Media Release

Report Undermines Protection of Public Health, Safety and Environment, Groups Say

Sep 28 2004

Toronto - CELA has expressed serious concerns about the public interest law implications of a recent report prepared by the External Advisory Committee on Smart Regulation (EACSR), a committee established by the federal government. "The EACSR report's core assumption is that regulation can be both "protecting and enabling" at the same time. This assumption confuses government's regulatory roles -- which have the approval of Parliament and ensure legal accountability -- with promoting industry," said Hugh Benevides, CELA Research Associate."Protecting the public is mandatory, and is the reason for regulation. The moment the promotional role is given a status equal to the regulatory role, the ability to protect public health, safety and the environment is weakened." A proposed new Regulatory Policy would include a corporate-type "pledge to Canadians" by government, to "ensure that our national regulatory system encourages innovation, market performance, competitiveness, entrepreneurship and investment in the Canadian economy." The report reflects very little focus on the needs of regulatory programs whose budgets were systematically cut over the past decade, and gives little attention to the reasons regulatory programs are established in the first place. Rather than clearly proposing that resources for regulatory programs be re-established, the EACSR proposes even deeper integration of conventional risk management techniques into regulatory processes. The existing Government of Canada Regulatory Policy already presents numerous obstacles to the making of regulations; the EACSR would implement new obstacles through business-type values like "performance-based management' and "continuous improvement." Ambiguous and ill-defined objectives proposed by the EACSR would violate basic fairness and rule of law principles."The EACSR report ignores empirical evidence that traditional forms of regulation are proven to be the most effective way of achieving policy objectives. Voluntary initiatives have demonstrably failed, while properly-implemented regulation has proven most effective", said Paul Muldoon, CELA's executive director. The report is equivocal about the fact that the federal government is in the best position to ensure Canadians are protected. The proposed new Regulatory Policy is not clear enough that the main purpose of regulation is protecting Canadians' health, safety and environment. "Since the EACSR exercise began, we have been asking what 'smart regulation' means," said Paul Muldoon. "This report seems to point to less accountability, more concessions to industry demands, and greater integration with the United States, all of which mean a weaker regulatory state in Canada. Such an approach seems anything but 'smart'. The federal government should reject "smart regulation" in favour of a renewed commitment to strong capacity and resolve to protect public goods like health, safety and the environment." - 30 -For more information:  Hugh Benevides, CELA Research Associate - Tel: 416-944-9178 Paul Muldoon, CELA Executive Director - Tel: 416-960-2284, ext. 219 Dr. Mark Winfield, Director of Environmental Governance - Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development - Tel: 416-978-5656EASCR website