REGS Committee Meeting
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Proceedings of the Standing Joint Committee for the
Scrutiny of Regulations
Issue 9 - Evidence - March 15, 2012
OTTAWA, Thursday, March 15, 2012
The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations met this day at 8:30 a.m. for the review of statutory instruments.
Senator Bob Runciman and Ms. Françoise Boivin (Joint Chairs) in the chair.
The Joint Chair (Senator Runciman): Colleagues, you will recall at our last meeting we adopted a budget in the amount of $12,500 to cover such matters as books, printing, witness expenses and working meals. There have been developments regarding the budget on the House of Commons side. I give the floor to my joint chair, Ms. Boivin, to explain and then I will have a few comments following that.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Since the budget liaison subcommittee meets in camera, I cannot tell you exactly what was discussed.
I will simply tell you that, with respect to our budget, small as it may be, I pointed out some things and gave them an explanation. Last year, I encountered considerable resistance and I practically had to present it twice — actually, I withdrew it the first time because I felt that I was going to lose the vote, and I had presented it to the liaison committee in full, then I presented it strictly to the budget subcommittee. In the end, it was the chair who swung the vote in our favour.
This year, even though I was asking for nearly half of last year's budget, our request was categorically denied. I will spare you the comments that I was privy to as I am not authorized to share them.
What we were asking for was a base budget so we could hold these meetings and have a cup of coffee given that we meet so early in the morning. I thought I might have to punish everyone by not having coffee or croissants at the next two meetings, in order to save the amount we were not able to obtain. We will still have a base amount that is not controlled by the liaison subcommittee. That amount is $3,500, which we get twice a year, for a total of $7,000. We asked for $8,000 and change. No doubt, we will figure something out, even if it means going back throughout the year for a specific reason.
We had allocated $2,100 in the budget for possible witnesses. If we ever do need to hear from witnesses, we will go back to ask for something specific. They will just have to deal with more requests from me.
So we are going to have to ask you to vote on another budget. You have a motion to that effect.
If, however, you have any comments you would like to make, please do. It is not that I do not want to tell you what they said, it is just that I am not authorized to.
The Joint Chair (Senator Runciman): For members of the house side, and especially the Senate, it does not have the same base budget system when it comes to joint committees and requires that a budget be passed in committee. Expenses for the joint committees are shared between the two houses, with the House of Commons paying 70 per cent and the Senate paying 30 per cent. Since the House of Commons base budget would allocate to this committee $7,000 per fiscal year, the budget you have before you today has been revised to reflect that, to limit the House of Commons' responsibility to $7,000. The total budget would be $10,000 with the Senate responsible for $3,000. The impact that has, if you are referencing the budget that we earlier endorsed, is that it would reduce the witness allocation by $500, hospitality by $500, and printing costs by $500.
It is open for discussion or a motion to adopt the budget. Perhaps we should have a conversation before we put that motion on the floor in case there are concerns about proceeding, in terms of the budget proposal we have in front of you. Any conversation?
Mr. Wilks: I am curious with regard to the budget. Is that a committee of members of Parliament and Senators that make that decision?
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): No, it is not.
The liaison subcommittee is made up of the chairs of all the House of Commons committees. They are colleagues. Most of the chairs are Conservatives. The budget subcommittee is made up of an executive committee whose members come from the liaison subcommittee. It has a Conservative chair, six Conservative members and two NDP members. We did not make the difference, shall we say.
The Joint Chair (Senator Runciman): Is there any further discussion? Can I have a motion to adopt the budget as proposed?
Senator Braley: Are you asking us to deal with $10,000 rather than $20,000? Is that what you are saying?
The Joint Chair (Senator Runciman): No, we are reducing it from $12,500 to $10,000. All in agreement?
Hon. Members: Agreed.
MISCELLANEOUS STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT PROGRAM
(For text of documents, see Appendix A, p. 9A:1.)
The Joint Chair (Senator Runciman): Before I turn it over to the joint chair, the first item is ``Letters to and from Ministers.'' Ms. Boivin and I wrote to Justice Minister Nicholson in November asking for an update on when the next miscellaneous statute law amendment bill might be presented to the house. He replied that the government is considering introduction of one in the current parliamentary session.
Mr. Wilks: Having reviewed the comments from the minister, I would recommend that we just monitor this file and see what comes forward.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Any other comments? Do we have a consensus? Great. We are moving on to the next item, ``Reply Unsatisfactory.''
SOR/94-348 — ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE PENSION CONTINUATION REGULATIONS, AMENDMENT
SOR/95-571 — ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE SUPERANNUATION REGULATIONS, AMENDMENT
SOR/98-531 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE SUPERANNUATION REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix B, p. 9B:1.)
Jacques Rousseau, Counsel to the Committee: For all of these files, except one, the promised amendments pertain to the drafting of the regulations in question. The substantive amendment has to do with a provision in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Regulations stipulating that, when an amount is paid in error to a member, it is possible to deduct an equivalent amount from any benefit payable to that person. The committee challenged the legitimacy of that provision because it grants much broader recourse authority than provided for by the act.
Since 1997, the RCMP has been telling the committee that it would prepare an amendment to correct this issue as well as drafting problems that were brought to its attention.
When the committee met on December 1, 2011, it instructed counsel to ascertain whether the RCMP could provide a firm date by which the amendments would be made. In the absence of a firm deadline, or if that deadline could not be met, the committee was going to make a decision as to whether to hear from witnesses to explain why it was not possible to make the necessary amendments within a reasonable period of time.
