29/10/2002 - Effective regulation and ongoing regulatory reform have contributed to Canada's solid economic performance and relatively high living standards, but improvements are possible in some areas and would yield significant gains, according to a new OECD publication.
Regulatory Reform in Canada: Maintaining Leadership through Innovation identifies Canada as a pioneer and leader in the area of regulatory reform. It was one of the first OECD countries to adopt a regulatory reform programme, and it now has a sophisticated and mature system of regulatory governance. Unlike most other OECD countries, the OECD report observes, Canada has accomplished substantial progress on regulatory reform since the mid-1980s. Greater competition has improved efficiency and service in many economic sectors, in particular telecommunications and trucking. Similar effects are being achieved through reform of the electricity sector, though at different paces across the provinces.
Canada is described as a vigorous innovator in the areas of good regulatory governance.
- Its regulatory culture is open and good ideas from elsewhere are fed back into the system.
- Efficient regulatory policies and procedures, such as the regulatory impact statement, have resulted in a more market-oriented and transparent regulatory framework.
- The regulatory quality management has permeated the policy-making process to an extent matched by few if any OECD countries.
- Canada was also a leader in the dialogue that led to the creation of OECD regulatory best practice principles in the mid-1990's and the country remains at the forefront of regulatory development.
In September 2002, the Canadian government announced in its Speech from the Throne, the creation of an external advisory committee. This is a positive step and is consistent with the OECD recommendation for an independent body to advocate further reforms.
While these accomplishments are significant, continued effort would benefit Canada's internal market. Important sectors from air transport to fisheries and from broadcasting to the performing arts are protected through restrictions on imports and foreign ownership. Aspects of Canada's trade and investment regime, including those affecting imports of some agricultural and textile products, are similarly restrictive.
The report acknowledges the social and political importance given to the protection of such sectors. As in the case of the internal market, it argues though that a proper quantification of the costs and benefits of those restrictions would improve the quality of the debate and the rationality in the choice of policy instruments.
Among specific recommendations, the OECD suggests that Canada should:
- Strengthen the contribution of competition policy to regulatory reform and market openness, including an enhanced advocacy role for the Competition Bureau.
- Encourage a more systematic and strategic review of the federal, provincial and territorial regulatory environment and work to harmonise inter-provincial regulatory frameworks.
- Continue to foster regulatory reform to encourage greater productivity and innovation.
- Take a more pro-active approach to trade policy in international negotiations, while maintaining a careful balance between bilateral and multilateral liberalisation efforts.
Canada is one of a number of OECD countries to have requested a broad review by the OECD of its regulatory practices and reforms. The report presents an overall picture, set within a macroeconomic context, of regulatory achievements and challenges including the quality of the public sector, competition policy and market openness.
The full text of the report is available to journalists on the OECD password protected web site or can be obtained, upon request, from OECD's Media Relations Division . For further information, journalists are invited to contact Helen Fisher, OECD's Media Relations Division (tel.  1 45 24 80 97) or Cesar Cordova Novion, OECD's Public Management Service (tel.  1 45 24 89 47).
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