Regulatory Modernization Act, 2007
The Regulatory Modernization Act, 2007 (RMA) is intended to enable ministry staff to work cooperatively, use information more effectively and target enforcement efforts where they are needed most – chronic offenders. The Act covers 13 ministries, which are responsible for the enforcement of 120 Acts and accompanying regulations, and employ approximately 2,500 front-line field staff, inspectors and investigators. The government anticipates that improved information sharing will better protect workers, consumers, and the environment through more effective regulatory enforcement. The Act is also intended to alleviate confusion and to allow business to operate more effectively by reducing duplication in information collection and other compliance activities.
In June 2006, the Ministry of Labour (MOL) posted a proposal notice on the Environmental Registry for the proposed RMA. Bill 69 was introduced for First Reading on February 27, 2006, and received Royal Assent on May 17, 2007. The Act came into force on January 17, 2008. (For a more detailed review of the RMA, please see 2007 Review of Posted Decision - Regulatory Modernization Act.)
Information Collected and its Purposes
Sections 4 and 5 of the RMA specify that information collected, used and disclosed by ministries is restricted to compliance-related materials that fulfill compliance related duties with respect to “organizations.” (An “organization” means an entity, including an individual who serves as a sole proprietor or partner, to which designated legislation applies.)
Section 9 permits authorized persons in one ministry or agency to make and share observations collected under the authority of one Act or regulation with authorized staff in another ministry or agency that might be relevant to the enforcement of another statute.
Under section 7, a minister can authorize a person or class of persons to use information collected under a designated Act for the purposes of another designated legislation. The information could have been collected before the legislation was designated under the RMA or before the RMA came into force. Section 14 also allows ministers to authorize special teams of staff to conduct compliance activities under multiple statutes.
Section 10 allows specified information, including complaints, penalties and conviction records, to be published or posted on ministries websites.
Penalties and Sentencing
Section 15 permits a prosecutor to request that a court consider an offender’s prior convictions, including those committed under a different statute or before the RMA came into force, as an aggravating factor when determining the appropriate penalty upon conviction.
Ontario Regulation 75/08
In January 2008, MOL posted an information notice for the proposed regulation under the Act. Ontario Regulation 75/08, filed on April 4, 2008, enables key provisions under the RMA by prescribing legislation designated for: authorizations to collect, use and disclose information; publication of specified information; and authorizations to exercise functions under multiple Acts or regulations.
The RMA resolved a barrier to information sharing under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). The Act prohibits sharing information with provincial officers who do not administer the EPA. It was recently amended to permit information sharing authorized under the RMA.
MOL received comments from various commercial associations, and consulted with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to ensure the RMA complied with privacy law.
Commenters believed the types of information and the purposes for which it can be collected, used and shared was too broad and could lead to ‘fishing expeditions’. Concern was expressed over the potential publication of confidential business and complaint-related information. Commenters worried that multiple authorizations could create “super-inspectors” lacking the requisite expertise and training under designated statutes. Furthermore, commenters opposed courts considering prior convictions under any Act during sentencing, and the retroactivity of the RMA.
The ECO commends MOL for striving to improve regulatory enforcement activities across ministries. To ensure the anticipated benefits are realized, the ECO urges MOE and MNR and other EBR-prescribed ministries to work with MOL to draft comprehensive practice and training guidelines that promote early detection and reporting of environmental problems.
The ECO supports provisions in the RMA targeting repeat offenders. Allowing courts to consider past convictions under any designated Act when sentencing a company for environmental infractions, strengthens enforcement, and sends the message that repeat environmental offenders are not tolerated in Ontario. The ECO also backs the publication of companies’ conviction and penalty records. Increased transparency through publicly available information will assist the public in making informed consumer and business decisions, and pressure repeat offenders to improve their compliance record.
The ECO is hopeful the Act can facilitate greater environmental information sharing between ministries. This should be complemented by greater inter-ministerial collaboration on comprehensive plans aimed at preventing or mitigating multi-layered environmental concerns. Inter-ministerial cooperation on enforcement and compliance matters is a positive initiative, and if implemented effectively could provide added environmental enforcement support.
However, the ECO strongly cautions MOE and MNR against using this legislation to economize on their enforcement and compliance activities by relying on other ministries’ inspectors to alert them to environment problems. These activities are already under-resourced and under-staffed. Moreover, the ECO firmly believes that inspectors with environmental expertise should be the primary investigators of environmental matters. The ECO is skeptical that “super-inspectors” (staff authorized to operate under several Acts) would possess the requisite expertise to adequately protect the environment, worker safety and the public interest. The ECO will continue monitoring inspection and compliance activities to observe whether this legislation is abused.
|This is an article from the 2007/08 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.|
Citing This Article:
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2008. "Regulatory Modernization Act, 2007." Getting to K(No)w, ECO Annual Report, 2007-08. Toronto, ON : Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 128-131.