The RCMP responded in a letter sent on January 3, 2012. The RCMP indicated that it appreciated the committee's concern regarding the delays encountered and that it planned to send drafting instructions to the Department of Justice by the end of the month. The RCMP also indicted that it had other regulatory submissions to complete before it could focus more fully on what it referred to as ``housekeeping amendments.'' The RCMP concluded by saying that in the absence of any emerging or unforeseen issues, the regulatory amendments would be completed within an appropriate period of time.
Clearly, that gives us little in the way of a firm deadline. Under the circumstances, the committee must decide whether it wants to hear from the appropriate RCMP officials on this matter.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Comments? Mr. Albas?
Mr. Albas: This is a complicated issue and I appreciate that counsel has spent considerable time trying to pull this particular file to a positive resolution. I believe that there has been some progress made on getting them to agree that there is an issue and that drafting has to be done. However, I concur with counsel that obviously the time frames have not been firm enough, nor do we know exactly when the positive action that we are seeking is going to be done.
I am suggesting that to the committee today rather than pulling a lot of time and energy and involving bringing witnesses in, especially vis-à-vis our current budget; I am glad there are members smiling at that one. By the same token, I think this is a suitable issue to raise directly with the minister and ask for intervention to seek the resolution that the committee is seeking.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Do we have a consensus? Senator Moore?
Senator Moore: I think that is a helpful suggestion. The wording here is awful — ``due attention'' and ``appropriate period.'' I would like to know what that is supposed to mean after all this time? When we are approaching the minister, maybe we could point to the inadequacy of the commitment and try to get a timely response, else bring the witnesses.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Any other comments? We have a consensus. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
SOR/98-462 — REGULATIONS PRESCRIBING CERTAIN FIREARMS AND OTHER WEAPONS, COMPONENTS AND PARTS OF WEAPONS, ACCESSORIES, CARTRIDGE MAGAZINES, AMMUNITION AND PROJECTILES AS PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED
(For text of documents, see Appendix C, p. 9C:1.)
Mr. Rousseau: The correspondence on this file dates back to 2005. Three points were raised. The first has to do with an ambiguity in the English version of section 5. In its letter of December 2, 2011, the Department of Justice agreed to clarify this provision at the earliest opportunity.
The other two points concern substantive issues. The first provision in question prescribes a particular weapon as a prohibited or restricted weapon and includes, and I quote, ``any variant or modified version of it.''
The other provision contains references to cartridge magazines for use in weapons that are or are not commonly available in Canada.
When asked as to how and on the basis of what criteria it will be determined that a weapon is a ``variant'' of a prohibited or restricted weapon, or is or is not ``commonly available in Canada,'' the department replied that an objective meaning of the expression ``commonly available in Canada'' is given in the glossary of terms found in the Firearms Reference Table maintained by the RCMP. Similarly, the question of whether a weapon is a ``variant'' of a prohibited or restricted weapon was said to be determined on the basis of considerations used in deciding whether to include a weapon as a variant in the Firearms Reference Table.
That being the case, the committee found that the definition of ``commonly available in Canada'' should be added to the regulations. The committee also pointed out that it seemed questionable to designate something as a prohibited device on the basis of whether it was designed to be used with a weapon that ``is commonly available in Canada.''
The committee also found that the considerations used in deciding whether to include a weapon as a variant in the RCMP's Firearms Reference Table should form the basis for a definition of the term ``variant'' for the purposes of the regulations.
In response, the department said that it was agreeable to considering the three issues in conjunction with joint policy stakeholders with a view to making a potential recommendation for inclusion in a possible federal regulatory initiative.
That response did not strike the committee as the firmest of commitments. For that reason, in April 2009 — yes, I did say 2009 — the committee asked the department whether it had undertaken the consideration process with stakeholders, and whether it could confirm that the amendments in question would in fact be made and, if so, when.
It took some two and a half years to obtain a response from the department. In connection with the use of the phrase ``commonly available in Canada,'' the department pointed out, in its letter of December 2, 2011, that this wording had not been challenged in court and consequently there was no need to provide clarification in the regulations. The department also stated that such an amendment would not provide clarification to the courts since the meaning of the term would ultimately be determined by the courts based on an ordinary meaning of the expression and the specific facts of each case. Of course, that response ignores the citizens to whom the regulations are directed.
Why should an individual have to go to the courts to get clarification as to what is or is not covered when this can be more clearly stated in the regulations themselves?
Furthermore, the vagueness of this term calls into question the validity of the provisions in which it appears.
As we pointed out, the Criminal Code authorizes regulations ``prescribing'' restricted and prohibited weapons and devices. Can a reference to cartridges for a semi-automatic weapon that is ``commonly available in Canada'' be said to ``prescribe'' a device?
The same comments are applicable to the references to ``variants'' of prohibited or restricted weapons. In this case, however, there have been court challenges relating to the use of this term in the regulations. The department's view is that it is preferable to await the outcome of these challenges before considering any necessary amendments. Nevertheless, the desirability of clarifying what is meant by the term ``variant'' will remain regardless of any other amendments following from this litigation. In the meantime, the committee could seek an assurance that this will be done in due course. If the committee is in agreement, the recommendation of counsel is to write the department another letter to explain why the committee did not find the department's response satisfactory.
Mr. Breitkreuz: That is an excellent analysis and I appreciate it very much.
I took a closer look at this and I do not find the department's response acceptable at all. I feel very strongly that we need to write back to them, and I appreciate your recommendation in that regard.
I want to give a couple examples of why this is a problem. I also think their response that, ``We will leave it up to the courts'' is not acceptable either. I think it is our job as parliamentarians to clarify the law and ensure that, for example, citizens and gun owners would know what the law is. At this point it is very vague.
