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Proceedings of the Standing Joint Committee for the
Scrutiny of Regulations
Issue 10 - Evidence - November 17, 2016
OTTAWA, Thursday, November 17, 2016
The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations met this day at 8:30 a.m. for the review of statutory instruments.
Senator Pana Merchant and Mr. Harold Albrecht (Joint Chairs) in the chair.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): Committee members, you will see the agenda before you.
APPEARANCE OF WITNESSES FROM PARKS CANADA
SOR/78-830 — WOOD BUFFALO NATIONAL PARK GAME REGULATIONS
SOR/2002-76 — MARINE ACTIVITIES IN THE SAGUENAY-ST. LAWRENCE MARINE PARK REGULATIONS
SOR/2005-206 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE NATIONAL PARKS OF CANADA FISHING REGULATIONS
SOR/2010-140 — REGULATIONS AMENDING CERTAIN REGULATIONS MADE UNDER THE CANADA NATIONAL PARKS ACT (MISCELLANEOUS PROGRAM)
SOR/2011-217 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE NATIONAL HISTORIC PARKS GENERAL REGULATIONS (MISCELLANEOUS PROGRAM)
SOR/2015-134 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE HISTORIC CANALS REGULATIONS (MISCELLANEOUS PROGRAM)
(For text of documents, see Appendix A, p. 10A:1.)
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): Committee members, the first item on our agenda this morning is the appearance of witnesses from Parks Canada. You'll note from the introductory comments that substantive replies have not been received. So we have asked the officials from Parks Canada to appear before us today to give us a statement, and then we'll have the opportunity for questions for our witnesses.
So Mr. Watson, Ms. Grasham, we welcome you to our committee. I think you have an opening statement.
Daniel Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada: Thank you very much and thank you for the opportunity to be here today. The essence of my comments is threefold today: in the first instance, to apologize for not having replied in a timely way to a number of pieces of correspondence; secondly, to bring you up to date on some of the work that we're doing; and thirdly, obviously, to answer any questions you might have on those pieces.
Thank you to the joint committee for this opportunity to speak about Parks Canada's regulatory work, particularly with respect to advancing recommendations made by the joint committee.
First, I want to apologize for the delay in responding to the joint committee's letters. When I learned about this, I took immediate action, including apologizing to the joint committee chairs. I spoke to the committee's general counsel and explained how I became aware of deficiencies in tracking the correspondence of the joint committee at Parks Canada, and I have since taken steps to ensure that this has been remedied and does not occur in the future.
Concretely, your letters are now being tracked in my own executive correspondence system to ensure that they are responded to in a timely manner.
Beginning now, the joint committee can expect a response from Parks Canada within 15 business days of our receipt of your letter. Ideally, we would like to be able to answer your questions and respond to your recommendations within this time frame. When we will not have a complete answer within 15 business days, we will acknowledge receipt of your correspondence and inform you of our proposed plan to respond more comprehensively to your recommendation.
As per the joint committee's request on October 12, I have identified a designated instruments officer for Parks Canada. This senior official reports directly to me and will be accountable to ensure that my commitment to you of a response within 15 days of receiving a letter is met.
Now, I would like to give you a detailed account of the progress we're making to address your recommendations.
In my letter dated June 16, 2016, I attached an annex, which included a preliminary assessment of Parks Canada's response to the joint committee's recommendations. In my response, I divided the joint committee's recommendations into two categories, namely, technical amendments and the amendments we believe raise policy considerations.
Over the summer, addressing the technical amendments proposed by the joint committee has been a priority of the agency. Parks Canada officials at the national office have been in frequent communication with their colleagues in relevant field units and with the Department of Justice's lawyers and drafters. Many discussions and hours of analysis have taken place to determine whether and how the joint committee's recommendations could be implemented.
A total of 22 of the agency's employees have been involved in this work, half of whom are executives. Parks Canada staff have spent approximately 100 hours in meetings and teleconferences, discussing the joint committee's letters, its recommendations and the proposed amendments. At least 40 of these hours represent dedicated time of Parks Canada executives. This does not count the amount of time spent by employees working on preparing the analysis and drafting the materials for these amendments.
Parks Canada staff have worked directly with five lawyers, including three drafters. This work has involved other Department of Justice services, namely, jurilinguists and revisers.
The lawyers from the agency's legal services unit and the team of drafters and other professionals from the Department of Justice spent some 238 hours on the joint committee's proposed amendments between June and November 2016.
While that's maybe more detail than I would typically go into and that I suspect the committee might typically be interested in, I wanted to assure you that we are spending a great deal of time and effort addressing these issues.
As a result of these efforts, we now have a package of technical regulatory amendments that are quite advanced on a number of issues raised by the joint committee. These amendments would achieve five objectives: first, harmonizing terms used in a regulation with those used in the enabling statute and elsewhere within the same regulation, for example, taking a consistent approach to terminology, such as the use of the terms "cancel'' and "revoke'' in the National Parks General Regulations.
Second, correcting grammatical errors, such as in the Historic Canals Regulations, in which the committee noticed an error in syntax in the French version.
Third, aligning the French and English versions. For example, also in the Historic Canals Regulations, we would propose an amendment to better align the definition of "historic canal'' in both languages.
Fourth, changing obsolete references such as that of "director general'' in the Wood Buffalo National Park Game Regulations, a position that no longer exists at Parks Canada.
Fifth and finally, clarifying regulatory provisions, which is required for the National Parks of Canada Fishing Regulations to more clearly articulate how the scheme of regulating fish in Gros Morne National Park is different than for other national parks.
We hope to see these amendments made in 2017. I cannot commit to this timeline given the processes that are subject to cabinet approval, but I can certainly assure you that substantial efforts are being made to move these amendments forward within that time frame.
As I mentioned earlier, in our view some of the amendments proposed by the joint committee raise policy considerations with respect to Parks Canada operations. For example, the joint committee has made a number of recommendations to "avoid the appearance of subjective authority or the discretionary power'' in the issuance of authorizations or permits in the parks. Such amendments have been suggested for the National Historic Parks General Regulations, the Wood Buffalo National Park Game Regulations, the National Parks General Regulations, and the National Parks of Canada Water and Sewer Regulations.
I believe that I understand the joint committee's views on this issue, and we will continue to assess amendments proposed by the committee regarding discretionary powers.
In assessing these proposals, it will be important to consider that Parliament established an approach under the Canada National Parks Act that recognizes that park superintendents need a certain degree of discretion. This discretion, which we believe is founded in the statute, allows superintendents to manage daily operations and to respond to on-the-ground circumstances that occur each day, which may be unforeseen and require immediate action to safeguard public safety and to respond to the need to move quickly to protect the ecological integrity of a park.
