible for its legislation and regulations.
Mr. Bernier: I strongly doubt that delays like this would occur if there was a requirement to lay the document before Cabinet, a Cabinet committee or the minister. Things would get done. However, when it is a matter of laying a document before Parliament, then the last person in at the department is more or less the person in charge of things.
SOR/99-20 -- REGULATIONS AMENDING THE INCOME TAX REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6F:1)
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): SOR/99-20.
Mr. Bernier: In this instance, on the regulation amending the income tax regulations, it is was originally thought that the department's reply was unsatisfactory. However, following further discussions after the preparation of the agenda, counsel accepted the department's argument that the electronic filing requirement can be justified as an exercise of the authority conferred by section 221(1)(d) of the act. On that basis, we recommend that the committee accept the reply as disposing of the issue.
The Acting Joint Chairman (Mr. Lee): This is sober second thought.
Mr. Bernier: Very sober second thought, Mr. Chairman.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): It is reassuring to note that dialogue sometimes produces results. I would like to get back to SOR/99-407.
Senator Finestone: I wish to point out that, even if it was or was not prior, certainly with the advent of Bill C-6, any kind of electronic format is acceptable.
SOR/99-407 -- REGULATIONS REPEALING THE GASOLINE AND AVIATION GASOLINE EXCISE TAX APPLICATION REGULATIONS (MISCELLANEOUS PROGRAM)
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6G:1)
Mr. Bernier: An explanation was sought as to why this repeal was not registered within the time prescribed by the Statutory Instruments Act.
The explanation given is that the department wanted the repeal of the regulations to coincide with the adoption of the new Gasoline Excise Tax Regulations. The adoption of these regulations was, however, delayed and these were not prepublished until November 1999, well after all of the dates mentioned by the minister.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the summary of the impact assessment states that the regulatory provisions were integrated into the new Gasoline Excise Tax Regulations. These provisions are not, however, to be found in the draft regulations prepublished in November 1999.
Moreover, when contacted by the secretary to the committee, the department did not seem to be aware of the fact that the Gasoline Excise Tax Regulations had not been adopted and that these remained in draft format. Circumstances are such that we believe the department is confused and we suggest that counsel contact officials once again to clarify the situation.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Any changes to the regulations in future do not preclude our notifying the department that it must anticipate problems and resolve them before they arise.
Mr. Bernier: Right now, we are concerned that even if the new regulations have not yet been officially adopted, the Agency might think that they have been and will apply them.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): That is why I brought this up.
Mr. Bernier: There was a slip-up.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): You would be well advised to notify your contacts of the potential problem, namely if they were to think the regulations are in force when in fact they are not. In other words, we need to take this a step further than what is set out in the document.
Mr. Bernier: We can also question the accuracy of the summary of the impact analysis statement which states that the provisions which were repealed are contained in the new regulations, when in fact they are not.
Senator Finestone: Let us talk about an impact study, for my own information. Does that mean that you would be looking at the impact on the community and on isolated communities versus how it would impact on a city or a suburb? What do you mean by "impact study"?
Mr. Bernier: A policy requirement has been put in place, and every regulation, with few exceptions, is subject to that requirement. Immediately after the regulation, you find the heading "Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement." There are set components. A description must describe the effect of the amendment or the regulation, the alternatives considered by the department, and the alternatives to making the regulation must be identified. A cost-benefit analysis must form part of this study, as well as an indication of the consultations that have taken place. This is a set format. It must be prepared for every regulation.
From department to department, obviously there is a great deal of variance in terms of the completeness and detail of those RIAS.
Senator Finestone: You were not here earlier, Madam Chair, when we decided to send a report to both Houses that would indicate that we had satisfactorily settled the RCMP issue. The purpose of the discussion was that it could be a good educational format for parliamentarians as well. That is why I asked that this be on the record.
It is important for parliamentarians to know that a process is included in each regulation. Many people do not know that. In fact, I was not sure of that until I got to this committee. When we write a report, I would like to see some this stuff in there so that it goes to whoever reads it. For example, if we send the previous file to the transport committee, we should indicate that all these factors were not dealt with under the provisions of the regulation. Eventually, someone will be hit on the head and will understand that there is a process to be followed. The bureaucrats then cannot pull the wool over one's eyes as easily as they try to do.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): The next two items on the agenda fall under the heading "Progress."