The term ``commonly available in Canada,'' any time there is a new firearm made, it is not commonly available in Canada. You could restrict the importation of virtually everything just by that one phrase. That other phrase that you referred to ``any variant or modified version of it,'' every firearm since the 1500s is a variant of another firearm. It is absurd that they would just leave this without some clear definitions.
I would like to urge them to get experts. You mentioned that in April 2009 this committee wrote to the department and said that stakeholders should have a part in this. There is a committee called the Firearms Advisory Committee that the minister could consult. They are experts. Maybe there are no experts in the department who feel competent to properly define these points, but I think we have the resources available and that we should avail ourselves of those resources.
They have a circular reasoning going on here in regard to that. I do not find it acceptable to leave it up to the courts.
I would like to go along with your recommendations that we write back to the department. I would like to see some kind of a timeline or a firm commitment that they deal with this issue, because this is a problem for firearm owners.
I will give you some examples. Today, firearms are being confiscated, which is not a problem, but because we do not have property rights in Canada, gun owners have no recourse. They are losing their property, and there is virtually no difference between the ones that are being confiscated and other ones that are perfectly legal to own for hunting and so on. Therefore, I think this issue needs to be addressed.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): I quite like this file for the simple reason that the issue is very tangible. That may make it easier for some of the committee members to understand our role, as this matter clearly exemplifies who we, as a committee, must be and what we, as a committee, must do.
I think that what Mr. Breitkreuz just said about being a bit more incisive in resolving this issue shows that this is not about a technicality or a polite request from the committee. We want a genuine response within 30 days, we expect the matter to be dealt with, and it is unacceptable to wait for some court's decision. Otherwise, we should take a different approach.
Mr. Rousseau: What should the deadline for a response be?
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Sixty days, perhaps?
Mr. Rousseau: At least.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): You are familiar with the normal deadlines; give them a deadline, but make sure they know it is firm.
Mr. Rousseau: For a file like this one, where approval has to go up and down the department's entire chain of command and substantive matters have to be considered, it is hard to fathom that we will get a response within 60 days. If the deadline is not met, what do we do?
Mr. Albas: Madam Chair, I appreciate what counsel is saying. I think one of the things we need to do is say this is an issue for the committee and we would like it addressed. We do recognize that this will not be a fast turn-around, but we are serious about this being changed. Mr. Breitkreuz has suggested there are resources that the minister does have available in order to do consultations with stakeholders. We ought to say that we would like to see this issue dealt with in a timely way.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Just so we are all clear, I am not saying that the department has to resolve the problem within 60 days. What I am saying is that the department must show us a serious commitment in the form of a clear and specific course of action to be taken. I think the department is capable of providing that within 60 days. Otherwise, the department will continue to respond by putting the matter off indefinitely.
Mr. Rousseau: With respect to the course of action, we want a response within 60 days. As far as the actual solution goes, in other words, exactly what the department is proposing, it may take a bit longer than that. In addition, further consultations may very well be necessary. Therefore, with that in mind, the committee may wish to give the department a bit more flexibility in terms of proposing the exact solution.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): If, in 60 days' time, we find their response to be satisfactory, that they are suggesting consultations with experts and so forth, we can discuss it at that time.
Mr. Vellacott: Would the advice be something longer than 60 days? Would it be 90 or 120? What would you recommend?
Mr. Rousseau: I think the suggested approach would be appropriate, in other words, giving department officials 60 days to advise the committee of their plan of action for finding a solution. If that response gives the committee the clear impression that the department is going to move forward on the file in a way that is in line with the committee's suggestion, given the importance the committee has placed on the matter, I think that the proposal would be entirely appropriate under the circumstances.
Mr. Vellacott: I was going to suggest 90 days because I do not want a brush-off on some vague generalities. Maybe they will have gone a little farther down the other path, too. However, my thought might be 90. Then, as you say, we get the generalities of it, but I do not want just some vague kind of talk on that. Maybe they will go farther down the path, so 90 days would be a suggestion.
Mr. Rousseau: It is up to the committee.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Is everyone agreeable, 90 days? Do we have a consensus?
Senator Moore: Just a second. We are not starting from day 0 here. They have been thinking about this for two and a half years, at least.
Senator Gerstein: Six.
Senator Moore: Maybe six years.
They have their position already mapped out, and I think we are just playing into their hand. I think we have to start setting the agenda here. Right now they are driving the agenda and it is not going anywhere.
I am in favour of 60 days.
Mr. Albas: I appreciate that. I just think that, again, the committee has drawn its line in the sand. Counsel has said that 90 days is reasonable.
Senator Moore: No, he did not.
Mr. Rousseau: I said this was a matter for the committee to decide.
Mr. Albas: Pardon me. I retract that.
I think that we have said that having a timeline is reasonable; it is just a question of what it is. We can suggest it being 60, 90 or 120. I would just simply say that, for an issue as complex as this, 90 days is appropriate, as my colleague Mr. Vellacott has said.
I understand that the senator has a point in that we have to start pushing things. At the same time, I do think that we take it step by step and inform the department that we would like to see this changed.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): We will have a problem every time I go back to ask for a budget if we are not being a bit more assertive. With that being said, I want it to be clear: The 60 days is not to have a definite correction.
It is simply to obtain their plan of action. As it stands, they are just coming back at us with the same response, telling us whatever. In fact, they may be waiting for some court decision to tell them they could be wrong.
All we want is for them to know, first of all, that the committee disagrees with their argument and with the manner in which they have chosen to proceed — it takes five seconds to tell a department that — and, second, that we expect them to respond with a description of how they plan to rectify the problem in accordance with the committee's recommendation. That should not take them forever to figure out, either.