The ongoing work that we do to manage and administer Canada's national parks requires that the framework provided for in the Canada National Parks Act be given effect through its regulations.
In closing, I sincerely apologize for the length of time it has taken to respond to you. In the future, I will follow up on your letters in a timely manner. I've taken measures to ensure that such delays won't happen again.
As I said, we're moving toward implementing your recommendations. The joint committee asked about the gazetting of the amendments to the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Regulations. On September 30, the amendments were published in Part II of the Canada Gazette, and the new wording takes into account some issues raised by the joint committee.
I can assure you that Parks Canada is making substantial efforts to move forward with these amendments.
As I said earlier, we're working on adopting a package of amendments that will address many of the joint committee's proposals mentioned in your letter to me.
Finally, I want to reiterate that I take the joint committee's work very seriously, that I appreciate its importance. Parks Canada will consider every recommendation in the context of its overall work on regulatory improvement.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): Thank you, Mr. Watson.
I'll open it up to committee members for questions.
Mr. Di Iorio: Hello, Mr. Watson. I also want to say hello to Ms. Grasham and the people accompanying you. Mr. Watson, I have no doubt that your apology is sincere. When an organization is dysfunctional, it doesn't advertise that fact in the newspaper. We must rely on outward signs that are sometimes simple and sometimes complicated. Our committee is bicameral. It brings together the House of Commons and Senate. It's an all-party and non-partisan committee. I've been working here since I was elected, and I've been able to see that people work in the spirit of collegiality. My remarks don't necessarily represent the view of one party more than another.
There's something very troubling about the letter dated June 1, 2016. The letterhead indicates that it was sent by the Parliament of Canada. Surely your staff don't receive many letters from the Parliament of Canada. Three letters from the Parliament of Canada were seen, but weren't acknowledged. My concern is the following. An ordinary citizen who must deal with Parks Canada can't print the Parliament of Canada letterhead. If a letter is received from the Parliament of Canada, it must be treated accordingly. How are ordinary citizens treated when they have a complaint against Parks Canada?
Mr. Watson: I learned about the letter the evening of June 15. I immediately called the committee's legal counsel. The response is dated June 16 because I learned about the letter late in the evening and I insisted that the response be sent the next morning. I responded to the letter immediately and then analyzed what happened, not the other way. It's a long story, as you can see in the list of letters. It took time to find the answers. The important thing was to make sure that this would never happen again and to establish ways to respond to letters from Parliament in a timely manner. Also, we must meet the same standard for all our correspondence, whether it's from citizens or Parliament.
Mr. Di Iorio: My question concerned the fact that we're Parliament and that my colleagues and I serve with a great deal of humility. Parliament represents the Canadian population. Therefore, I'm wondering how citizens are treated. If you want to provide an explanation in writing to save the committee's time, it's up to you. However, I want a written explanation for what happened and for why your organization ignored three letters from the Parliament of Canada. I want a factual description for each of the letters that includes how they were received, how they were processed and why they were ignored.
Ms. Jordan: I want to thank the witnesses for appearing today. I have a couple of questions. To follow up on what my colleague Mr. Di Iorio has said, I appreciate your apology. I understand that you responded as soon as you could. The concern that I think most of us share is that we want to know what happened that all of those letters were ignored. What's the process in your department to look after these things?
There has to be a process. I'm glad that you're fixing it, but how did it get to this point?
Second, you mentioned, right towards the very end, that there's a package of amendments that you're working on, but you still did not give us a time frame. I would like to know when we can expect to see these. We have been at this now for a year, trying to get these answers. Saying that a package is coming is wonderful, but we would really like to know when that is coming.
Mr. Watson: Thank you. I will address the second part of your remarks first.
In my remarks, I tried to mention that we believe it will come forward during the year of 2017. It's part of a broader omnibus process. So we don't control the full timing of that, but the idea is that it would go forward in 2017. So we would have a number of items in there, not necessarily all of them. As I mentioned, there are some that, we are of the view, raise some policy questions, but there are a number of others that we would agree completely can be changed. So we will be pursuing those changes in that process.
In terms of how we got to where we were, what I can say is my first focus was on fixing it. It was a little bit of a first aid approach — stop the bleeding and make sure that you don't get any further trouble on that front. I'll certainly provide the response that was asked for earlier, but the key, I think, is making sure that we have the right tracking on it, that we have the right accountabilities on it. What I can tell you is that accountability goes directly to my office at this point in time, and there's a system of monitoring these things in place that wasn't in place in the past. That has been in place since about 5:10 p.m. on June 15, 2016.
Ms. Jordan: Thank you.
Senator Moore: Thank you, witnesses, for being here.
Mr. Watson, I'm looking at your letter of June 16, and there's no address on it. Our co-chairs' letter, addressed to you on June 1, is addressed to you at 30 Victoria Street, Gatineau. Is that where your office is?
Mr. Watson: It is, yes.
Senator Moore: Were all the other letters that were sent out to that address received?
Mr. Watson: They were all received.
Senator Moore: When the postman delivers a letter to your office, what happens to it?
Mr. Watson: Well, it depends who it's addressed to.
Senator Moore: I don't want to know what you're planning to do. I want to know what you did with those letters and who is accountable for this embarrassing situation.
Mr. Watson: At the end of the day, as the CEO and deputy minister responsible, I'm accountable for it.
Having said that, the process for mail delivery is that if it's addressed to an individual, it goes into the mail processing centre. In a very short period of time, typically within hours, it's delivered to the person in question. There's a cataloguing system that applies to a number of different categories of mail, some of which is more general, some of which is specifically tracked by my office, depending on the type of correspondence. This would have gone to the addressee for the letters over the last couple of years. So you've got the names on a series of letters here.
Senator Moore: So they come into the main building. They are taken to the office of the addressee. Then what?
Mr. Watson: Then it's tasked out for work. It's given to whoever the responsible individual would be to work on that letter.
As you can imagine, an agency the size of Parks Canada gets a significant volume of correspondence from citizens, from partners, from corporate entities and sometimes from parliamentarians as well. So it is tasked out to the officer or the individual that we would expect to prepare the response for these things.
Senator Moore: Let me suggest that you probably don't get a volume of letters from our committee.
Mr. Watson: No. Well, at least 23.
Senator Moore: It's reprehensible that you wouldn't give those some priority.
Mr. Watson: Yes.
Senator Moore: The final analysis here is for us to start to give some disallowance stuff, have you people on the mat in both houses. I'm not sure that shouldn't happen here because you say you're going to fix this. You told my colleague that you're going to have something in 2017.
Mr. Watson: Right.
