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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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