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Archive REGS Committee

Since the 38th parliament, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations has generally met biweekly and published:

  • A Notice of Meeting
  • Evidence of the Meeting
  • Minutes of the Meeting

A lot information can be gleaned from looking at this info. Cody and I wrote a script to capture all of the records of the committee since the 38th parliament and serve them in an easy to work with CSV (weighing in at 13Mb).

A quick search for “Incorporation by Reference” for example, will show the recent interest and activity on the committee concerning the subject.

Please feel free to do whatever you’d like with either the script or the ouput.

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REGS Meeting Scraper

The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations (REGS) has the authority to scrutinize any statutory instrument made on or after January 1, 1972.1. The committee reviews regulations on a set of thirteen criteria, such as

“Whether any regulation or statutory instrument within its terms of reference, in the judgement of the Committee, is not authorized by the terms of the enabling legislation or has not complied with any condition set forth in the legislation;”

 First Report of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, presented to the House and concurred in on November 18, 2013 (Journals, p. 169).

The committee also is “empowered to make a report to the House containing only a resolution that all or any portion of a regulation that stands permanently referred to the committee be revoked.”2

These broad powers for review, coupled with the ability to revoke regulations, gives the committee broad powers to ensure that Canadian sub-delegated legislation undergoes strict scrutiny by a committee composed of senators and members from both sides of the aisle (and independents as well).

Keeping on top of the committees deliberations is a great way to get an understanding for committees approach to reviewing regulations (it differs from session to session. Additionally, knowing as early as possible that regulations administered by your minister were reviewed by the committee allows you to prepare briefing material before a letter is received from the committee with questions or requested changes..

To that end, I’ve developed a tool for monitoring the published Minutes of the committee for any search-terms. The basics of how it works:

  • Define a list of parliaments and sessions to check (allows historical searching)
  • Use BeautifulSoup to find all the links to the meeting minutes
  • Search through each link to minutes of the meeting for every item in your search terms (this can be regulations’ SOR numbers, the name of your Minister, your agency, etc.
  • Return all the matches and print them out in a form that shows Parliament, Session, Issue, [Search Term Matched] and a link to the Minutes.

This provides you with a list like:

Parliament:  42 Session:  1   Issue No. 51 – Minutes of Proceedings – May 30, 2019 [ SOR/2018-56 ]

Parliament:  42 Session:  1   Issue No. 37 – Minutes of Proceedings – May 24, 2018 [ SOR/91-36 ]

Parliament:  42 Session:  1   Issue 18 – Minutes of Proceedings – April 13, 2017 [ Canada Revenue Agency ]

Right now, the script scrapes the REGS page every time it’s run. Since the information is static once posted, I should really scrape the information and store it in an easy to reference format, then only the most recent session would have to be scraped and older sessions could search a simple database.

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Business Days Calculator

Practicing social distancing and living in a one bedroom apartment with your husband, while both of you try and work and spend twenty-four hours a day together is an interesting experience, to be sure.

Cody and I wanted to take a weekend and build a project together as our fun version of doing a puzzle together. In the regulatory affairs world, and even in the greater public service, a lot of time is expressed in terms of business days. “We will respond to the client in five to eight business days” and “The Minister’s office needs a minimum of five business days to review and approve dockets,” for example.

What exactly is a business day? Our working definition was “Any day that is a regular working day (Monday to Friday) excluding federal public holidays.

Over the past years I have spent many hours with my finger on a calendar directly counting business days. I’ve always thought there was a better way. That’s when I started using an Excel spreadsheet. Even then, that didn’t help my coworkers and wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

An so, the Business Days Calculator was born. It does the following three calculations:

  • Given a start date and end date, calculate how many business days are between them;
  • given a start date and a number of business days, calculate the end date; and
  • given an end date and a number of business days, calculate the start date.

Feel free to use it for whatever purposes you want. Feel free to grab and host a copy yourself, it’s relatively straightforward javascript directly in HTML. Cody and I developed the tool with code by OscarGarcia and have licensed it under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Forward Regulatory Plans

On Septmber 1, 2018, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s “Policy on Regulatory Transparency and Accountability” came into force. Notably, it required departments and agencies to produce forward regulatory plans (FRP) to “provide advance notice of upcoming regulatory changes over a 24 month period, and the notice should be provided annually” (emphasis mine).

A while back, I wrote a script to track edits to the Forward Regulatory Plans of all participating government agencies and departments. I was interested in how they were designed, how often they were updated, and the level of detail therewithin.

It started to seem like the FRPs were not being updated by an increasing number of departments and agencies. I wrote a script to help track down when each FRP was last modified.

It starts by grabbing all the participating departments and agencies from a local file. Then, as it steps through the departments, it takes a look at the most recent local cached copy of the FRP (so as not to waste government resources). It grabs the text of the only time tag on the page, the “Date Modified” time. It then writes this to DateModified.csv.

The results are interesting the FRP that has lasted the longest without any modifications is the FRP for the Canada Industrial Relations Board, which was updated in 2015-04-02. A full 36% haven’t been updated in the last year and only 31% have been updated in 2020.

The heavier regulators tend to have more updated FRPs and the less frequent regulators therefore tend to be the least updated.

In addition to tracking the modified date, I am taking local snapshots of each government department and agency’s forward regulatory plans as it changes to help identify the changes (you can see the snapshots here). Ideally, this would be something captured by an Open Government project. Understanding how the 24 month regulatory plans are implemented or amended, is a vital to understanding how our regulatory system works.

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What I’m reading

I haven’t been able to write here in many months. I am not sure where the block resides, but it’s causes a lot of negative feelings. Recently Abe Greenspoon made a great post on medium. Abe is one of the few people whose posts on medium, I’m willing to watch, despite disliking the platform.

I liked the idea that I might be able to write about other people’s writing, even if I couldn’t write myself. So here we go:

Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities is an in-deth exploration of communities and the processes and situations that create them. Despite first being published in 1983, the tenets of this book hold just as true today. One of the points that hit me particularly hard and made me have to stop and sit with it was how language and the collapse of religious absolutism contributed heavily to nationalism. Sometimes his writing is a bit over-the-top for me. But for anyone interested in how human beings gather themselves and why, this is a great read.

The next quarantine book that I read was What to Think about Machines that Think by John Brockman. This is a collection of essays, most of them mediocre. Even the mediocre essays build a kind of infectious excitement about the future of artificial intelligence. The few great essays make me want to change fields to be closer to that world. Easy to read in small chunks and pretty well edited.

The last item I want to talk about is Lucas Cherkewski’s newsletter Hit and Miss. It’s fantastic. I love getting it on Sunday and getting to read through Lucas’ views on a <em>wide</em> variety of topics. It’s succinct, but the topics and thoughts are deep enough to get you thinking. I also love that it’s a newsletter. There’s something quaint about getting my weekly delivery.

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