Saturday, August 18, 2007

Understanding Regulations

The practice of government relations is often simplified down to what is believed to be relationship building with politicians. What is less known are the years of expertise government relations practitioners develop in specific subject matters. Most often, the value of this specialization comes from years of focusing on changing those aspects of policy that do not require new legislation.

Regulations are often that lesser understood part of the process.

Who is involved in making and reviewing regulations?

The following are the main participants in the regulatory process:

* the delegate of the regulation-making powers (usually the Governor General acting on the advice of the Cabinet, but sometimes a particular Cabinet minister or an administrative agency)
* the officials in the department or agency responsible for the regulations
* the Regulations Section of the Department of Justice
* the Regulatory Affairs Directorate of the Treasury Board Secretariat
* the Standing Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Who should be consulted?

Regulations Section

When legislative proposals involve the delegation of regulation-making powers, consideration should be given to consulting the Regulations Section. It can provide advice about which sorts of provisions are appropriate to include in regulations and which should be contained in the enabling Act. It can also provide advice about drafting enabling provisions. (See Chapter 4 - The Regulatory Process)

There is a close connection between Acts and regulations. Decisions about the drafting of an Act can have a considerable impact on the regulations that will be made under it. It is often desirable for departmental legal advisers, drafters and regulations specialists to meet to discuss these issues when preparing the Memorandum to Cabinet or drafting the bill.

The General Public

Public consultation should be viewed as an integral part of the legislative process, particularly where a bill will have a significant impact on members of the public.

Public consultation should normally occur after internal consultation within the Government and consultation with other governments have taken place.

The fundamental elements for meaningful consultation that apply to both the Government and members of the public are:

a shared understanding of the purpose of the consultation;
mutual respect;
clear communication;
an appreciation of the need to agree on workable approaches, often entailing a compromise;
meaningful input into the policy formulation process; and the recognition that consultation will not always lead to consensus.

Public consultation are guided by the following principles:

The need for public consultation will be determined early in the planning process, followed by the identification of the individuals and groups interested in the bill. Public consultation processes will be carried out in an objective and open manner, within reasonable time frames and with consideration of the cost to both the public and the Government.

The manner and extent of public input will be determined by such factors as:
how the bill will affect the public, particularly those who may have special rights or interests; the nature or extent of consultation (for example, issue-specific or ongoing); feasibility (for example, resource implication and time constraints);
national and regional interests; and the objectives and scope of consultation, including the method of consulting and the time frame for doing so, will be clearly defined at the outset in order to facilitate a clear, mutual understanding of the purpose of the consultation.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a Government Relations consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.

Canada's New Cabinet...Who's in it?

Last Tuesday, a number of changes to the federal ministry meant some significant developments in the make of the Cabinet. The most significant came with the demotion of Gordon O'Connor as Minister of Revenue from the National Defence portfolio. Poor communication skills in Canada's role in Afghanistan no doubt played a role in this change. Mr. O'Connor can nonetheless be satisfied he has maintained his role in the Cabinet.

Chuck Strahl has taken over the portfolio of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. This portfolio was being managed by Jim Prentice, a higher performing Minister who he himself has been promoted to the Industry portfolio. Peter MacKay, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs has taken over the Defence portfolio from embattled Gordon O'Connor. Long recognized as a strong communicator, the Prime Minister will be counting on him to better the persona of the government and better communicate Canada's involvement in Afghanistan - a weakening aspect in the tory position in the polls.

Bev Oda has been moved from the Heritage portfolio to International Development and in her place, Josée Verner has moved in as the new Minister of Heritage.

Beginning to be recognized in a higher light of prominence in Quebec for the Conservative government, Maxime Bernier's performance as Minister of Industry has motivated the Prime Minister to placing him in the role of Foreign Affairs. With opposition to Canada's involvement in Afghanistan most prominent in Quebec, Prime Minister Harper is no doubt seeking a strong francophone communicator as Minister in a high profile section of where the tories seem to be losing points. With MacKay communicating Afghanistan to English Canada and Bernier communicating to French Canada, the goal of shoring up this soft point of support in advance of an election presents an interesting scenario.

The final changes in the federal ministry comes in the agriculture portfolios and at the junior ministry level. The only new additions to the cabinet came from the arrival of Gerry Ritz as the new Minister of Agriculture and Diane Ablonczy as Secretary of State for Small Business.

Many have criticized the changes as merely cosmetic. In my estimation, time will tell. It is clear however, that these changes were made to better the communicating abilities of the government as it seeks winning conditions for an eventual election call.

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a Government Relations consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting the newsletter section of his website.