Statement made on 01 April 2009 by Senator Tommy Banks (retired)
Hon. Tommy Banks:
This is Senator Tkachuk's bill. I have no doubt that senators will remember my deathless response and brilliant speech in response to Senator Tkachuk's introduction of this bill. Therefore, I can be mercifully brief.
At the risk of being a broken record, senators may be aware that I have an ongoing concern with the outsourcing of parliamentary authority and with the derogation of the responsibilities of these two institutions of Parliament, which we are continually doing under government after government after government. It is not this government, it is not just the previous government and not just the one before that. Regardless of the colour of government, it is convenient to the Crown to escape the scrutiny of Parliament. That is very efficient government.
Honourable senators, parliamentary democracy is not efficient government; but we live in what is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy. Among the things that are supposed to happen is that the Governor-in-Council proposes policies, legislation and undertakings, which Parliament is supposed to examine and from time to time approve and from time to time question.
The motion before honourable senators contains an amendment to the present bill, Bill S-2, which is a series of amendments to the Customs Act, all of which are good, laudable and needed, except the very last bit at the end, which talks about — and this is a phrase common to a number of pieces of legislation — the incorporation by reference as part of the regulations under this bill of material from any source. Not only that, it is the importation of an ambulatory provision.
Let us assume for the sake of this customs bill that one of the things that needs to be incorporated by reference is the mechanical drawings for a Boeing 747. Needless to say, it is impractical to have the drawings for a 747 form a normal, natural, ordinary part of the regulations of any bill. However, the point is that they become part of the regulations. When Boeing decides to change those specs three years hence, those changes become part of the regulation and therefore part of Canadian law. They are not susceptible to study or scrutiny by any aspect of Parliament because of what I find as the offending part of the proposed bill, which states in proposed section 164.1(2):
Material that is incorporated by reference in a regulation is not a statutory instrument for the purposes of the Statutory Instruments Act.
Honourable senators, the Statutory Instruments Act is the act by which, in section 19 of that act, the Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations is empowered to study regulations to ensure they conform to the intent of the bill, that there are not unintended consequences that were not intended by Parliament.
That provision itself, whether intended or otherwise, would mean that those materials incorporated by reference would escape that scrutiny, would not ever be examined by any parliamentarians in any degree. It means that the changes to be made in this material incorporated from whatever source by that source, subsequent to their first inclusion in the regulations, would also become part of the regulations. That raises the possibility, however remote, that a Canadian could be in breach of those regulations and, therefore, of the law, without knowing what the law is.
The amendment has the simple expedient with what I think Senator Tkachuk would agree is the concurrence at the time of the minister who was before us, of simply expunging that paragraph. In other words, it removes the amendment contained in the report of the committee that seeks to amend the bill before us and has the following effect: It eliminates lines 28, 29, and 30 on page 7 of the bill, and renumbers 164.1(1) to 164.1. This is in clause 17 of the bill of amendment. I commend it to the positive consideration of honourable senators because this is a good bill. It does good things. It will now be a better one.