SOR/91-608 -- DISTILLERY REGULATIONS, AMENDMENT
Mr. Rousseau: An amendment to theses regulations was promised and the department is proposing to wait until the new Excise Act has been adopted. If everything goes well, the new act and regulations should come into force on July 1, 2001. In the meantime, counsel will stay abreast of this matter and keep the committee informed of any developments.
Senator Finestone: Are these the distillery regulations?
Mr. Rousseau: Yes.
SOR/92-271 -- SASKATCHEWAN CANOLA ORDER
Mr. Rousseau: The department reports that the required changes to the French version of the order have been drafted, but that it will take several more months before all of the stages are completed. Here again, counsel will follow this file closely and keep the committee informed of any developments.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): What does that mean? The order already exists in English. I do not understand why we must wait several months.
Mr. Rousseau: It happens occasionally.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Why can they not proceed more quickly? Do they have the text of the order in French?
Mr. Rousseau: Yes. We have been advised that the required corrections have been drafted. Things are progressing smoothly.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Perhaps we can request a copy of the corrections, examine them and indicate whether or not we agree with them.
Mr. Rousseau: We can request a copy when we next write to the department to ask for an update on the file.
SOR/92-610 -- CABLE TELEVISION REGULATIONS, 1986, AMENDMENT
SOR/92-611 -- TELEVISION BROADCASTING REGULATIONS, 1987, AMENDMENT
SOR/92-609 -- RADIO REGULATIONS, 1986, AMENDMENT
SOR/93-420 -- BROADCASTING INFORMATION REGULATIONS, 1993
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6H:1)
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): SOR/92-610 through SOR/93-420.
Senator Finestone: Are we on SOR/92-610, Madam Chairman?
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Yes.
Senator Finestone: I think he has been retired for a couple of years.
Mr. Bernier: The committee had queried the legality of a range of information requirements that are found in various regulations made by the CRTC. The committee is now informed that some of these provisions will be repealed and others will not. The CRTC wishes to keep these requirements, but they state that they would add further specific requirements to the provisions. Of course, until we see the new provisions, we cannot say whether this will be satisfactory. There is also mention of the fact that an amendment to broaden the scope of the regulation-making power may be sought.
Taken together, these two initiatives could well resolve the issue as regards the provisions that will not be repealed. I suggest that at this point that a progress report be asked for.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): In how many months or years can we expect a correction?
Mr. Bernier: Given that we are talking about a possible legislative amendment to broaden the scope of the enabling clauses as well as regulatory amendments, the process could take a considerable length of time.
Senator Finestone: Madam Chairman, as in one of the other cases we just finished dealing with, I would appreciate these regulations, plus the letter and the response, be sent to the transport committee in both cases or the communications committee. In the House of Commons it would be the Canadian Heritage Committee, and in the Senate it would be the Transport and Communications Committee. I happen to know that the Transport and Communications Committee has a subcommittee that is dealing directly with the issues of the CRTC, the Copyright Board and the Competition Tribunal. It would be very interesting to have them look at this issue at the same time. There is no predisposition to enlarging the regulatory field.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): That is why I asked the question, because when we start fantasizing about adopting or amending legislation in the future, it is just that no one here has any control over the process which could take two years. I consider this pure fantasizing. Unless the bill is currently before Parliament, we know what we can do with the promises of the 25 or so departments regarding amendments to the act.
Senator Finestone: There is a regulation in place, Madam Chair, which came to our attention. We are talking about their response to the requests we made with regard to that regulation. I think it is perfectly appropriate that the changes we requested have a response of this nature, given the particular situation worldwide in this field. I think it would be helpful for this matter to go to these committees.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): My point is this: several times prior to your appearance before this committee, we were told that the legislation would be amended. Simply saying that they plan to wait until the legislation is amended is not, in my opinion, a valid reason for delaying any changes to the regulations. My colleagues and I cannot accept this argument.