Senator Moore: What are you going to have?
Mr. Watson: There are a number of specific recommendations that were brought forward that we propose answers to. Obviously, the process of developing and approving those responses is subject to the confidence of cabinet because it has to go to ministers for consideration, but we can certainly identify, for the specifics, some of the issues where we believe that what the committee has recommended are things that we hope to be able to achieve by way of regulation.
I could ask my colleague Rachel Grasham to go through some of the list of the ones that we're working on, if you want, but there are a number in there that we see as fairly straightforward, the ones I tried to touch upon in my remarks.
Senator Moore: So when you became alarmed about this in June, what did you do with regard to the people, the addressees, who received our letters and ignored them?
Mr. Watson: We had a good conversation about what my expectations were and what the process needed to be to make sure that those expectations were met and talked about the substance of the response. The fact that the letter, I think, was sent at 9 a.m. the next morning speaks to a fairly long evening of work in terms of responding to that. I hope, too, given that I found out about it after 5 p.m. on the 15th, that it gives you a sense of the urgency with which I treated it.
Senator Moore: Okay, thank you.
Mr. Genuis: Thank you, Mr. Watson.
As a preface, can I ask how long you have been in your current position?
Mr. Watson: I have been there since August 7 of last year.
Mr. Genuis: So it's interesting; you've been in this position about as long — a little bit longer, perhaps — as the minister. As a public servant, I'm sure you can appreciate that the process we're going through is a little bit unusual, to call a public servant before the committee and to ask you to account for what has happened. I think it's important that we pose these questions.
Ultimately, we have a system of ministerial accountability. I certainly don't blame the minister, as someone when has lots of different things going on, but I do want to ask about the engagement of the minister with this process. Have you briefed the minister or has the minister been briefed about some of these challenges in terms of responding to correspondence in relation to this committee? Is the minister seized with these issues as well in terms of directing your department on resolving them?
Mr. Watson: I can assure you that the minister is very concerned about making sure that she always responds to Parliament either personally or through her officials in a timely and appropriate way. That is something that is very important to her. Clearly, in this case, what we have done has not met that standard.
Mr. Genuis: Has the minister been briefed about these particular issues?
Mr. Watson: Obviously the specific briefings that I go into with the minister are not the things that I go into detail with, given the confidentiality of that advice, but I can certainly tell you that we have had a lot of conversations with her office on this and made her aware of this issue, including the unacceptability of this issue, from my perspective, in terms of the way we responded in the past and how we are moving forward to fix it.
Mr. Genuis: Thank you very much, because, ultimately, as the representative of the government, that's where the buck stops in the long run. I do appreciate you clarifying that this information has been passed along to the minister and that her office has been engaged on it.
Can I ask, as well, a process question? Some of these refer to a solution being found through the omnibus miscellaneous amendment regulation process. Maybe this just reflects a lack of understanding about the process, but I don't really understand. We deal with this across departments, in different things that come before this committee. We see problems in regulations, sometimes very simple problems, and we are told that it's going to be fixed as part of the next omnibus changes to the regulation sometime in the next year, the next three years, the next five years, whatever it is.
I don't really understand why it isn't possible to just fix these one-offs right away since they seem so simple. That speaks not to all of the issues but to some of the issues. Why does it have to go into a lengthy process? When you identify a problem, why not just put through the regulatory changes to fix it right away?
Mr. Watson: Thank you for that question.
That broader process, obviously, is one that is the responsibility of Treasury Board and not Parks Canada, so I can't really speak on their behalf. But I think there's a similar reality on the legislative side in which, frequently, many departments, at any given point in time, will have very technical fixes, if you want to call it that, that are required either in regulation or in legislation. I can't speculate on how we got there, but the history has been that they tend to get bundled up at one point in time on both sides. My guess is that it's for the purpose of efficiency in terms of moving things through the process, but that would be speculation on my part. It's a Treasury Board process that governs regulations.
Mr. Genuis: Maybe you don't want to respond to the follow-up, then, in light of the fact that this maybe being more of a Treasury Board question. I will just say for the record that the comparison between the legislative and the regulatory process strikes me as strange in terms of the need for bundling. We can understand the need on the legislative side because every piece of legislation has to go through the fairly lengthy process of debate and of committee study and go through both houses, whereas regulation — I'm not saying that there isn't a process — is within the authority of government to do. So it would seem, in that case, much simpler to just make these fixes that are important but simple, technical fixes right away, instead of waiting until there's some accumulation and then doing them as a bundle down the line.
Perhaps that's more of a Treasury Board question.
Mr. Watson: Yes, I think that is beyond my ability to provide a reasonable answer.
Mr. Genuis: Okay. Thank you for being here.
Mr. Dusseault: Mr. Watson, thank you for being here. The committee heard your apology. However, I want to follow up on Mr. Genuis's remarks about the regulatory changes that must be adopted and that you propose to bundle.
I can certainly understand the reason for bundling them. However, I'm wondering why, in recent years, the changes have always been delayed. The committee thinks that, as a result, the regulatory changes aren't made in a timely manner. Why are they pushed back? What's preventing us from moving forward with a bundle of changes and addressing another bundle later instead of waiting for the changes to accumulate? Why aren't regulatory changes made more quickly?
Mr. Watson: I tried to emphasize in my remarks that the correspondence delays aren't caused by a lack of work on these files. I completely accept the fact that the responses weren't provided, but I'm also trying to highlight the fact that a great deal of work was done. In some instances, the regulations were implemented, such as in the case of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park. We've been successful in this area since September 30.
Other elements have progressed. In some cases, we spoke with jurilinguists, and we determined that we could respond positively to the recommendations. In other cases, we need to conduct further analyses to better review the issue.
As I was trying to say, many employees have been working on these files for a long time. They look at each recommendation very closely and develop responses. In some cases, complexities exist because there are fairly significant links to many other regulations, and sometimes to other legislation. Above all, the work is done on the ground in field units in the very complicated environment of national parks, where the challenges and demands ensure that even minor changes may have a major impact on the operation of the park.
For example, when a park can accommodate four million visitors a year, even minor changes can have a major impact. In the North, although there aren't many visitors, even very minor changes can have a major impact on the caribou or certain species at risk. We have to look at what we do and how we do it. It's our responsibility to manage these areas properly. The work truly takes time.
Mr. Dusseault: If a regulation must be amended, based on the committee's view or your view, and even though the change is ready and the analysis and drafting have been done, do you ever wait until later to implement the amendment and publish it in the Canada Gazette because you prefer to bundle the changes? Is this the case now? Are regulations currently ready but on hold? Why can't the changes be implemented right away if they're ready to be adopted?
