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Yvon Thériault

Le Contrôle Parlementaire de la Législation Déléguée, prepared by the Task Force on Subordinate Legislation, National Assembly, Quebec, 1983,159 p.

Members of the National Assembly want some control over regulations drafted to accompany legislation and are prepared to go as far as to disallow a proposed regulation, if necessary. This is just one of the recommendations of the Task Force on Subordinate Legislation. Co-chaired by Messrs. Denis Vaugeois and Richard French, the Task Force included eight other MNAs, Jacques Baril, Réjean Doyon, Maurice Dupré, Henri LeMay, Pierre Paradis and Roland Dussault, the latter replacing Mr. Richard Guay who became Speaker of the National Assembly in March 23, 1983. The report was made public on August 24, 1983.

The question of subordinate legislation has been the focus of considerable attention recently. In 1982, the National Assembly passed seventeen new laws and thirty-seven pieces of amending legislation, whereas the government administration adopted 350 new regulations and 450 amending regulations. Unlike laws, these regulations, which are the exclusive fiefdom of the administration, are adopted without public input or knowledge. Yet, they spell out the methods, terms, rules, standards, qualities and conditions according to which laws are implemented. In 1981, Mr. Raoul Barbe compiled all existing regulations into ten volumes each containing 950 pages. More regulations have since been adopted. On this subject, the Task Force notes that the impact of such a considerable number of regulations is obvious. Some people are protected, and even overprotected by these regulations. Others find their actions hindered and sometimes even paralyzed as a result of them.

In a bid to resolve this dilemma, the Task Force unanimously endorsed two main recommendations, namely that a Regulations Act be adopted to establish a framework within which regulatory authority could be exercised and that a specific system for exercising parliamentary control over subordinate legislation be implemented.

Proposed legislation should provide for the monitoring of the regulation-making process by the Ministry of Justice, their publication at least ninety days before adoption, and an analysis of the impact of the regulations. The main component of this legislation would be the creation of a specialized forum, namely a committee of the National Assembly to deal exclusively with the control of subordinate legislation. The committee could, if necessary, delegate responsibility for this matter to a subcommittee. Members would be appointed to the committee for the duration of the legislature and would be supported in their duties by a staff of experts in the field.

Members of this committee or subcommittee could select which draft regulations they would examine in depth to ascertain their legality and/or advisability. Where necessary, the committee could initiate a debate on the timeliness, effectiveness, merit and even necessity of the proposed regulation. Parliamentarians would be free to hold public hearings and to call the authors of the draft regulations to testify before the committee.

To make the committee more than a mere formality, the legislation would authorize it to report to the National Assembly and eventually to report on its negotiations with the administration about a draft regulation, to denounce practices and to initiate discussions and debates. If negotiations to have a draft regulation amended proved fruitless, the committee could even go as far as to request that the draft regulation be disallowed.

The power to disallow regulations is based on a measure in use in the Australian Parliament. A minimum of five MNAs representing at least two political parties could table a motion of disallowance which would be debated in the National Assembly. Unless it is put to a vote within a reasonable period of time, the motion of disallowance would come into effect and the draft regulation would be withdrawn. Of course a motion of disallowance should not be viewed as a vote of non confidence in the government. Otherwise, it would be impossible to break party ranks and this would prevent the control system from functioning effectively. According to Messrs. Vaugeois and French, where regulations are concerned, many MNAs would not hesitate to take advantage of the freedom to vote according to their conscience.

While this committee would be responsible for exercising some control over draft regulations, each committee of the National Assembly could assume some control over regulations already in force. Any committee could decide to review an entire area, such as all regulations governing construction. Their task would be to verify the timeliness, effectiveness and merit of the regulations under review and to table a report to the National Assembly.

The document concludes with an annotated bibliography listing seventy-six documents on subordinate legislation from various countries.

Yvon Thériault, Indexing and Bibliographic Service, Library of the National Assembly, Quebec City

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Last Updated: 2020-03-03