If the bill is before the House, then it is relatively certain that it will be passed. However, in the case of bills that have yet to be tabled, I do not feel that this is a valid argument for counsel to invoke. They can very well work around the clock, but they have no way of ensuring that the draft legislation finds its way on to the House of Commons or Senate order paper. As far as I am concerned, the regulations must be corrected and we will deal with future regulations when they find their way to us. I think all of my colleagues will agree with me that this response on the part of the departments' counsel is totally unsatisfactory.
Mr. Bernier: In case one bill is in the process of being tabled to Parliament, at this stage, could we not send a copy of the file to the committee mentioned by Senator Finestone, and also write a letter asking the agency official when the bill in question will be passed? If we realize that they cannot tell us with any certainty that this will happen during the current session and if it is really only a case of wishful thinking on their part, then we will ask them to amend the regulations in the interim.
Senator Finestone: I do not totally agree. I think that part of what you have just said is a good idea, but I think it is a warning. You are sending them a letter asking them if is arrived okay. I am saying -- and this is what I understood our joint chair to say -- and this committee is saying, "You do not have the legal right. You are not an elected parliamentarian, sir. Please be advised that we are watching and you cannot take unto yourself responsibilities and rights that you do not have." This is a shot across the bow saying don't do it because we will say no.
Mr. Bernier: The content of the letter would essentially be that unless you can assure the committee that you will amend the legislation instantly, then the committee wishes you to amend your regulations. You must change your regulations.
Senator Finestone: I would not even give them that option. They had no right to do it in the first place. Until such time as that law is passed through the House of Commons, the Senate and given Royal Assent, they do not have the right.
Mr. Bernier: In that regard, senator, I would make a couple of observations. I have said this before at this committee. We must always keep in mind that this is a parliamentary committee, not a court of law. Regulations made pursuant to statute, made by the executive, enjoy the benefit of a presumption of validity until either the executive itself agrees that there is no authority for them, in which case the presumption obviously disappears -- there is an admission that the regulation is not authorized -- or until a court has found the regulation to be ultra vires.
As a parliamentary committee, the committee has to work with the knowledge of that presumption of validity and cannot, because it has a different opinion, force the government to not apply a regulation or to immediately revoke a regulation in instances where the government does not agree the regulation is invalid. If the government agrees that its regulation is invalid, then, as I said, the situation is different because your presumption of validity has just flown out the window.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): I agree with you in principle. I simply want to explain to Senator Finestone that when a person seeks to have regulations declared invalid by the court, the legal process must follow its course. In my view, we would be putting an additional burden on the Crown and on the government if we were to recognize ourselves the weaknesses and shortcomings of the regulations. In the process, we would be giving extra ammunition to the legal representative of the person challenging the regulations. Therefore, I agree that we should tell them to amend the regulations because it does not conform to the law. I will consider a letter and try to draft it bearing in mind your recommendations, namely that the mere fact of planning to table legislation is the future does not make the regulations valid. Most of the time, when we receive a note to the effect that a new act is expected, it is a polite way of admitting that the regulations are faulty. If the departments were firmly convinced that the regulations were perfect, then they would not be sending us a letter announcing legislative changes to correct the problem. I think we need to point this out in our letter. I think we are favoring the person or organization that would be challenging the regulations and giving their argument some additional weight because their counsel can consult our committee's findings and ascertain that the committee has brought the problems with the regulations to the government's attention. In this respect, we do have some legal clout. Even though statements to committees do not necessarily carry much weight, they nevertheless can be used as evidence in a case before the courts.
Senator Finestone: Really?
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Very often, to interpret legislation that could be ambiguous, lawyers and the courts look to the proceedings of the committee that examined the proposed legislation. These carry a certain weight. I will review these letters carefully and try to see to it that they reflect the spirit of our discussions.
SOR/97-331 -- REGULATIONS AMENDING THE NAFTA AND CIFTA ADVANCE RULINGS REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6I:1)
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Our next item is SOR/97-331.
