Canada’s Regulatory Obstacle Course
The CCPA released a report of mine, critiquing federal regulatory policy. Called Canada’s Regulatory Obstacle Course, the brief looks at the latest development in federal deregulation, the Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation (CDSR, announced in the 2007 budget), but situates it in the context of ongoing deregulation that has been underway since the 1980s. The CDSR is pernicious because it places large hurdles in the face of the regulatory process itself â€“ at the departmental level proposed public interest regulations must be tested against whether any corporate interests are adversely affected, which pretty much guarantees a chill over new regulations, and weak, ineffective ones that do make it through the process. That screen is being applied to the whole of federal government regulations, too.
The paper also draws on some polling that finds that public opinion strongly disagrees with this general direction of balancing the public interest and corporate interests. Perhaps one too many tainted meat scares have taught people that the “free market” can be bad for your health. That said, regulation is bone dry as a topic and most Canadians just expect our governments to protect the public interest.
It is hard to empirically test what effect this has had since its introduction. How does one measure chill effects that preclude a regulatory exercise from happening in the first place? An interesting follow-up would be to pore through federal documents and interview a wide range of public servants to assess whether the CDSR has put the handcuffs on their ability to do their jobs.
More importantly, government would have to want to go there in the first place. The political will has to be there, but even if it is, the CDSR compromises the feds’ ability to do the right thing. If we think of big picture challenges like climate change, regulation will be needed to set out the rules by which we get to a carbon neutral economy. There are definitely going to be losers on the corporate side of things (tar sands, anyone?) if an effective regime is brought to bear, and the danger is that the CDSR (or whatever comes forth of this newly minted Red Tape Commission, announced in the 2010 budget) gums up good environmental policy in the name of “competitiveness”.