Regulations: A double-edged sword

Regulations spring from legislation adopted by Parliament or provincial legislatures. Regulations are powerful legal tools that allow Governments to create limits upon, conditions for, and the framework of behaviour of citizens or businesses operating within their jurisdictions. Historically regulations were put in place to protect health and safety by making it illegal to sell adulterated food, to make misleading claims about product promotion, or to construct buildings that fall down, etc. Regulations have also been employed to create fairness, such as a level playing field for businesses where all must meet the same minimum standards.

However, regulations can be a double-edged sword. Regulations can protect citizens from abuses by unscrupulous businesses but they can also present barriers that prevent small businesses and individuals from succeeding due to the high cost of meeting requirements.

At Beyond Factory Farming we have found that the “devil is in the details”. A regulation may appear on the surface to protect human health, the environment, or animal welfare, but closer examination may reveal that it has the opposite effect. Several recent provincial regulatory initiatives have removed local authority to regulate the scale, practices, and location of factory farms in their jurisdiction.

The federal government recently adopted Smart Regulation, an overall regulatory policy that favours industry self-regulation, non-binding targets instead of enforceable standards, and adoption of an American-style regulatory regime in order to facilitate cross-border trade and promote economic growth. Agriculture, food safety, and food inspection regulations are priority areas for Smart Regulation.

In 2004 Bill C-27, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act, page was introduced to Parliament. The bill provided the means for the Smart Regulation agenda to be put into action for food. This bill did not come to a vote owing to strong citizen opposition.

The Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement and the Security Prosperity Partnership (SPP) are other initiatives that promote de-regulation, industry self-regulation, and harmonization with American regulations.