Occasional articles - 2004. Reprint of letter published in The Hill Times, Oct 25, 2004

Public protection should be primary aim of regulation

Letter to the Editor:

Nowhere in our op-ed of October 4, 2004 ("Smart Regulation? Ottawa sends mixed signals on regulations"), and nowhere in our submissions to the External Advisory Committee on Smart Regulation (EACSR), did we say "smart regulation is deregulation". So why does Michael Murphy of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (in his October 11 letter to the editor) feel he must argue that it is not?

Like Mr. Murphy, public interest organizations engaged in the smart regulation initiative have argued that "the status quo approach to regulation is not an option." But our reasons are different than his: the status quo approach has failed to protect the health, safety and environment of Canadians, in large part because of a heavy bias in regulatory process in favour of economic interests. The report does not point "in a new direction"; it seeks to entrench such interests even deeper in regulatory law and policy.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the EACSR's report was its near-complete failure to examine actual experience with the performance of regulatory and other policy instruments in achieving the health and safety outcomes Canadians expect.

Rather, the report seems an almost perfect theoretical construct based on unsubstantiated assumptions and pleadings from special economic interests. As they stand now, the Advisory Committee's recommendations can be best summarized as Canada's version of 'no lobbyist left behind.' A very different approach, as suggested by the OECD in its recent (dismal) assessment of Canada's environmental performance, is needed to secure Canadians' long-term well-being.