So, either they continue to respond in a vague and evasive manner — in which case, we will take swifter action — or they come back with ``this is what we plan to do,'' and everyone is happy.
If you do not think 60 days is a reasonable amount of time in which to do that, I am not trying to argue or tell the committee how it should proceed; it does not matter if we give them 60, 90 or 120 days, whatever you think would be appropriate. It just seems to me that 60 days would be reasonable given what we are asking for.
Mr. Wilks: Thank you, chair. Again, I think 90 is fair.
I was a policeman; we are dealing with lawyers, and they need —
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): We can be fast.
Mr. Wilks: No, but they need the timeline to allow for the complexity of an issue, and this is a complex issue. They do not want to make the wrong decision back to us.
I think that 90 days is fair. It is a reasonable period of time for them to come back. As Mr. Breitkreuz and Mr. Vellacott have said, we as a committee need to have answers to this. Therefore, I think that is a fair timeline for the answer.
Senator Moore: Aside from the time period, I think the letter should emphasize Mr. Breitkreuz's point that the committee does not believe that we should be waiting for a court disposition of this matter. Citizens should not have to wait for that. That is not the way the system works. I think we have to be clear on that, and that will perhaps identify for these bureaucrats what kind of a response or framework we expect to receive.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Do we have a consensus on 90 days?
Mr. Rousseau: I may have another suggestion. A deadline of 90 days takes us to mid-June, and that could mean the day after the committee's last meeting. I would advise that the committee request a response by early June, actually, so that a response is provided before the summer break.
Senator Moore: Split it — 75 days.
Mr. Rousseau: Actually, the department needs to understand that the committee wants an opportunity to revisit the matter before it breaks for the summer.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): That seems like a good compromise for everyone? Excellent and thank you for the suggestion.
``Reply Satisfactory'' no question mark, so this should go smoothly.
SI/2011-90 — PROCLAMATION GIVING NOTICE THAT THE AGREEMENT ON SOCIAL SECURITY BETWEEN CANADA AND ROMANIA AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA AND THE GOVERNMENT OF ROMANIA FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE AGREEMENT ON SOCIAL SECURITY BETWEEN CANADA AND ROMANIA COMES INTO FORCE ON NOVEMBER 1, 2011
(For text of documents, see Appendix D, p. 9D:1.)
Shawn Abel, Counsel to the Committee: Counsel identified several discrepancies in the French version of this proclamation. The department's reply confirms that the errors have no legal consequence as they involve the formula preceding the proclamation. The reply also indicates that measures will be taken to ward off similar errors in the future.
If this is satisfactory to members, nothing more need be done on this file and it could then be closed.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Does that work for everyone? Close the file.
SOR/2010-161 — REGULATIONS PRESCRIBING CERTAIN OFFENCES TO BE SERIOUS OFFENCES
(For text of documents, see Appendix E, p. 9E:1.)
Mr. Abel: Counsel noted that two provisions of these regulations designating certain provisions of the Criminal Code to be serious offences contained incomplete descriptions of those offences. Generally, when designating an offence for some purpose by way of subordinate legislation, along with providing a description of that offence, it is preferable to provide a complete and accurate description in order to avoid any ambiguity concerning precisely what is intended to be designated.
The department contends that the pinpoint references to the exact provisions of the code to be designated here absolve any possibility of ambiguity. In this case, that explanation seemed satisfactory. If members agree, counsel could draft a letter informing the department of this and then close the file.
Mr. Vellacott: That is what I would suggest we do. It looks like an adequate response to us, and I do not think they have been beating around the bush. Therefore, it seems adequate from my review of the material.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Great. We have a consensus. Wonderful.
``Reply Satisfactory'' with a question mark.
SOR/99-256 — CANADA COOPERATIVES REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix F, p. 9F:1.)
Mr. Abel: There is only one matter outstanding on this file, for which the committee sought an amendment to the enabling act. In July 2008, the department undertook to review the relevant statutory provisions and to ensure that the enabling act is clear with respect to form of proxy requirements.
The department's letter of January 11, 2012, however states that no bills are currently planned. It is promised that the technical issues concerning the relevant statutory authority will be considered as soon as an opportunity to amend the legislation presents itself.
Whether this is satisfactory is open to members. Perhaps when an update is next sought on this file, counsel could seek a firm indication of when it is expected that an opportunity to amend the act might arise.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Any comments?
Mr. Chisu: I just want to ask a question. I see this file is from 2001. Eleven years have passed.
Mr. Abel: Yes.
Mr. Chisu: For this one, if you are looking for an amendment, I see a delay on this matter. We should ask the department if they have a draft amendment. Have they done something about it, or are they just telling you that they will do it in the next 30 years?
We would like to see some action on this one. It is from 2001, and it is a relatively easy issue. I do not know how you suggest these things to be done. I see it is under monitoring; what are we monitoring?
Mr. Albas: I have a question, Madam Chair, through counsel. It seems like SOR/99-256 and the next one are almost twinned; they are similar, related amendments. From my read, it seems like they are moving along on it and that we could simply just monitor the file.
I agree that we definitely need to keep tabs on it, as per what my colleague has said, but it sounds to me that they have already said that they would make the amendments to both files. Is that correct?
Mr. Abel: They have agreed that the amendment is warranted. However, in the past, the committee has asked for a bill at some point to go forward. The last reply is that nothing is planned in that respect. They agree that something needs to be done, but so far they have told the committee they do not know when it will happen. That is where we are now.
Senator Braley: It is pretty clear. They say the Department of Justice proposes a miscellaneous bill and ``rest assured we intend to submit an amendment.''
