Welcome to the ASLO Canadian Policy website! Sophie Foster, ASLO Policy Intern and student at the University of Toronto, created this site to provide a basic guide to Canadian governmental structure as it relates to aquatic science issues. If you have comments or suggestions for improvements to this site, please contact the ASLO Public Policy Office.
The Constitution Act of 1867 divides legislative authority for aquatic issues between the federal or provincial government. This is referred to as the division of powers. Because the provinces have jurisdiction over Municipalities, and can grant them additional jurisdiction, they may also be involved in water management. The provinces have primarily taken the lead in regulating water management; however the federal government also plays a role, particularly in relation to toxic substances. The federal government's main areas of constitutional responsibility are for fisheries, navigation, and for waters that lie across international borders. Section 91 of the Constitution Act outlines the powers of the Government of Canada over aquatic issues. They include:
The provinces' legislative authorities are listed under section 92 of the Constitution Act. Issues of aquatic relevance fall under the following powers:
These powers are subject to interpretation and continue to be challenged in the courts.
Bills can be introduced in either the House of Commons (Bills starting with C-) or in the Senate (Bills starting with S-). Bills related to government spending or taxes must be introduced in the House of Commons.
The long version:
The short version:
LEGISINFO: To search bills currently before Parliament. You will need to know the bill number or title to use this resource.
The Department of Justice Canada provides access to the text of acts and other regulations. It is very user-friendly - you can search keywords in the title of the document or in the text.
Standing committees are permanent and can study issues referred to it by standing or special order, or it can undertake studies of its own initiative. Most committees have 12 members who can take part in committee debate, question witnesses, move motions, and vote. Canadian Committees that have jurisdiction over research funding and other aquatic relevant issues and legislation are listed below. Please note that many aquatic issues fall under provincial jurisdiction and therefore will be covered by provincial agencies.
House of Commons
Senate committees can only study issues the Senate refers to it. Each committee has a general mandate but any issue can be sent to any committee if the Senate chooses to do so. The following is a list of the relevant committees and their general mandates;
From: Parliament - House of Commons Canada- Precis of Procedure- Chapter 13
The Canadian Fiscal year runs from April 1- March 31. (Sep-Dec) Annual Reference Level Update (ARLU)- Prepared by the departments and provided to the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS). TBS make recommendations to the Treasury Board Ministers on future funding levels for departments and agencies. (Dec-Feb) The Main Estimates (Blue Book) is prepared by the Treasury Board Secretariat based on negotiations during the ARLU phase.
March 1- Table Estimates of spending for next fiscal year
March 1- May 31 (or the last sitting day in June if they are considering the Reports on Plans and Priorities RPP)- Estimates are considered in the appropriate committees. They consider each budgetary item called votes separately and can either agreed to (approving the amount), amended (reducing the amount) or negatived (eliminated). They cannot increase the spending amount. Committee consideration may include calling witnesses from the appropriate Minister, Agency or interested individuals or groups. If the Committee is considering the agency Report on Plans and Priorities they have until the last sitting day on June to consider the Estimates.
Next step- Standing committee reports are tabled and there is opportunity for the Members of the House to review and debate the decisions reached by each committee. The Government must provide 48 hours written notice of a motion to concur the Estimates or to make changes to committee decisions such as reinstate deleted items. Members can oppose any items in the Estimates.
Late June- (Last day in the June 23 supply period) appropriations bills introduced. As with the U.S. system, appropriations bills allocate actual funding to government programs.
Note: The Canadian system has a built-in schedule conflict. The fiscal year ends March 31 and the new authorization for spending doesn't come until after June 23. Thus for nearly three months, the government is operating without a current budget. The Canadian solution to this problem is to allow interim spending, which authorizes spending for the 3 months. The figures are expressed in twelfths of the amounts in the main estimates and usually the interim supply is for three twelfths of the main estimates.
Guides to the workings of the Canadian System
How Canadians Govern Themselves- Eugene A. Forsey (former Senator).
House of Commons Canada- Precis of Procedure
For those wanting to keep up to date with government action can go to the Canadian Gazette which provides Canadians with formal public notices, official appointments, proposed regulations and public acts of Parliament from government departments and agencies. Part I is published every Saturday and it lists proposed legislation and Canadians are invited to comment. Part II lists all enacted regulations and is published every second Wednesday.
Follow committee actions, read published reports and watch committee meetings on the Parliamentary website.
The ASLO Policy Office tracks and summarizes aquatic policy action in Canada. News items can be viewed by clicking here.
Contacting Canadian politicians
Many of the issues discussed in the American version of getting involved applies to contacting Canadian politicians.
If you know your postal code you can find out your Member of Parliament on the Canadian Parliament home page.
Senators are listed by province, just follow the links under current Parliamentarians.
Through the Auditor general's office you can petition an environmental issue in writing. An individual, organization, municipality or corporation can initiate a petition and numerous signatures are not necessary. The Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development on behalf of the Auditor General then forwards the petition to the appropriate ministers and monitors the replies. Replies are required within 120 days after the minister receives the petition from the Auditor General's Office. Petitions and replies are posted. The type of petition is broad and can include requests for clarification of current legislation, and suggestions for improvements to current legislation. Information on how to prepare a petition is posted on the Auditor General's web site.
Make a submission to a Committee of the House of Commons
Any organization or individual can submit a brief relevant to that committee. It must be based on factual information, and recommendations made should be as specific as possible. The brief should be sent to the committee clerk. For full information on how to prepare a brief go to:
Click on the links below for more information about Public Policy.