Mr. Rousseau: In points one and two, counsel asked the department if it could possibly amend section 13 and 14 of the regulations to clarify the circumstances under which the authority set out in the regulations could be exercised. In its response, the department explained why this was possible in one instance, but not in the other. It has promised an amendment in the case of section 13. The department's response with regard to section 14 is satisfactory. It promises in point three an amendment to harmonize the French and English versions of the regulations.
Senator Finestone: Does that mean we follow up on section 13, and section 14 and subsection 14(g) are acceptable?
Mr. Rousseau: The department's response in the case of sections 13 and 14 is satisfactory. In one instance, an amendment is promised, while in the other, a satisfactory explanation is provided.
Senator Finestone: Then the response is deemed satisfactory.
Mr. Rousseau: Yes.
SOR/97-568 -- RECOVERY OF OVERPAYMENTS MADE TO FORMER MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6J:1)
Mr. Bernier: Amendments are promised here on all points except for subsection 3(1). As regards this provision, the reply is not satisfactory.
According to subsection 3(1), a notice for the recovery of an overpaid amount by a former parliamentarian is deemed to be given on the date the notice is mailed. Subsection 2 then gives the recipient of the notice 30 days from the date of mailing to make an election as to method of repayment.
The Treasury Board recognized that the date of mailing is the date on which a notice is deposited in the control of Canada Post. An item may be under the control of Canada Post and be postmarked one, two, three or four days later. The fact is that contrary to what the department asserts, the postmark is not evidence of the date of mailing. At best, it is evidence that the date of mailing occurred at some previous time.
Practically, a person receiving a notice will not know what the date of mailing is. They will not know on what day a notice was placed in the control of Canada Post or in one of their receptacles. Therefore, how can one use that date as the start point of the period during which the person must make an election? That sort of uncertainty should not be there. A person receiving a notice should know exactly how long they have to reply and make the election.
This could be done by using the date of postmark as the starting point of the 30-day period or in some other way. The important thing is to provide certainty. We suggest that this point be pursued with Treasury Board.
Senator Finestone: However, you could write a letter requiring repayment 10 days after that letter was drafted and supposedly sent. That letter could get lost at Canada Post, something which certainly has happened to me.
Mr. Bernier: There is some uncertainty because the mailing date is the one that has been retained. When I actually put a letter in the mail, from then on, I no longer have any control over it. It is considered as having been mailed, even if it may not be collected until five days later. However, the date of mailing and thus, the date on which the notice is put in the control of Canada Post, is the date used to determine the start of a regulatory delay imposed on members of Parliament. It is impossible to know what that date is. If we want the delay to be of some value -- that is a 30-day time period to respond or to make a choice -- the beginning of the time period must be verifiable and known to the person receiving the notice.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Hence the reason for registered mail.
Senator Finestone: Bell Canada and the hydro company give you about six weeks to pay after receiving their invoices. The payment date is included on the bill, although it is in small print. Perhaps they might think about that.
Further to this, there are names of people in the October 5, 1998 letter. Were these members of Parliament at that time? If so, is that not an invasion of personal privacy?
Mr. Bernier: Sharon Hamilton is the person in the department who replied to the original letter.
Senator Finestone: Thank you. I just wanted to ensure that we are careful about privacy rights.
Mr. Bernier: I can assure you that you received no list of members of Parliament who were overpaid over the years.
SOR/98-23 -- REMISSION ORDER IN RESPECT OF GOODS UNDER THE CUSTOMS DUTIES REGULATIONS OR REMOVAL ORDER, 1988
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6K:1)
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): SOR/98-23.
Mr. Rousseau: Madam Chairman, in this case, the note accompanying the file explains why this remission order was adopted. In short, certain persons had benefited from a reduction or removal of the rates of duty whereas as a result of an error, these reductions were no longer in effect. When these orders were examined, four points were raised regarding the remission order. In point one, the department promised to do away with the need to apply for a remission in the cases suggested by counsel to the committee. In point two, the department announced that an erratum had been published in the Canada Gazette. In point three, the department acknowledged that an error had been committed and explained that it had been corrected with the coming into force of the new tariff. The explanation provided in point four is satisfactory.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): They verified all of the items noted in point four?
Mr. Bernier: Point 4 concerned customs merchandising codes applying to imports where reductions had been granted to persons who were not entitled to receive them.
