Commercial Law Strategy Activities Report 2002

IV. GOVERNMENT RELATIONS

Key to the successful implementation of the Commercial Law Strategy is the on-going support of the federal, provincial and territorial governments. This support manifests itself through financial contributions to the budget of the Strategy, various in-kind contributions and, ultimately, implementation of the uniform acts developed as part of the Strategy.

The continued support of these governments requires that they be kept informed of the needs and activities of the Strategy. This is partly accomplished through the work of the Jurisdictional Representatives appointed by the governments. Under the Conference's constitution, the Jurisdictional Representatives are responsible for "ensuring that the work of the Sections is brought to the attention of appropriate members of the Cabinet and Deputy Ministers" and for "promoting, monitoring and advancing the implementation of the Sections' work in the jurisdictions as may appear appropriate to meet the needs of the jurisdictions and the mandate of the Conference" (See Part 4, Section 9(3) of the ULCC's Constitution).

Thus through the Jurisdictional Representatives, the Conference has a vehicle which allows it to both keep its government members informed of developments at the Conference as well as to solicit the views of these members on current and desirable future projects.

In my role as National Coordinator of the Strategy I have also taken steps this past year to keep our government members informed. These have included writing articles for the fall and spring Communiqués as well as two reports to the Deputy Ministers of Justice. The Steering Committee of the Strategy was advised by the executive of the Conference that these reports were very favourably received by the Deputy Ministers. In fact, recognition of the work of the Strategy and its potential to make a significant contribution to the Canadian economy has led most jurisdictions to increase their financial contributions to the budget for the Strategy (see Appendix "G" for details of these contributions.)

As the initial funding of the Strategy was for a two-year term ending on March 31, 2002, I also was required to prepare a report to Justice Canada to accompany the financial reports required under the terms of the Funding Agreement.

In addition to writing these articles and reports, as time and resources have permitted, I have endeavoured to meet with representatives of governments, particularly with those I had not met with previously. As of the date of the writing of this report, meetings have been held this past year with representatives of the governments of (in alphabetical order) Canada, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Québec (See Appendix E for a list of government representatives with whom I have met to date). For budgetary reasons, we were obliged to cancel meetings arranged in April with three deputy ministers in Manitoba. These will be re-scheduled when the new Funding Agreement is finalized. This will leave Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories as jurisdictions yet to be visited. (Arrangements are being made to permit me to meet with key people in this jurisdiction during the course of this meeting).

In my meetings with government representatives I have brought them up to date on the activities of the Strategy and made them aware of the significant support which it has garnered in the Canadian business, legal, academic and consumer advocacy communities. I have also solicited their support in implementing the uniform acts in their jurisdictions, emphasizing that this will be the ultimate measure of the success of the Strategy.

The government representatives with whom I have met have included ministers, deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers and others involved in the legislative process in their jurisdictions. They have consistently expressed their strong support for the goals of the Strategy and I am confident that this support will continue.

Representatives of all our government members realise the financial and other benefits which can accrue to them from leveraging the expertise of the members of the Conference's various working groups. This is particularly apparent in an era in which resources available for reform of commercial laws have decreased as demands from other areas such as medical care and security are given priority.

ACTION PLAN FOR COMING YEAR

Although the purpose of this report is to provide an overview of my activities during the past year and of the progress of the Commercial Law Strategy, I will take a few minutes to review our action plan for the coming year.

The members of the Steering Committee continue to be encouraged by the overwhelming support for the goals of the Strategy and for the momentum which has been achieved since its inception. We have succeeded in capturing the interest of stakeholders who see the Strategy as having the potential to address some of the problems arising from the current legal infrastructure. We must ensure that they are not disappointed.

This will require the continued commitment of governments to implement the uniform acts which will be recommended as part of the Strategy. Our recommendations in this regard will only be made after thorough review of the law and business practices by the experts on our working groups and broad and effective consultations with relevant stakeholders.

When the Funding Agreement is finalized, a planning meeting of members of the Steering Committee will be held to review the achievements and lessons of the past year and to establish priorities for the coming year.

It has become quite apparent that adequate funding will be critical to the success of the Strategy. With the current funding levels, we are not able to establish the administrative infrastructure which permits NCCUSL to achieve its successes with the Uniform Commercial Code. At NCCUSL, drafting committees meet face-to-face at least three times per year and are supported by the legal and administrative staff at the Chicago head office. The head office organizes and conducts mailings, surveys, consultations and the like. It provides administrative and secretarial support to the various drafting committees and members of the executive. Staff at head office respond to requests for information from the general public, print publications and market the organization's activities to its stakeholders.