Mr. Watson: Thank you. To go back to the last question, in some cases, our work has been done on the public servants' side, and they start the omnibus regulatory approval process I mentioned. There is sometimes this time frame. At this point, we haven't necessarily done all the work, but we've done a tremendous amount of the required work. We're expecting the omnibus approval process to move forward in 2017, as I said in response to the previous question.
Mr. Dusseault: What does "omnibus'' mean? Is it 5, 10 or 15 changes?
Mr. Watson: I can't tell you, because the Treasury Board Secretariat manages the process. The regulations may come from 10, 25 or 50 federal departments or agencies. I don't know exactly how many instruments will be considered in this process.
Mr. Anandasangaree: Thank you, Mr. Watson and Ms. Grasham, for being here today.
I'm just reviewing the annex to the letter and also your statements earlier today with respect to timelines. I think, going forward, that it may be constructive to look at what you can specifically do within the timelines that you have indicated.
At this point, based on the annex, I'm not convinced that we have proper direction as to where we're going with all of these, so I'm suggesting that — and you can agree or disagree — maybe within a period of 60 days you could come back to us with a specific road map as to when these will be resolved.
The desire, and I think I speak for the committee, is that what we would like to get this done by next year at the absolute latest. I would even suggest September of next year. For the ones that you are unable to do, perhaps you can indicate that to us, along with why you're not able to execute that, within 60 days and then we can review that.
This Saguenay matter goes back to 2004. That's going on 13 years next year, and I know others are just as long.
My suggestion to you is that, if you're able to do so, to come back to us within 60 days with a specific timeline as to the things you're able to do and by when. The ones you are unable to do, give us specific reasons for that, with the aim that everything would be completed by September of next year so we can review it and then be able to call you back if we're not able to have a resolution.
Mr. Watson: If I might comment on one part of that, you mentioned the Saguenay-St. Lawrence regulations. That's obviously in an area where there are a lot of beluga whales, about which there are a number of environmental questions and concerns. It is an area where whale watching, for example, is an important part of the local economy.
In terms of the time, I'm not here at all to suggest that 12 years is an appropriate time frame on that, but to talk about the impact. A lot of people are very concerned, on the one hand, that we not further endanger a species that's having a set of issues in its place and time in the St. Lawrence, but there are also a lot of people concerned about their livelihoods on that front. So as we work with partners on that front, including the Province of Quebec, businesses and a number of other environmental groups that were interested in this, those conversations are incredibly complex, and it's very easy to land in a spot where no sides feel that we have done the appropriate thing in terms of anything that we have achieved out of that.
It took a long time, and again I'm not here to defend the amount of time that it took. We are very pleased that some of the folks who had started out as some of the most severe critics of the process had actually commented at the end that they felt that what it had resulted in was not only effective but fair. I'm not here to say that everybody thought that.
One thing I have found very clearly about Parks Canada and the issues that it manages, which are some of Canada's most important symbols, is that people feel very strongly about them. Part of the reason they feel strongly about them is that what we lose if we get it wrong is something that we can never recover. It's a little bit different in Parks Canada than almost anywhere else I've been in the federal public service, because in those other places you can often fix up your mistakes after the fact. But if we lose what Parks Canada protects today, we can't get it back. Many of the smaller communities that live their livelihoods around some of the things we protect feel the same way.
In some cases — I'm not saying all cases — that's why the time and effort that we put in to these things, at the end of the day, even if it sometimes seems long, ends up paying dividends because the regulation is more robust and better accepted by as many people as we could reasonably expect to be happy with it.
Mr. Anandasangaree: I represent a riding called Scarborough—Rouge Park, and I can certainly appreciate the enormous attachment people have towards their local parks. I know we worked on this for 40 years, I think, to get the legislation that's in the house now.
You have very valid points in terms of balancing the local economy with protecting endangered species and so on. We're very sympathetic to those kinds of nuances, but I think the frustration is that we don't know what those nuances are.
Our task is to make sure that our regulations are in line with the intended pieces of legislation. Ultimately, in 12 or 14 years if that hasn't changed, maybe it's a matter of changing the legislation. That conversation is important. A table that gives more of a deeper understanding of what the issues are would be quite helpful, and that's precisely what I'm suggesting.
For those items that you are unable to bring forward by September, the suggestion is to give us an explanation; give us a valid understanding of what the issues are, the way you did just now. We all come from different areas of the country and we are very sympathetic to all those issues that you talked about. We would appreciate that.
I'm wondering if we can get an undertaking from you to come back to us in 60 days with a comprehensive list and also a timeline of September of next year.
Mr. Watson: I'm very happy to do that.
The only thing I would say with regard to the timeline is that the processes we will submit these things to are ones that we at Parks Canada don't control. But, certainly, the work plan to have things ready to go to meet the earliest possible timeline on these, or, as you suggest, where we may have a view that we cannot do some of the things, come with a very clear explanation as to why we would feel that way.
Mr. El-Khoury: Thank you, Mr. Watson. I need a small clarification regarding the employees who received the correspondence but failed to bring it to your attention. Were these employees disciplined?
Mr. Watson: Obviously, as a deputy minister, I will never talk specifically about matters regarding human resources and individual conversations.
However, I can clearly say that my expectations are now well understood within the agency. Everyone understands my expectations perfectly, to echo the subject of the first question, regarding compliance with the parliamentary process. During our meetings, the atmosphere was perhaps a bit more serious, but that's the gist of what was communicated.
Mr. El-Khoury: I didn't receive a clear answer to my question, Mr. Watson. My question is clear. Were the employees who received emails and failed to bring them to your attention disciplined? If not, who's responsible? If so, the employees learned their lesson. However, if not, who's responsible?
Mr. Watson: Disciplinary action is a human resources management issue. I can't talk about specific actions against individuals. That said, we had very clear conversations throughout the agency, especially with the employees directly involved in the matter. I'm convinced that, following these conversations and given the nature of the discussions, the events that took place in the past won't happen again.
Mr. El-Khoury: Mr. Watson, I'm not asking you to provide names. I'm asking you whether the employees were disciplined. I don't need names.
Mr. Watson: I can assure you there were consequences in terms of a change of behaviour and perspective when it comes to meeting expectations.
Senator Moore: Mr. Watson, I am sensitive to your comments with regard to the belugas in the St. Lawrence. I have a bill before the Senate of Canada to end the captivity of whales and dolphins, so I'm aware of the situation in the St. Lawrence. I understand the issue of whale watching, the economy and all of that.
What I don't understand is why somebody in your department didn't tell our co-chairs about that. A little communication goes a long way here. To ignore us doesn't help at all. I would suggest that if any of these other files are of that nature, you should communicate, even if you can't say you've got it going but are looking at it, these are considerations and you'll get back to us in a timely way. Something like that would be most helpful.