Senator Finestone: Did they go and recover it?
Mr. Bernier: No. That is the purpose of the remission. They have been forgiven. Technically these people owed monies to the Crown, but obviously it would be a mammoth task to seek them out. Therefore, a remission order was made and they have been forgiven the amount.
SI/99-19 -- PROCLAMATION GIVING NOTICE THAT THE ANNEXED NOVEMBER 30, 1995 SUPPLEMENTARY AGREEMENT ENTITLED PROTOCOL TO THE TAX CONVENTION BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC SIGNED ON MAY 2, 1975 AND AMENDED BY THE PROTOCOL OF JANUARY 16, 1987 CAME INTO FORCE ON SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6L:1)
SOR/98-22 -- TECHNICAL AMENDMENTS ORDER (CUSTOMS TARIFF) NO. 9)
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6M:1)
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): We now move along to the heading "Reply Satisfactory" and items SI/99-19 and SOR/98-22.
Mr. Rousseau: Regarding SI/99-19, the department has confirmed that the required order was tabled to Parliament, pursuant to section 11(1) of the Canada-France Income Tax Convention Act. The department also supplied a copy of the order. Therefore the file can be closed.
Regarding SOR/98-22, I would first like to point out that this order corrects two errors in the drafting of the regulations examined by the committee. Regarding the four points noted with respect to Order No. 9, the department provided the requested confirmation in point one and in point two, announced the publication of an erratum in the Canada Gazette. The drafting errors noted in points three and four were corrected with the coming into force of the new tariff.
Senator Finestone: We have a marvellous report to submit. I have never seen so many things fixed in one meeting.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): We have competent people.
SOR/97-71 -- EXPORTERS' AND PRODUCERS' RECORDS REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6N:1)
SOR/97-503 -- LES COLLECTIONS SHAN REMISSION ORDER, 1997
(For text of documents, see Appendix p. 6O:3)
SOR/97-506 -- UNITED STATES BARLEY AND BARLEY PRODUCTS REMISSION ORDER
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6P:4)
SOR/98-30 -- REMISSION ORDER RESPECTING IMPORTS OF GOODS ORIGINATING IN COMMONWEALTH DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6Q:3)
SOR/98-42 -- USED OR SECOND-HAND MOTOR VEHICLES REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6R:3)
SOR/98-45 -- VERIFICATION OF ORIGIN, TARIFF CLASSIFICATION AND VALUE FOR DUTY OF IMPORTED GOODS REGULATIONS (NON-FREE TRADE PARTNERS)
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6S:1)
SOR/98-87 -- SHIRTING FABRICS REMISSION ORDER, 1998
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6T:1)
SOR/98-88 -- OUTERWEAR APPAREL REMISSION ORDER, 1998
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6U:1)
SOR/98-556 -- REGULATIONS AMENDING THE UNDELIVERABLE AND REDIRECTED MAIL REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6V:1)
SI/99-125 -- ORDER AMENDING THE EXPOSED AND PROCESSED FILM AND RECORDED VIDEO TAPE REMISSION ORDER
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6W:1)
SOR/93-607 -- PROOF OF ORIGIN OF IMPORTED GOODS REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6X:1)
SOR/98-558 -- REGULATIONS AMENDING CERTAIN REGULATIONS MADE UNDER THE CANADA POST CORPORATION ACT (MISCELLANEOUS PROGRAM)
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6Y:1)
SORS/99-103 -- REGULATIONS AMENDING THE CROWN CORPORATION GENERAL REGULATIONS, 1995
(For text of documents, see Appendix, p. 6Z:1)
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): We conclude with the headings "Action Promised" and "Action Taken".
Mr. Bernier: Included under the heading "Action Promised" are 19 amendments that were promised further to the committee's review.
The items under the heading "Action Taken" include six amendments made to regulations at the joint committee's request.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): And is this to your satisfaction?
Mr. Bernier: Yes.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): And to the satisfaction of the committee as well?
Mr. Bernier: We hope and we assume so.
The Joint Chairman (Senator Hervieux-Payette): Then, further to your recommendations, we concur.
The meeting is adjourned.