We in Canada have the added challenge of meeting our translation obligations. In my view there should be a much larger budget allocated to allow this important aspect of the Strategy to be carried out on a more timely and efficient basis. Currently we are usually obliged to enlist the assistance of volunteer governments. Although this assistance is greatly appreciated, it means that we are not in full control of timing. Working groups are encouraged to complete their work far in advance of the annual meeting to ensure sufficient time for translation. Ideally, they are asked to have their final reports ready by June 1 - a full 2 ½ months before the annual meeting. In addition to the reports for the annual meeting, the Strategy is also producing a number of excellent background papers which we will want to post on the Conference's web site for our stakeholders to consult. These now include six reports prepared by members of the PPSA working group as well as a review paper of franchise laws in the world prepared by the franchise working group. All will require translation in order to be posted on the web site.

During this past year there have been discussions relating to potentially significant increases to future funding of the Strategy. This would dramatically impact the manner in which the Strategy moves forward. When considering increased funding to the Strategy, governments should recognize that they would simply be increasing funding of their own activities. For the financial contributions of governments to the Strategy (and to the Conference in general) are entirely different from contributions made to third party organizations or projects. In my opinion they should be seen as financial commitments made by the various governments to themselves. For what are the Conference and the Commercial Law Strategy other than a government organization and a government project?

Overall Priorities

Although the Steering Committee has not yet been able to hold its planning meeting, I anticipate from our past discussions that the priorities for the Strategy (in no particular order) will continue to relate to:

  • Moving forward current projects and initiating new ones;

  • Continuing efforts to raise the profile of the Strategy among stakeholders and nurture those relationships which have been established;

  • Continuing to encourage the enactment of the uniform acts targeted for speedy enactment; and

  • Maintaining the rapport which has been established with our government supporters.

Projects

The Steering Committee will continue to assess suggestions made by stakeholders in an effort to identify those projects which are likely to result in broadly implemented uniform acts. Administrative procedures relating to projects will continue to be improved. This past year a standard retainer letter was developed. As we will soon initiate broad consultations on our PPSA and franchise projects, we are looking at establishing the most efficient and cost-effective means of conducting these.

Last year I noted that topics then being considered for new projects included franchise law, privacy, criminal rates of interest, issues relating to the Bank Act and provincial PPSA legislation and transactional requirements for cheques. As noted above, we have initiated projects on three of these (i.e., franchise, criminal interest rates and Bank Act and provincial PPSA legislation issues). The Canadian Payments Association has retained Bradley Crawford to prepare a report on transactional requirements for cheques. Eventually this may involve the participation of the Conference under the Strategy. As for privacy, although no project is currently underway, a number of our stakeholders have indicated to me (either verbally or in writing) their desire for uniform legislation in this area and have encouraged the Conference to initiate a project to achieve this uniformity.

Experts, interested parties and volunteers will continue to be added to our data base of individuals who can be consulted as required.

Profile Raising

(a) Relationships with Governments

During the coming year, I will continue to meet with representatives of our member governments

to ensure that they are kept informed of our progress and to solicit from them suggestions on areas of commercial law where they feel the Strategy should initiate new projects.

I will continue to rely on the Jurisdictional Representatives to keep their respective governments informed and to advocate with them on behalf of the Strategy and its implementation. The Steering Committee had previously considered the possibility of identifying liaison deputy ministers in the departments impacted by the Strategy in each jurisdiction. I had written to the Jurisdictional Representatives for information on these individuals and will be discussing this matter further with the Steering Committee members at our planning meeting.

(b) Relationships with Stakeholders

It is important that we nurture the relationships established with stakeholders through regular communications. I will therefore continue to meet with them and obtain their input on our current and future activities. As previously noted, the uniform acts we develop will not be broadly implemented unless we obtain this input at all stages of our work, including ultimate endorsement for the final product.

I will also meet with stakeholders who have been identified but not yet contacted due to lack of time and resources. Everyone with an interest in the modernization and harmonization of commercial law in Canada must be made aware of the Strategy. The broader this awareness, the easier it will be for the Conference to act as a catalyst for the reforms we seek.

(c) Newsletter

The Commercial Law Strategy UPDATE is an excellent, cost-efficient communications vehicle. I will continue to produce and improve it as well as expand its mailing list to ensure its broad distribution. In order to ensure that the information in the UPDATE is current, I would encourage the Jurisdictional Representatives to e-mail me promptly with news on relevant developments in their jurisdiction.

Last year I had noted that we were considering including comments/articles by stakeholders and others. We came very close to publishing articles by the Ontario and federal governments in our last issue. Unfortunately timing considerations made this impossible. I do however encourage you to contact me with your contributions for future issues.

Next Annual Meeting

2018 Conference (Centennial)

Delta Hotel

Québec City, QC

August 12 - 16, 2018