February 27th was a great day for policy wonks and regulatory modernization enthusiasts across Canada. The Government of Canada proposed in Budget 2018 to “provide $11.5 million over three years, starting in 2018–19, for the Government to pursue a regulatory reform agenda focused on supporting innovation and business investment.”1.
This extraordinary commitment to modernizing Canada’s regulatory regime is unprecedented during my decade in regulations. While Canada consistently ranks near the top of OECD rankings of regulatory regimes, we all know there are ways that we can make things less burdensome, more agile, and responsive to the increasingly dynamic landscape we’re regulating.
The changes stem from three priority areas identified in the December 2017 report of the Advisory Council on Economic Growth “for establishing an agile regulatory system designed for the new economy”2:
- Catalyze innovation across the economy through regulations that accommodate emerging technologies and business models, especially in high-potential sectors.
- Drive coordination between agencies and jurisdictions, both within Canada and internationally.
- Promote efficient and predictable regulation.
In response to these three priorities, the Budget put forward the following approaches3:
- Targeted reviews, over the next three years, of regulatory requirements and practices that are bottlenecks to innovation and growth in Canada, with an initial focus on agri-food and aquaculture, health/bio-sciences, and transportation and infrastructure, including emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles.
- Canada’s leadership on internal trade at the Canadian Free Trade Agreement Regulatory Reconciliation and Cooperation Table.
- Developing an e-regulation system—an online platform modelled on the successful U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website Regulations.gov—to engage Canadians on regulation in order to improve the transparency and efficiency of the overall rule-making process.
To best understand how to enact reforms which will catalyze and support innovation while increasing regulatory coordination, the first point is essential. Canada, and indeed, the world’s, regulatory system is growing increasingly more complex every day. A thorough review with targeted assessments of individual regulatory system components would be essential before proposing changes.
I have the least experience with the second bullet, but I can see how continuing our current trajectory of increased focus on regulatory coordination and cooperation will only benefit the Canadian regulatory system and reduce burden on businesses.
The final point has been one of my passions for several years now. I am very excited to see the development of a single window into Canada’s regulatory system. I have long advocated having everything from forward regulatory plans, to notice of intent, to consultation opportunities, to summarized feedback, to initial and final publications and retroactive regulatory review all in one location. This would vastly reduce the burden of determining what regulations may impact businesses, especially in industries without a strong stakeholder association. Additionally, it would allow clustering of regulatory initiatives by subject matter, thus breaking down the existing departmental regulatory silos. You could look up changes occurring to import regulations for plants or food and see changes happening at the Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada in one location.
Needless to say I will be following the work of the team assembled to tackle this important task closely. We have amazing regulators in Canada and strong fundamental basis for undertaking this modernization effort. I strongly believe that we are on the cusp of being one of the world leaders in regulatory innovation and transparency.
- Canada, Department of Finance Canada, Budget 2018: Equality and Growth – A Strong Middle Class, Government of Canada, 2018, p. 118. www.budget.gc.ca/2018/docs/plan/budget-2018-en.pdf.
- Canada, Advisory Council on Economic Growth, Investing in a Resilient Canadian Economy, pp. 10–13. www.budget.gc.ca/aceg-ccce/pdf/investing-in-a-resilient-canadian-economy-eng.pdf.
- Government of Canada, Budget 2018: Equality and Growth – A Strong Middle Class, p.118