You mentioned a couple times that the Treasury Board is the authority to approve regulations. I heard you talk about your department. I heard you talk about Justice. Are any of these regulations now that we're concerned with stuck in Treasury Board? How long does it take? When you give something to Treasury Board, does it take a week? Does it take another year? I didn't know that Treasury Board had to approve. Are you suggesting we bring in Minister Brison, who is a buddy of mine? You're not passing the buck here? You're not hiding behind his skirt, are you?
Mr. Watson: As you know maybe even better than I do, regulation is a very complex process that involves a broad range of players. To come back to the Saguenay-St. Lawrence regulations, first of all the people that we talk to are our people on the ground.
Senator Moore: Yes. I expect you would.
Mr. Watson: What is going on in the operations; what are the realities there? Then we begin to ask the question: Who are the third parties that we need to be talking to? That's always of great interest to us, whether other governments are involved that have interests, be they municipal or provincial or otherwise, obviously we want to go talk to them.
We get legal advice, which is a critical part of what we do, from the lawyers who work directly with Parks Canada, but then also the lawyers at Justice, like jurilinguists, the people that do the regulations, generally, across the system.
As we develop those things, we also work with the Treasury Board to figure out if, for example, it's going to go into an omnibus process as opposed to a standalone, to go back to an earlier question. We work on that front. As with omnibus processes, they go at different stages in different points in time, and you have to catch them when they are ready to go.
Senator Moore: That doesn't answer my suggestion that you should be communicating those efforts in some way to our co-chairs.
Mr. Watson: Sorry.
Senator Moore: Are you saying as well that Treasury Board decides whether or not a regulation goes ahead on its own, or are do they say, no, they're going to wait and do an omnibus bill or a miscellaneous statute? Are they the ones that decide this for all departments?
Mr. Watson: The way that regulations are set in our system is that Treasury Board ministers make that call. They meet and they decide. There are some ministers able to do ministerial orders from time to time on their own, depending on the statutory construction, but that's not what we have here.
The order-in-council that is required to put a regulation in place comes through the Treasury Board process. Every Thursday, Treasury Board meets, and they have a section of that meeting that is related to regulation.
Senator Moore: Did you answer my question about whether or not any of your proposals are now stuck in Treasury Board?
Mr. Watson: They are not stuck in Treasury Board. I mean, they are part of a process, but I wouldn't say they are stuck, no.
Senator Moore: Are there any in there now that you're waiting to get approval of?
Mr. Watson: We're working, again, with a whole range of departments. We're working with the Department of Justice to make sure that the substance is good. We have, for the most part, finished our work with third parties and our own internal review on these things. Again, there's ongoing work with jurilinguists and work to make sure that what we're doing is consistent with what's going on in other regulations across the Government of Canada.
As the committee itself has pointed out, some of the things that we have aren't even internally consistent, and then part of the job of the Department of Justice lawyers is to make sure that if we're dealing with similar things to, say, Fisheries and Oceans or Western Economic Diversification, that we're using consistent language.
Senator Moore: I get that. Thank you.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): We're hoping to wind this part up in an hour, so we have about 12 or 13 minutes. We have two speakers on the list and then we would like to try to wrap this up as early as possible. Obviously, the committee is the master of its own destiny, but I am just reminding you of our time.
Senator Lankin: Mr. Watson, I want to follow up on a question that Mr. Genuis asked. He made reference to how the correspondence from the public is treated, if this is what we see when letters come from Parliament.
I appreciate the apology and I appreciate the action you've taken on a go-forward basis. I appreciate your explanation about the amount of work the letters generated, even though they weren't responded to.
I'm curious to know, in the time you've been there, what you've found about the culture of the department with respect to its responsiveness in general, and whether or not your look into what happened with this particular correspondence with this joint committee has helped you find any systemic issues within the department with respect to their responsiveness to the public.
Mr. Watson: Thanks for that question.
Parks Canada is a place that I think operates sometimes at both ends of the spectrum. If you fall down or get injured on Canada's West Coast Trail, or if you're a manufacturer in Toronto who depends on goods being shipped from the Port of Vancouver to Toronto for just-in-time delivery and you have the problem of 140 avalanche chutes in a 40- kilometre space of highway there, the responsiveness of the Parks Canada employees who will come day or night to get you out of a completely inaccessible trail or will keep the Trans-Canada Highway open, notwithstanding all those avalanches or if you get injured in a park and have to have somebody come and find you, is extraordinary. In fact, our avalanche control team is, bar none, the best in the world. A G8 economy that depends on just-in-time delivery is depending on 20 Parks Canada employees to get the Trans-Canada Highway open again, where we own it, in Rogers Pass. We do those types of things brilliantly.
It's a matter of record, though, that I wrote to the access to information commissioner and apologized in a letter for our tardiness in responding to those things and similarly undertook a very aggressive and robust management approach to make sure that that never happened again.
If I can use that as an example, my commitment there, back in March, is that we would not ever again, during the period that I had an agreement with her, have a late request. Not only have we completely wiped out the backlog that we had there, but we have maintained our commitment to never again be late with a request, notwithstanding we had a history that maybe was even worse than the history that you have seen today here.
I'm applying that same commitment and that same drive to make sure that we get to the same type of situation in the future in this committee as I did with the access to information commissioner.
So I have found that there are challenges on that front. It is a place where employees — all of them across the system — take their service to Canadians very seriously.
I'll put it this way: As much as I accept completely the criticism that we did not respond to you in the correspondence, I would much rather be here saying today we did not respond to the correspondence but we actually did a whole bunch of work underneath it, rather than me saying we sent a bunch of letters that were very pretty but did no work underneath it.
I'm not saying that in any way, shape or form to understate the justified frustration that you are expressing, because I get that, but what I can say is that I've tackled that directly, and I'm convinced that we will be able to get to the right place on that, and in short order.
Mr. Brassard: Mr. Watson, thank you for being here this morning and effectively being on the hot seat. I think you can sense the frustration of this committee, and I think you can sense the frustration of all my colleagues. Your appearance here is, in fact, the consequence of a lot of inaction by other departments to respect the role of this committee, quite frankly. The role of this committee is to ensure that the regulatory and statutory requirements fall within the legislative requirements of the law.
You talked about the expectation of your employees. After what you've heard this morning, I want to know what your expectations are coming away from this committee and how you're going to apply them going forward with respect to your individual responsibility.
As I said earlier, we are dealing with a broad problem here with departments within this government that aren't dealing with issues in a timely manner. So I want to know, sir, what your expectations are as you walk away from this committee this morning.