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): In reading these two files, I wondered whether this was in fact up to parliamentarians. In other words, I wondered if it was up to us to propose legislation amending the Canada Cooperatives Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act. How do you respond to that?
Mr. Rousseau: Obviously, it is up to Parliament to amend the legislation, and in that respect, legislation amending the act is necessary. The committee cannot, however, take it upon itself to introduce a bill. That has to be done through a private bill introduced by one of the committee members.
Another consideration is that this is the last item to be resolved in this file. We started out with numerous problems involving the regulations and amendments that were made. It is important to keep in mind that progress has been made in this file and that, as my colleague mentioned, what may be missing now is the effort to produce a firmer commitment, at least a firm commitment as far as the last amendment needing to be made goes, the introduction of a bill in Parliament.
Mr. Albas: To return to my earlier comments regarding the two items — and I am speaking about them both because they are of a similar technical nature — the intention is to have them changed. We have the agreement that we need. Substantively, they do not sound to be at the same level as the previous amendments that were done; is that correct?
Mr. Rousseau: The department acknowledges the need for a bill, for amending legislation. That has been acknowledged.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Could we not write to the Department of Industry in that case?
The Joint Chair (Senator Runciman): I did not read the note. Senator Braley is saying there is a reference to inclusion in an omnibus bill, which then makes it seem to me that this is not a stand-alone amendment that would be more appropriately incorporated in a miscellaneous bill or what I call a ``housekeeping bill.'' They have made a commitment to do that.
Therefore, I tend to agree with what Mr. Albas is suggesting here: We just continue to monitor it; I do not think it requires any additional action at this point in time.
Senator Moore: I do not know if this is what Senator Braley was thinking of, but Minister Nicholson's comments were with regard to considering a miscellaneous statute law amendment. Is that something we should ask for, or do we just wait to see if this thing works its way through?
Second, are we keeping a list of suggested legislation for inclusion in a miscellaneous statute law amendment bill? Who keeps track of this? We have had various points here over the years about pieces of legislation that could be tidied up. Who is keeping score on that?
Mr. Rousseau: It is funny because the second question is quite timely. Just this week, when we were getting ready for the meeting, we were saying that it may be time to put together a comprehensive list of all promised amendments expected to be made, according to the departments, through the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act.
On that matter, we could provide the committee with an overview before the summer break, to give committee members an idea of where things stand overall, which department promised what, something along those lines.
Forgive me, but what was your first question?
Senator Moore: The first point was that I did not know if that process is what Senator Braley was suggesting. The joint chair mentioned an omnibus bill, and I guess that is what you meant.
Mr. Rousseau: As we will see in one of the files we will be looking at later, departments often tell us they will include our amendment the next time the legislation is reviewed; if that review is not undertaken within a reasonable period of time, departments tell us the amendment will be included, if possible, in a miscellaneous statute law amendment bill as soon as an opportunity presents itself.
This is probably a situation where, at the first opportunity, the amendment can be made, whether through a legislative review or a miscellaneous statute law amendment bill.
Mr. Albas: I would like to state that the suggestion by counsel that we look before we break for the summer is excellent to get an idea of what things could go into a miscellaneous amendment from the committee's perspective so our awareness is heightened.
By the same token, from what Senator Braley said, it sounds like this is already on the path of least resistance. We could be spending our time and energy on other files. I appreciate all the conversation in that regard, particularly the suggestion about a review in June.
SOR/2001-512 — CANADA BUSINESS CORPORATIONS REGULATIONS, 2001
(For text of documents, see Appendix G, p. 9G:1.)
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): The same will apply to the second point, which is the Canada Business Corporations Regulations. Does everyone understand? The same thing applies. Great.
SOR/2006-75 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE CANADA BUSINESS CORPORATIONS REGULATIONS, 2001
(For text of documents, see Appendix H, p. 9H:1.)
Mr. Abel: The outstanding issue on this file is different from the preceding two files; otherwise the state of affairs is almost exactly the same. Given the preceding discussion, I recommend that the same course be followed on this file as well.
Senator Moore: Is that to monitor it?
Mr. Abel: We will monitor in our normal course of following up, which will probably be in a couple of months. We have just written on this file. Hopefully we will see firmer commitments at that time but, in any case, we will follow up in April or May.
SOR/2005-206 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE NATIONAL PARKS OF CANADA FISHING REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix I, p. 9I:1.)
Mr. Rousseau: At its meeting of October 20, 2011, the committee learned of a letter from Parks Canada indicating that the promised amendment would take longer than expected because it had been included in a group of more complex substantive amendments.
Since the agency did not specify when those amendments would be made, the committee wanted to obtain that information. In its January 4, 2012 letter, the agency wrote that it was facing challenges with respect to the availability of staff and that, as a result, it had postponed the regulatory initiative regarding the amendments to the National Parks of Canada Fishing Regulations. The agency advised that work on these amendments would not resume before 2013.
Clearly, the agency is still relying on the committee's patience in this matter. The nature of the promised amendment accounts for that patience. Owing to an oversight, a fishing limit was not set out in the schedule to the regulations.
If the committee is still willing to be patient, counsel will monitor this file in the usual way and keep the committee advised of any progress.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Any comments? Is everyone in favour of the recommendation?
Senator Moore: One second; what are we saying we will do? They are saying they will not do anything until 2013. Are we agreeing to that? I am not agreeing to that. Is 2013 good?
Mr. Pacetti: Of course it is.
Senator Moore: Another season goes by and there is no regulation. Is that good? Is that what our job is?
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): The question is on the floor.
