Commercial Law Strategy Activities Report 2002

August 18, 2002 Yellowknife NT


Presented by:
Hélène Yaremko-Jarvis, National Coordinator, Commercial Law Strategy


As I write this report in June to permit its timely translation, I have mixed feelings about the past year. We have had continuing successes in terms of nurturing already established relationships with stakeholders, garnering the support of new endorsers and making progress on existing and new projects. However there is a tremendous sense of frustration at the manner in which the Strategy has been hampered by the lack of a solid financial base and administrative support. For those of you not involved in the funding process, members of the executive of the ULCC and the Steering Committee of the Commercial Law Strategy began working on the renewal of the Strategy's funding for the period beginning April 1, 2002 in September 2001. There had been some indications since May 2001 that a substantial increase in the Strategy's funding was a definite possibility. The increase under consideration would have permitted the ULCC to move the Commercial Law Strategy to a different plane by being able to rent premises, hire staff (economists, lawyers and support staff), carry out broad consultations across Canada and the like. Unfortunately September 11 intervened and in its aftermath it eventually became evident that due to more pressing priorities, a significant increases in funding was no longer possible.

In terms of total funding, there has nevertheless been a substantial improvement if one compares the amounts contributed to the Conference for the Strategy to the historical funding levels of the Conference and its activities. Indeed, many jurisdictions agreed to double their contributions to the Strategy (see Appendix "G " for the amounts committed by the various governments.)

The main problem has been what, for lack of a better term, I shall describe as a "bureaucratic conundrum". Thus although the Strategy's funding ran out on March 31, 2002 and commitments for continued funding at past or higher levels were made, none of the money for the new funding period (April 1, 2002 to March 31, 2005) could be spent until the formal funding agreements were signed. As I write this report, this formal signing procedure has yet to be completed. As a consequence, trips and meetings already arranged (including those relating to meetings with three deputy ministers of the government of Manitoba, my traditional participation in NCCUSL's annual meeting, attendance at an Ottawa meeting of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, planned face-to-face meetings of two working groups and of the Strategy's Steering Committee) and conference calls of the Commercial Law Strategy's Steering Committee and of the working groups had to be cancelled. Because of the dire financial situation in which the Strategy finds itself, all expenses which could be delayed or eliminated since April 1, have been delayed or eliminated.

Why do I relate this? For two reasons - (i) to underline the importance for the successful operation of the Strategy of establishing its funding on a more secure basis; and (ii) to explain why certain types of activities had to be curtailed from March 2002 to the present. Hopefully, once the Funding Agreement is signed, our path will be somewhat more secure for the next 2 ½ years. I say 2 ½ rather than 3 years as it has been our experience that the months leading up to renewal of the Strategy's funding are dominated by the application procedure rather than by substantive work.

And now for my report on the accomplishments of the Commercial Law Strategy and my activities as National Coordinator during the past year.

Notwithstanding the funding issues, I continue to be a firm believer in the merit of pursuing the goals of the Commercial Law Strategy. Canada and Canadians can only benefit from a modernized and harmonized commercial law infrastructure. There is strong support for these goals in all key sectors of the economy. Indeed, I have yet to find any organization or individual who does not support the goals of the Strategy. That there is such a clear consensus on the need for reform of commercial law in Canada is a testament to the vision of the Conference members who developed the blueprint for reform and eventually convinced the member governments of its merits.

The creation of the comprehensive framework of harmonized modern Canadian commercial law envisaged in the Strategy continues to be an ambitious goal. Despite broad support for the philosophy behind the Strategy, there is a certain amount of inertia to be overcome across the country. If we truly accept that the implementation of the Strategy will be for the greater good of all Canadians, Canada's disparate parts must come together in a cooperative and flexible spirit. In the process of harmonization, individual jurisdictions may on occasion find themselves having to consider changing legislation which they adopted fairly recently. This is all part of the process which will lead to successful harmonization and ultimately to Canada's increased vitality as a competitive trading nation with growth of business and employment in Canada.

I continue to believe that the Conference is particularly well-positioned to carry out the process of reform of commercial law upon which it has embarked. It is the only organization of Canadian governments whose specific mandate is to bring the laws of the various jurisdictions into harmony where desirable and practicable. The Conference has succeeded over the years to bridge the gap between civil law and common law, between large and small provinces and between those with many resources and those with few resources. All participants in the process of developing uniform legislation benefit from the work, expertise and good will of members of delegations and volunteers of other jurisdictions. Furthermore, (and this is a credit to Canadians and to their spirit of community) the Conference continues to attract the dedicated service of volunteers from the ranks of the academic, law reform and legal communities and, more recently, the business and consumer advocacy communities.

In my report to you last August, I outlined my proposed action plan for the coming year. This action plan was based on the priorities established by the members of the Commercial Law Strategy's Steering Committee. These priorities, in order of importance, were (i) moving forward current projects and initiating new ones; (ii) continuing efforts to raise the profile of the Strategy among stakeholders and nurture those relationships which have already been established; and (iii) encouraging the enactment of the five uniform acts targeted for speedy enactment.

In the first part of my report today, I will focus on the first priority and provide a brief review of our on-going and new projects. A number of presenters who will follow me will provide more detailed reports on the activities of our working groups. This will be followed by an overview of efforts made to raise the profile of the Strategy among stakeholders and to nurture already established relationships with some of these. Finally, I will review progress made with respect to the enactment of the uniform acts targeted for speedy enactment.

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August 2021

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