Mr. Watson: As much as I think I am very clearly understanding your frustration, my conversation inside the department was infinitely less restrained than I think you are being today here with me. My expectation is exactly what you have described, and it goes to a core part of what the public service is about. Parliamentarians ask questions; public servants answer those questions and provide that information.
My expectation is that when you send questions in, and I put it down in my remarks today, that we will respond to you within 15 days. If that response is, "Here is the answer,'' that will be our response. If we say that we can't give you that answer now for a bunch of reasons, we will give you the time frame and the process that we will be using to give the full answer on that front.
My expectation is that I will be made aware of every request by my staff when they come in, that that will be tracked in my office and that I will be able to follow it at all times.
To go to a previous question, we have had some very clear conversations on my expectation of the respect that we show parliamentarians whenever they ask questions of the agency.
Mr. Brassard: Thank you.
Mr. Di Iorio: Mr. Watson, I thank you, and I take note of your words. Obviously, we will be expecting your deeds up to now and what happened in the process, which you will be sending to us in writing, describing why it went wrong. We do expect that, as you said, within 15 business days.
We know that even though you did say, quite voluntarily, that you're accountable, you indicated other persons. From now on, you will be the one not complying, so you will not be able to say that there were other people who did it and that you had firm discussions with them. That's a game changer, from now on.
The other thing is that we have not yet deliberated. We're going to deliberate among ourselves and we will be corresponding with you. Just to give an example, you decided on 15 business days, but obviously we may decide that we have to work with a different time frame. We are concluding your testimony, but this is the start of the future, and the future is different and goes by different rules than the past.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): I want to thank our witnesses for being here. I think you get two impressions, I hope, today: one is the frustration level, and the second is our appreciation for Parks Canada. We are proud of our parks system. I think we can all say that without question.
However, when we look at your report today and the number of letters and the number of hours that you have indicated are invested by Parks Canada officials, let alone all the hours invested by the counsel and the legal staff of this committee and the number of trees that may have been destroyed in the letters that have passed back and forth, I think you can see there's an immense human cost and an immense dollar cost to our taxpayers because of the delays.
On page 5 of your remarks you say, "We hope to see these amendments in 2017,'' and on page 7 you say, "in the near future.'' You've heard a number of suggestions as to a timeline. Obviously we have to decide as a committee, but I'm going to suggest that if you could commit to this committee a fairly tight timeline to have at least the technical recommendations, that you say are easier to wrap up and finish, and then the policy issues that you say might take longer, I think there is some degree of willingness to work with you. But we do need some firm commitments, especially on the technical ones that have been dragging on for many years.
That's a summary of what I heard from the committee today. We will deliberate following your appearance today. Thank you again for appearing.
Mr. Watson: Thank you.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): Committee members, in light of some of the conversation that occurred today, our counsel is offering to provide us with a summary of the process as it relates to the involvement of Treasury Board and other entities.
Does counsel wish to make a comment on that?
Evelyne Borkowski-Parent, General Counsel to the Committee: Yes, if it would be helpful to members.
The inception of the process lies with the regulation-making authority. The departments or agencies have to go to Treasury Board and say, "We would like to make amendments to our regulations,'' when those amendments are Governor-in-Council regulations.
Treasury Board shepherds the process. They will be overseeing that departments write their RIAS — regulatory impact analysis statement — that appears with amendments to the regulations, that consultations have taken place, that the one-for-one rule is applied and so forth.
At the same time, drafting instructions will be sent to the Department of Justice to draft the amendments. There is a drafter in each language. There are other professionals, as Mr. Watson mentioned, who will also take part in the process, mainly jurilinguists and legistic revisers, to make sure that proper wording is used and that drafting conventions are followed.
Once the Department of Justice, which is responsible for the examination of regulations under the Statutory Instruments Act, is done its drafting and examination, it will provide blue-stamped copies to the department. Those are basically the final copies. Those will then be approved at a Treasury Board meeting that acts as the Governor-in- Council. So it's a parallel process between Treasury Board and the Department of Justice.
For the miscellaneous amendment regulations, it is a system akin to the miscellaneous statute law amendments in that it simplifies the process for departments. The amendments proposed are usually technical and don't involve policy matters. They are non-contentious. Typically, the technical issues that the committee raises with regard to drafting language and language discrepancies would fall under the miscellaneous amendments regulations process that allows the department to go forward without going through prepublication in Part I, a consultation period and so on.
In the past — I would say about eight years ago — there was a criterion under the miscellaneous amendment regulations program that if the regulation-making authority and the committee agreed on an amendment, then it could be included in in the MAR program. It seems that that latter point has been dropped in recent years. But what Mr. Watson was referring to as to the technical amendments is going through the simplified process of the MAR, which is why they should be able to make them in a more rapid fashion.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): I'm wondering if we could have this system that you verbally summarized outlined in a flow chart for us for the next meeting.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: Yes.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): Then we can go back to Mr. Di Iorio's point, which was that we need to make some decisions based on the witnesses today and what our expectations are. I'm wondering if we could set that aside until next the meeting when we understand this process a little better, unless I see disagreement on that.
Mr. Genuis: Could I ask a clarifying question about the process? In terms of the one-for-one rule, does this explain why they want to bundle regulation changes; namely, if you bundle them together, then you only have to offset with one other, whereas if you do these things as separate individual changes, then you have to have more offsets in terms of the one-for-one rule? Would that explain some of the reasons for the departments wanting to bundle?
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: I don't think it's so much the one-for-one rule, although I can't testify to that. Because of all the requirements for the regulatory process in itself, such as drafting a RIAS and doing public consultations, I think it's an incentive for departments to put a bunch of things together and not go through the process two, three or four times, unless it can be put in a miscellaneous amendment.
Mr. Di Iorio: First of all, I want to thank Ms. Borkowski-Parent. She's obviously in pain today, and I thank her for not only showing up for work but assisting us diligently.
My point is this: There are two components. There's the regulatory component and all of that technical aspects that we're going to have to decide what to do with, but then there is obviously the way Parliament has been treated. There, what is important is subsequent cases. Mr. Watson has colleagues. He's a deputy minister — "Well, you just go there, you sit for 45 minutes and then you're gone and they forget about you.'' So that explains my words when I told him that we're now starting something with him.
If I had to summarize it very roughly, I would use the word "probation.'' It's like there's going to be some type of probationary period. We have to look at those two processes and how we're going to be handling that because that could be a guide for future cases.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): I agree with you. I'm just wondering if the committee, in light of the rest of the agenda we have in front of us today, if we would be better informed if we had a bit of a look at this.
Mr. Di Iorio: I agree with that.