Mr. Hillyer: We just pay attention to make sure it happens in 2013.
Mr. Albas: If memory serves me correctly on this file, they have acknowledged that there is a mistake that they made and they will not be doing it in forthcoming legislation. Is that correct, counsel? Can I confirm that?
Mr. Rousseau: They acknowledged that there was a drafting error and they made a commitment to correct it.
I want to stress, however, that the committee has been patient until now because the matter concerned a rather minor drafting error. It is something quite simple.
Senator Moore: The second-last paragraph states:
I assure you that Parks Canada will continue to make the necessary efforts to address the issues raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.
Even though that clause is not in the regulation, are they going to enforce or act as if it is? Is that what it means? Is that what he is saying? If it is, I would like to know because it would help me to wait.
Mr. Rousseau: I think you are absolutely right. As I was saying, while I cannot remember the exact wording of the regulatory provision, I can tell you it is something pretty straightforward. I do not think it is something that would cause a problem in terms of determining the exact limit. So far, the committee has taken the view that the error was due to an oversight and did not warrant urgent action.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): From what I understood, they also told us that they are short on resources. That was my understanding. That is what jumped out at me when I read the letter. A lack of resources was the reason they could not rectify a problem as simple as this one. I find that a lot more worrisome, but that is just my opinion.
Mr. Albas: I will go back to Senator Moore's comments on the role of the committee. Certainly, I believe that we have played a valuable role in identifying a flaw in the way the legislation is tabled; ergo we will not see the same issues continue to go forward. It is my understanding that this legislation is spent as far as the regulation goes, no?
Mr. Rousseau: No.
Mr. Albas: Pardon me, I retract that. The whole fact of the matter is that we have identified, and even with greater resources, mistakes do happen. I would simply point out that we have played our role. We will continue to monitor, and if the situation merits we will write a letter again. We do have a number of items on the agenda still. It sounds to me that counsel has satisfied my concerns.
Mr. Dionne Labelle: I want to follow up on what you said, Madam Chair. This is the first time I have seen fiscal restraint cited as a reason for delays. I get the sense that we may be seeing that more often going forward. I just wanted to point that out.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): I believe we have a consensus, we have reached the limit, we have a date of 2013. While I appreciate that this is not necessarily a satisfactory reply, given the circumstances, I have a feeling that, even if we compel officials to appear, it will not make much of a difference.
We are satisfied that it is a minor error, according to counsel. Therefore, we will follow up once and for all in 2013.
SOR/92-620 — CORRECTIONS AND CONDITIONAL RELEASE REGULATIONS
SOR/96-108 — CORRECTIONS AND CONDITIONAL RELEASE REGULATIONS, AMENDMENT
(For text of documents, see Appendix J, p. 9J:1.)
Mr. Abel: There are some 41 outstanding matters on this file that involve amendments to the regulations and, in some cases, to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. One matter was resolved in 2011 by an amendment to section 125 of the act.
The recent passage of Bill C-10 will provide statutory authority that was found to be lacking in relation to four matters. The relevant regulatory provisions will now need to be re-enacted under proper authority; and counsel can follow up on that. In addition, now that Bill C-10 has been passed, presumably the promised amendments to the regulations may proceed. A time frame could be sought from the department.
Hon. Members: Agreed.
SOR/93-492 — MAXIMUM AMOUNTS FOR DESTROYED ANIMALS REGULATIONS, 1992
(For text of documents, see Appendix K, p. 9K:1.)
Mr. Rousseau: In this file, the agency committed to seeking an amendment to the French version of section 55(c) of the Health of Animals Act in order to make the English and French versions of this provision consistent.
Both versions of this provision were part of amendments included in a bill intended to overhaul federal agricultural legislation in the late 1990s. The bill died on the Order Paper. In 2002, the agency tried to resolve the issue in a miscellaneous statute law amendment bill. The agency confirmed that the promised amendment had to be included in the bill, but as we know, no such bill has been passed since 2001. From one Parliament to the next, this amendment has always been on the list of amendments to be included in such a bill, which serves to reconfirm the letter sent by the agency on November 25, 2011.
When we considered the first file today, the committee saw that the Minister of Justice was still studying the possibility of introducing a similar bill in the current session.
Therefore, counsel's recommendation is to continue to monitor the file and to keep the committee advised of any progress.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Very well.
SOR/2001-167 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE MEAT INSPECTION REGULATIONS, 1990
SOR/2004-280 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE MEAT INSPECTION REGULATIONS, 1990
(For text of documents, see Appendix L, p. 9L:1.)
Mr. Abel: Since the committee's last consideration of this file, amendments have been made addressing two of the committee's concerns. This leaves outstanding promised amendments to the regulations in connection with some 18 points and amendments to the Meat Inspection Act to address two points. As can be seen from the correspondence before members today, the regulatory amendments are expected to be completed this year. As for the statutory amendments, the Food Inspection Agency states that it continues to make progress on plans to table legislation addressing the committee's concerns.
Counsel could continue to monitor the file and seek an update in the normal course of affairs, which in this case would be April or May.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Does that work? Great.
SOR/2005-178 — CIGARETTE IGNITION PROPENSITY REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix M, p. 9M:1.)
Mr. Abel: The committee, for a number of years, has sought to have these regulations grounded in proper statutory authority. The Cigarette Ignition Propensity Regulations were made under the authority of the Tobacco Act, which has as its purpose the protection of the health of Canadians from the use of tobacco products. In other words, the act and any regulations made under the act concern medical health as affected by the inhalation or other internal use of these products. These regulations are designed to prevent fires started from lit cigarettes. As such, the committee has maintained the view that these regulations, noble in purpose as they may be, are not authorized under the act under which they were made.
