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Tag: OpenGov

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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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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Cabinet Directive on Regulation Guidance Policy Suite

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has released the policy guidance on the new Cabinet Directive on Regulation (CDR) which came into force on September 1, 2018.

The policy suite released consists of five policy documents:

I have had the opportunity to review and comment throughout the development process, but over the next week I hope to discuss some of the more important changes here.

I did notice that the while regulatory stock reviews are referenced in the CDR and in the Policy on Limiting Regulatory Burden on Business, the guidance documents for regulatory reviews have not yet been published.  It will be interesting to see the impact regulatory stock review will have on the regulatory development cycle, the workload of regulatory affairs departments, and the publication and usefulness of Forward Regulatory Plans.

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Mid-term Self-assessment on Open Government Action Plan 2014-16

The Open Government team at Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat have released the draft “Mid-term Self-assessment on Open Government Action Plan 2014-2016,” seeking comments from “Canadian businesses, citizens, academia, and civil society.”

My initial read-through shows that the report is conservative with regards to the successes of the group, representing a very fair overview of the progress against the Action Plan.

I am particularly interested in following the progress on deliverable 6 of the Open Information Core Commitment:

Provide consolidated, searchable access to regulatory information from federal departments and agencies involved in regulatory activities

This aligns with my current interests with regard to accessibility and centrality of Canada’s regulatory information.  Great work!

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