The Joint Chair (Mr. Albrecht): Okay, we'll set that aside for now.
On that basis, I will turn the chair over to Senator Merchant. I want to remind us as well that Senator Runciman has one small item he would like to raise at the end of the meeting.
SOR/99-142 — CANADA LANDS SURVEYORS REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix B, p. 10B:1.)
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): We will start with Item 2 on our agenda, under "Letters To and From Ministers.'' There is a letter from the Minister of Justice.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: Only one point remains outstanding on this file, and it pertains to the amendment of section 53 of the Canada Land Surveyors Act. It is to bring the French and English version of that provision in line. While the English states that requirements to obtain a licence are those specified in the act, the French includes the requirements found in the act, the regulations and other administrative documents.
There's been a considerable amount of back and forth with the department over the years, and it finally agreed in 2013 to clarify the English version of section 53 of the act. Later that year, the department mentioned the possibility of having the amendment requested by the committee included in the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Program, or MSLA, which is a form of housekeeping bill.
Unfortunately, this particular amendment was not included in the MSLA tabled in Parliament in May 2014. The committee has been trying to obtain a time frame since, but so far the department has only committed to making the amendment if and when it reopens the act, unless it can be included in the next MSLA bill.
As there was no indication on wny such a bill was being prepared, the committee elected at its May 19 meeting to write to the Minister of Justice in order to inquire as to the possible inclusion of this particular amendment in the next MSLA bill and whether such a bill was being prepared.
Should this amendment not be a suitable candidate or should another MSLA bill not be prepared for some time, the committee could then pursue other avenues with the department.
While the minister's letter does not clarify whether this particular amendment would or would not be included in a future MSLA bill, it nevertheless states that Department of Justice officials will be sure to follow up with the Department of Natural Resources at the earliest opportunity in the MSLA process.
There's no indication when the next MSLA bill might be tabled, but the minister intends to undertake that exercise on a more frequent basis.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): So it seems they are taking it under advisement, then.
Mr. Di Iorio: How come we're involved in this piece of legislation?
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: Sometimes when we raise a point in the regulations with the department, the department might be relying on one version or the other of the act when there's a discrepancy. In this instance, to have full enabling authority for the department to do what it wants to do, it needs to amend the act.
Senator Runciman: Historically, how frequently has the government of the day introduced housekeeping legislation? You said 2014 was the last time.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: It was the last time. Before that, I think it was 10 years prior.
Senator Runciman: We haven't taken a position with respect to encouraging the government to consider a housekeeping bill — a Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act — on an annual basis. I'm not sure what's involved in terms of timelines, but it's something that perhaps we should be getting a little more information on and encouraging the government to consider that kind of initiative, rather than having, as you say, a 10-year gap between dealing with some of these things and then trying to deal with them on an individual basis rather than as an omnibus piece of legislation. It seems to me to make a lot of sense to deal with these in a more timely way.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: It would definitely help clear some of the committee's files. In this instance, for example, that's the only point that remains.
There's also no indication as to why that amendment was not included in the last one. The minister states their criteria for inclusion in the MSLA bill, but it seems like a French-English discrepancy between the same provision of the act would fall within those criteria.
Senator Runciman: Thank you.
I guess I made a suggestion, which no one is reacting to. If you don't think it's worthwhile, so be it.
Senator Moore: It was a good idea.
Senator Runciman: I think we should contact Justice and ask about the concept and whether it's workable. If not, they can let us know.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: Of an annual MSLA?
Senator Runciman: Yes.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: Okay.
Senator Moore: So what are we doing with this file? I didn't get the final position.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Do you think that both Senator Runciman's idea and —
Senator Runciman: No, that's a separate issue.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): It's up to the committee to decide, then.
Mr. Dusseault: I think the solution was to ask the Department of Justice to specify how often the statute law amendments are developed and whether the exercise could be carried out more frequently than every 10 years, which seems to be the time between the two previous statute law amendments.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: A letter could be sent to the Department of Justice to suggest that the exercise be carried out on an annual basis.
Mr. Dusseault: Yes. I think Senator Runciman raised this point.
Senator Runciman: In terms of this, we should be writing back to Justice and asking if they are pursuing this in terms of a change through a miscellaneous statute. Perhaps we can get a firm commitment from Justice on a timeline and a commitment as to when they intend to introduce this bill.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: I would suggest a letter to the minister, since she's the one who provided the response.
Senator Runciman: Okay.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Thank you.
SOR/2016-52 — ORDER AMENDING THE INDIAN BANDS COUNCIL ELECTIONS ORDER (MEMBERTOU FIRST NATION)
SOR/2016-53 — ORDER AMENDING THE SCHEDULE TO THE FIRST NATIONS ELECTIONS ACT (MEMBERTOU FIRST NATION)
SOR/2016-54 — ORDER AMENDING THE INDIAN BANDS COUNCIL ELECTIONS ORDER (THE KEY FIRST NATION)
SOR/2016-55 — ORDER AMENDING THE SCHEDULE TO THE FIRST NATIONS ELECTIONS ACT (THE KEY FIRST NATION)
SOR/2016-56 — ORDER AMENDING THE INDIAN BANDS COUNCIL ELECTIONS ORDER (STSWECEMC XGATTEM FIRST NATION)
SOR/2016-57 — ORDER AMENDING THE SCHEDULE TO THE FIRST NATIONS ELECTIONS ACT (STSWECEMC XGATTEM FIRST NATION)
(For text of documents, see Appendix C, p. 10C:1.)
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Next is Item 3, under "New Instruments.''
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: There are a number of files this morning that deal with the transmission requirement under section 5 of the Statutory Instruments Act. Subsection 5(1) of the act requires that every regulation-making authority transmit within seven days after the making of a regulation copies of the regulations in both official languages to the Clerk of the Privy Council for registration. This requirement was established so that regulation-making authorities don't sit on the regulations they just made and delay registration.
In the case at hand, six Indian band council election orders were registered 18 days after their making. The department was asked the reason why the requirement of subsection 5(1) of the act was not met, and it appears it was caused by departmental oversight.
As the department has now been reminded of its obligations under the Statutory Instruments Act, counsel could monitor future abidance of the requirements and these files could be closed.
Mr. Di Iorio: Are we comfortable that it's still valid?
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: It is.
Mr. Di Iorio: Okay, good.
SOR/2016-58 — ORDER AMENDING THE INDIAN BANDS COUNCIL ELECTIONS ORDER (CURVE LAKE)
(For text of documents, see Appendix D, p. 10D:1.)
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: In this case, the order was registered eight days after it was made. Again, the department was asked whether it had met the requirements of subsection 5(1) of the Statutory Instruments Act. The order was transmitted within seven days, and the registration delay was caused by the Easter break. This file could also be closed.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Thank you.