Last year, the Consumer Product Safety Act was enacted providing an appropriate statutory framework for the making of these regulations. The correspondence before the committee today indicates that the regulations are expected to be revoked and remade under the new act this spring. If members are satisfied with that, counsel will continue to monitor the file and seek updates as usual.
Mr. Young: I support counsel on this. By standards of this committee, this matter is moving forward with lightning speed. It has been only a year; and it is imminent.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Thank you. On that note, I will take another Nicorette.
SOR/2007-196 — PROCLAMATION AMENDING THE CANADIAN BROILER HATCHING EGG MARKETING AGENCY PROCLAMATION
(For text of documents, see Appendix N, p. 9N:1.)
Mr. Abel: The National Farm Products Council's letter of February 12 indicates that an amendment correcting a drafting error in the French version of this proclamation should be completed this spring. Once again, counsel could monitor the file and follow up as usual.
Hon. Members: Agreed.
SOR/2004-255 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE PORT AUTHORITIES OPERATIONS REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix O, p. 9O:1.)
Mr. Rousseau: The promised amendment in this file pertains to the correction of the English version of two provisions in the Port Authorities Operations Regulations, to ensure that they are consistent with the French version.
When it considered this file at its June 17, 2010 meeting, the committee had received a commitment from the department indicating that the amendments in question would be made as part of an independent initiative prior to the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year.
As evidenced by the letters received since then, the department has changed its approach on two occasions. On December 23, 2010, the department announced that the two amendments promised would be made together with another amendment, without stating when that would happen. On March 21, 2011, the department expected that the amendments would be made by the end of 2011. On January 31, 2012, the department returned to its first approach, that of obtaining the promised amendments under a stand-alone regulatory amendment.
The department also indicated that, by summer 2012, it would be in a better position to provide the committee with an estimated time frame for the publication of the amendments in question as it worked through the early stages of this regulatory initiative.
The good news is, of course, that the promised amendments will be made separately from any other amendments the department might wish to seek. However, the department did not expect to be able to provide a time frame until the summer of 2012.
If the committee is in agreement, counsel will monitor this file and keep the committee advised of any progress. In the next letter, we could ask for a firm time frame.
Mr. Wilks: I agree that we should monitor. With regard to an update, could we clarify that by the first of June so that we do not wait through the whole summer. Perhaps we could have an update at the last meeting in June.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): Do we have a consensus? Great.
SOR/2008-80 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE LAURENTIAN PILOTAGE AUTHORITY REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix P, p. 9P:1.)
Mr. Rousseau: With the committee's permission, I will proceed in the usual manner and deal with the documents that fall under items 8, 9 and 10 as a group.
Under the heading ``Action Promised,'' there is one document involving a promised amendment. The Laurentian Pilotage Authority announced that section 32 of the regulations, an unnecessary provision from a legal perspective, would be repealed.
SOR/2011-218 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE CANADIAN EGG MARKETING AGENCY QUOTA REGULATIONS, 1986
SOR/2011-331 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE CANADIAN EGG MARKETING AGENCY QUOTA REGULATIONS, 1986
(For text of documents, see Appendix Q, p. 9Q:1.)
SOR/2011-322 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE MEDICAL DEVICES REGULATIONS (1667 — MISCELLANEOUS PROGRAM)
(For text of documents, see Appendix R, p. 9R:1.)
SOR/2011-323 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE SERVICE OF DOCUMENTS REQUIRED OR AUTHORIZED TO BE SERVED UNDER SECTIONS 53 TO 57 OF THE CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix S, p. 9S:1.)
Mr. Rousseau: The ``Action Taken'' item covers four documents to which three amendments were made.
The first amendment involves SOR/2011-218 and was made under SOR/2011-331.
The Canadian Egg Marketing Agency must set quota limits that Quebec and Ontario use to assign limits to producers. The agency repealed the quota limits that were to apply until December 31, 2011. The repeal came into force on October 3, 2011. However, the new limits did not apply until January 1, 2012. As a result, no quota limits were in place between October 3, 2011 and January 1, 2012, meaning that the regulations became unenforceable during that period.
SOR/2011-331 corrects the situation, in accordance with the suggestion made by committee counsel. I would also like to say that committee counsel pointed out the problem in this file on November 2, 2011, and that the amending legislation was passed on December 23, 2011. That just proves that where there is a will, there is a way.
Mr. Rousseau: The correction made under SOR/2011-322 illustrates the rescinding of discretionary authority deemed unnecessary by the committee. The regulations stipulated that if the situation giving rise to the cessation of recognition of a body as a registrar has been corrected or if the cessation was the result of an error, the minister ``may reinstate'' the recognition. The department acknowledged that, under these circumstances, the minister would never refuse to reinstate the recognition of a body. The committee found that the discretionary authority granted to the minister in this case was completely unfounded and suggested that it be rescinded. SOR/2011-322 was established to do exactly that.
As amended, the regulations stipulate that, under these circumstances, the minister ``shall reinstate'' the recognition.
