Release the Hounds
Ottawa, a city where your dog can go into the river at one point and be fined for coming out 10 meters downstream.
Pet regulations nicely illustrate the bureaucratic mess created by overlapping jurisdictions of way too many levels of government. In 1999, the NCC abruptly decided to change its animal regulations, banning outright off-leash dog walking in the process. Park users discovered activities they had enjoyed for decades were now illegal. Predictably this created a lot of controversy - 1000 people showed up at an NCC "open house". Not that the NCC paid any mind - they dismissed complaints out of hand.
However, along with failing to provide any evidence that dogs were causing significant problems, it now appears the NCC exceeded its regulatory authority with its new regulations. A group has submitted a brief to the Privy Council, and the matter is now before Parliament's Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations.
Underdog: NCC Regulation Court Challenge website [now defunct]
Citizen: Go down to the river, but don't dare have fun [14 July 2004]
Globe and Mail: Restrictions on pets discriminate [13 March 2003]
NCCPD: Legal challenge and defence fund update [27 Feb 2003]
NCCPD: NCC forces NCCPD to stop posting notices on NCC property [1 Mar 2003]
NCCPD: Lobby Information page
[Note: the NCCPD has since transformed itself into Responsible Dog Owners of Canada; links to items on its former website no longer work. The Underdog has also since ceased functioning.]
Proceedings of the Standing Joint Committee on
Scrutiny of Regulations, Issue 2 - Evidence, March 25, 2004
Proceedings of the Standing Joint Committee on
Scrutiny of Regulations, Issue 3 - Evidence, April 22, 2004
They give themselves permission to allow wildlife to be on their property, as if they could do anything about it.
Of course, the very fact that residents must raise issues that are clearly municipal in nature at the federal level is ludicrous, but for whatever reason, the NCC refuses to accept the obvious solution: simply adopt the applicable municipal regulations (as they did prior to 1999).
Critique of the NCC's Regulations
What follows is a timeline of events related to the NCC's pet regulations. The bureaucratic machinations it describes are worthy of Dickens' Bleak House.
The NCC takes everyone by surprise by establishing new rules for walking dogs on NCC land.
The NCC conducts its public consultation, consisting of two "open houses" and two focus groups. The "open house" in Ottawa is attended by hundreds of irate dog owners.
The National Capital Coalition of Dogs and People submits a brief to the NCC regarding its regulations.
The NCC announces new plans to erect fences at a few locations in the Greenbelt to separate dogs.
NCC releases its Public Consultation Report, which concludes that it was more or less right all along.
The NCC announces revisions to the dog rules that address none of the major concerns of dog owners.
Glebe residents suggest a time-sharing compromise on the use of Patterson Park, an approach that has been quite successful elsewhere. The attempt is, predictably, futile:
Jul 17 2002 Letter to NCC
Jul 26 2002 NCC Response
Aug 9 2002 Letter to NCC
Sep 2 2002 NCC Response
Glebe residents submit a brief to the Privy Council Office (PCO) to support request for revocation of NCC Animal Regulations because they exceed legislative authority and fail to conform to the Statutory Instruments Act (SIA). This begins a labrynthine journey through the federal bureaucracy:
- Nov 27 2002 Brief submitted to Privy Council
- January 8, 2003. PCO letter stated Department of Justice approved the regulations. Advised that the brief did not justify revocation. Requested by email same day copies of Justice and other documents.
- January 14, 2003. Letter to PCO requesting documents.
- January 18, 2003. Nov 27 2002 Brief sent to Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.
- January 23, 2003. PCO (George Redling, Assistant Secretary to Cabinet) refuses to supply documents because "they were prepared as confidential legal advice and are subject to solicitor-client privilege."
- January 24, 2003. Access to Information request to Justice. (Request is received 27 Jan 03.)
- January 28, 2003. Email sent to PCO to reaffirm request and need for disclosure. Note: under the Access to Information Act, solicitor-client privilege is discretionary and must be deliberately invoked.
- February 25, 2003. Justice insists on 90 day extension, as providing access to large number of records within 30 days would "unreasonably interfere with the operations of the Department" and necessary "consultations" (with whom?) cannot be completed in the initial 30 day time span.
- February 28, 2003. Complaint delivered to the Information Commissioner.
- March 3, 2003. PCO replies to 28 Jan 03 letter. Reaffirms that Justice and the PCO approved the NCC Animal Regulations in accord with legislation. No proof enclosed.
- March 11, 2003. News release on court challenge.
- March 20, 2003. Comments sent to Justice on proposal to designate Animal Regulations under the Contraventions Regulations (pre-set fines for those who choose to plead guilty and pay without trial). Minimum fine = $100 for violations such as dog off leash.
- March 31, 2003. PCO adds 30 day ATIP extension.
- April 1, 2003, complaint sent to Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC).
- Apr 2, 2003. Further to a 19 Mar 03 request (in letter to RQ) from Michael Wernick, Associate DM, Canadian Heritage department, Marcel Beaudry, NCC Chairman responds with a 4-page letter: Apr 2 2003 NCC Response
- Apr 22, 2003. Rebuttle to Chairman Beaudry's 4 page letter sent to Beaudry.
- May 6, 2003. The brush-off: Marcel Beaudry's response "...comments ...duly noted"
- May 13, 2003. PCO ATIP Co-ordinator send letter to Quinn, refusing to release documents, citing section 23 of the Access to Information Act (solicitor-client privilege).
- June 18 and 20, 2003. Michel Gagnon, Justice, email replies that Canada Gazette, Part II, 2 Jul 03, should announce authority for traffic violation style tickets. No change to original proposal (see point 13).
- June 19 2003. Royal Assent given to private members Bill 205. Effectively, it gives authority to Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, through amendment to Statutory Instruments Act, to disallow regulations unless Government opposes within specified time limit to force vote in both Houses. Learned of this 1 Jul 03. Write to Gurmant Grewal, MP, (CA) the Bill's sponsor and Co-Chairman of SJC on S of R.
- June 29, 2003. Informed by Candice O'Connell that Mary Haydon et al constitutional challenge is scheduled for 17-18 Mar 2004 at Elgin Street Court House.
- July 2, 2003. NCC can now issue traffic violation style tickets. (Canada Gazette Part II, 2 Jul 03) Minimum fine = $100.00; maximum = $300.00
- Jul 13, 2003. Day 167 since date of receipt by Justice for access to information request. More than four weeks overdue on extension. On June 30, Ralph Sullivan, OIC investigator, telephoned. Mentioned that if PCO has not reponded to Justice on "consultations" after Canada day, he will send the file to his Director.
- Jul 28, 2003. Ralph Sullivan, OIC, reports that the PCO has told Justice to refuse the release of 1436 pages under section 69 (Cabinet Confidence). The balance of 120 pages have gone to the NCC for its comments by end of August. Sometime in September I should get D/Justice's answer. He will review the PCO's section 23 (solicitor-client privilege) refused documents this week.
The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations examines the National Capital Commission Animal Regulations.
The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations continues its examination of the National Capital Commission Animal Regulations, with presentations from the NCC and Robin Quinn and Andrew Haydon (former Regional Chair of Ottawa).