SOR/2013-125 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE PENSION CONTINUATION REGULATIONS AND THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE SUPERANNUATION REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix E, p. 10E:1.)
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Next is Item 5 on our agenda, under "Part Action Taken.''
Shawn Abel, Counsel to the Committee: On this file, the committee raised concerns about a number of provisions in these two sets of regulations that use gendered language, which is now obsolete. Some of these issues were addressed by amendments made near the end of 2015. The remaining amendments are expected to be made as part of a broader plan to implement an optional survivor benefit program.
In May, the RCMP indicated the drafting instructions would be sent to Justice this autumn. At this time, a current report on progress could be sought from the RCMP.
Senator Runciman: So moved.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): All in favour?
Hon. Members: Agreed.
SOR/2015-68 — LOW-VALUE AMOUNTS REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix F, p. 10F:1.)
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Item 6.
Mr. Abel: On the first of two issues raised here, it was not possible to determine whether the regulations were transmitted to the Clerk of the Privy Council within the time frame set out in the Statutory Instruments Act. The Treasury Board provided evidence that shows that the required time frame was met.
On the second issue, paragraph 3(1)(c) of the English version of the regulations refers to salary, wages, pay and pay and allowances.'' Treasury Board notes that the apparent reputation of the word "pay'' simply reflects the language used in the enabling act, where "pay'' is separate from "pay and allowances.'' There would be nothing objectionable about reflecting the language used in the act.
Incidentally, this issue does provide an excellent argument for the return of the Oxford comma into English usage, and I'm very happy to find that argument, but that is a grammar issue rather than a legal issue.
Therefore, if members are satisfied, the file can be closed.
Hon. Members: Agreed.
SOR/2016-48 — STE. ANNE'S HOSPITAL DIVESTITURE REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix G, p. 10G:1. )
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Next is Item 7.
Mr. Abel: As with the last instrument, evidence was provided by Treasury Board to show that these regulations were transmitted to the Clerk of the Privy Council within the required time frame. If members are satisfied with that reply, this file could also be closed.
Hon. Members: Agreed.
SOR/2016-209 — ORDER AMENDING SCHEDULE I.1 TO THE FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION ACT
(For text of documents, see Appendix H, p. 10H:1. )
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): The next item, No. 8.
Mr. Abel: On this order amending the Financial Administration Act, this file deals with the requirement to transmit a regulation within seven days after its making.
However, the issues here are a little more complex. After an instrument is transmitted to the Privy Council, it's registered by the clerk, and a certified true copy of the instrument is produced by the Privy Council. When this order was made on January 13, 2016, it was not registered by the clerk until July 5, so the question was "why not?''
The Privy Council explains that this file had been mistakenly closed before being sent for registration. This error was later discovered, leading to the registration being done in July.
The Privy Council wishes to assure the committee that it takes the requirements of the Statutory Instruments Act very seriously and has further suggested that this mistake is rare and isolated.
It was also noted by counsel that the true copy of this order states that it was certified by the Clerk of the Privy Council, but the name of the clerk on the true copy was at the time the deputy clerk. The reply explains that the certified copy may be prepared at a later date than the instrument is made, but the date on the true copy is the same date as when the instrument was made. Therefore, the deputy clerk had become the clerk by the time the certified copy had been produced.
If members are satisfied with that reply, no further action seems warranted and this file could also be closed.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Any objections? No.
SOR/94-118 — TIMBER REGULATIONS, 1993
(For text of documents, see Appendix I, p. 10I:1.)
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Item No. 9.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: You will have received a replacement package for this item by electronic copy. A sheet had fallen off apparently at printing.
There are eight points for which amendments have been promised for a number of years. Point 2 deals with the repeal of an unnecessary definition. Points 4 and 6 deal with drafting issues. Point 5 deals with clarifying the requirement to abide by other regulatory regimes. Points 7 and 8 pertain to the issue of making the contravention of terms and conditions of the licence an offence under the act. Point 9 deals with clarifying a provision so that it does not rely on administrative discretion. Point 3 was raised because of the lack of clear enabling authority in the Forestry Act to impose fees.
After many postponements, the proposed regulations were published in Part I of the Canada Gazette on October 1, 2016.
At first glance, these would address the committee's concerns, although final publication is necessary in order to make that determination. If that is the committee's wish, counsel could monitor this file for the final making of the amendments.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Is that agreeable?
Hon. Members: Agreed.
SOR/2016-136 — REGULATIONS AMENDING THE IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE PROTECTION REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix J, p. 10J:1.)
SOR/2016-144 — REGULATIONS AMENDING CERTAIN DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRY REGULATIONS
(For text of documents, see Appendix K, p. 10K:1.)
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: The "Action Taken'' section contains two statutory instruments. Together, they provide 15 amendments and clarifications requested by the committee.
The "Statutory Instruments without Comment'' section contains 19 statutory instruments that were reviewed by the legal counsel and that meet the committee's review criteria.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): All agreed?
Hon. Members: Agreed.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Is that closed, then?
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: Yes.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Senator Runciman, you had an item you wanted to bring up.
Senator Runciman: Yes, very quickly.
A government bill has been introduced in the Senate, Bill S-2, which deals with motor vehicle safety. It's now at committee. There's something I haven't bumped into before, but I thought I should raise it here.
There's something in the legislation referencing interim orders, which are utilized, apparently, as an alternative to regulation. This particular provision I was raising is a provision that allows the minister to exempt vehicles from conformity with safety standards to assist with the development of new technology.
The wording is "the exemption is granted only if it would not substantially diminish the overall safety performance of the model.'' That's very subjective language and something that would drive this committee nuts. It's dealing with a public safety issue.
I understand that interim orders are used fairly frequently across government. It seems to me that this is going to be a continuing interim order. This is three years, I was told, and they didn't want to go the regulatory route because it's too bureaucratic, too time consuming and a pain in the neck. That's my own interpretation.
I'm wondering if it's something our counsel should take a look at. Is it an appropriate use of interim orders, especially when it's dealing with a public safety issue? That's the only question that I wanted really to refer to counsel.
Ms. Borkowski-Parent: The issue of interim orders has been raised with the Canadian Aviation Regulations where one order would expire and they would remake the same order. There was a series of 11 interim orders rather than amending the regulations.
That point was raised with the department. I don't think the department has ever agreed to the fact that it is not a proper way to use interim orders, but I will definitely have something for you.
Senator Runciman: Okay, thank you.
The Joint Chair (Senator Merchant): Thank you very much.
(The committee adjourned.)