SI/2011-91 — ORDER ACKNOWLEDGING RECEIPT OF THE ASSESSMENTS DONE PURSUANT TO SUBSECTION 23(1) OF THE ACT
SI/2011-98 — ORDER REPEALING P.C. 2006-18 OF JANUARY 19, 2006
SI/2011-99 — ORDER FIXING NOVEMBER 30, 2011 AS THE DAY ON WHICH AN ACT AMENDING THE CRIMINAL CODE (SUICIDE BOMBINGS) COMES INTO FORCE
SI/2011-100 — QUEBEC DOMESTIC HELP CHARITIES REMISSION ORDER
SI/2011-101 — ARTHUR BERNARD TAX REMISSION ORDER
SI/2011-102 — CAROL JAMES TAX REMISSION ORDER
SI/2011-103 — PETER HILTON TAX REMISSION ORDER
SI/2011-104 — HAZRET KESKIN TAX REMISSION ORDER
SI/2011-105 — NORMAN MILLER TAX REMISSION ORDER
SI/2011-106 — ORDER FIXING DECEMBER 1, 2011 AS THE DAY ON WHICH SECTIONS 18 TO 22 OF THE ACT COME INTO FORCE
SOR/2010-208 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS (BAD FAITH)
SOR/2011-125 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS
SOR/2011-193 — ORDER AUTHORIZING THE ISSUE AND DETERMINING THE COMPOSITION, DIMENSIONS AND DESIGNS OF VARIOUS CIRCULATION COINS
SOR/2011-204 — ORDER DESIGNATING SASKATCHEWAN FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE CRIMINAL INTEREST RATE PROVISIONS OF THE CRIMINAL CODE
SOR/2011-213 — ORDER AMENDING SCHEDULE 1 TO THE FIRST NATIONS GOODS AND SERVICES TAX ACT, NO. 2011-1 (BLUEBERRY RIVER FIRST NATIONS)
SOR/2011-214 — ORDER AMENDING SCHEDULE 1 TO THE FIRST NATIONS GOODS AND SERVICES TAX ACT, NO. 2011-2 (SONGHEES FIRST NATION)
SOR/2011-215 — FRUIT REMISSION ORDER, 2011
SOR/2011-240 — ORDER AMENDING THE BEEF CATTLE RESEARCH, MARKET DEVELOPMENT AND PROMOTION LEVIES ORDER
SOR/2011-241 — ORDER AMENDING THE INDIAN BANDS COUNCIL ELECTIONS ORDER
SOR/2011-266 — ORDER AMENDING SCHEDULE 1 TO THE FIRST NATIONS GOODS AND SERVICES TAX ACT, NO. 2011-3 (MATSQUI)
SOR/2011-267 — GUIDELINES AMENDING THE FEDERAL CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES
SOR/2011-272 — ORDER 2011-66-09-01 AMENDING THE DOMESTIC SUBSTANCES LIST
SOR/2011-273 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE FOOD AND DRUG REGULATIONS (1577 — SCHEDULE F)
SOR/2011-274 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE FOOD AND DRUG REGULATIONS (1651 — SCHEDULE F)
SOR/2011-275 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE FOOD AND DRUG REGULATIONS (1656 — SCHEDULE F)
SOR/2011-276 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE APPLICATION OF PROVINCIAL LAWS REGULATIONS
Mr. Rousseau: Finally, the amendment made under SOR/201-323 corrects a discrepancy between the English and French versions of the regulations.
The 26 documents listed under the last item of the agenda were studied by committee counsel and found to meet all the committee's analysis criteria.
As per our usual procedure, copies of these documents do not appear in the documentation received by committee members, but obviously, we have copies with us today.
If anyone would like copies or has any questions about these files, we would be happy to oblige.
Mr. Albas: On another note, I have been made aware of the concerns of a few members regarding the way that our materials are structured. I have met with Mr. Rousseau and Mr. Bernhardt, who have suggested that the steering committee would be a good vehicle to articulate some of those concerns and maybe work with counsel on some ideas. With that, we have identified a senator from the Conservative side to sit on that. In addition, we would be more than happy to speak with the joint chairs after to have that steering committee formatted and suggest that that is something for them to look at. I just wanted to go on the record as that.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): No problem.
The Joint Chair (Senator Runciman): No problem.
Mr. Albas: Thank you. I appreciate that.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): We can talk right after this meeting.
Mr. Pacetti: Can you put that in English, please? What are you suggesting? I am sorry; I must have missed it.
Mr. Albas: I did not explain it correctly the first time.
Some files come just as correspondence. Some members of the joint committee have suggested that it would be much easier if there was a format or template that could be used whereby counsel could put a recommendation on the front and any supporting background or supporting letters at the back. That would make it easier to read and to get the gist of it. Mr. Bernhardt pointed out that there are some very good reasons why they have been doing it the way they have, but for members of the committee to be able to quickly digest some of the complex issues, having a clear format would be helpful. It has been raised to me by several members, and Mr. Bernhardt suggested that I just speak to you in the meeting and that the steering committee might be the best vehicle for that.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): No problem.
Mr. Albas: Thank you.
Mr. Pacetti: Thank you.
Mr. Dionne Labelle: Before we wrap up, I would like to know one thing. I missed a few meetings. Did the committee follow up on the actions taken by counsel involving the various departments, further to our in camera meeting?
Mr. Rousseau: I think that was at the committee's first meeting of the year. General counsel gave the committee an oral report of the actions taken. I am not prepared to give you a summary today, but obviously, everyone was quite happy to meet with us.
Mr. Dionne Labelle: Are we going to follow up on this in camera at some point?
Mr. Rousseau: If the committee so desires, clearly, we will revisit the matter. But as I said, I do not think the committee was in camera when general counsel gave his report. Therefore, it should be public information, and there must be a way to access it.
If not, do not hesitate to contact us. We would be able to give you a rundown without too much notice.
The Joint Chair (Ms. Boivin): If I may make a suggestion, perhaps we could put it on the agenda when general counsel returns. We could get a report of what was done and how it turned out just to make sure everyone is up to speed.
On that note, meeting adjourned. Thank you.
(The committee adjourned.)