As published in iPolitics:
Canadian and American business groups are calling on Ottawa to reinstate a senior official, arguing regulatory cooperation might be in jeopardy without him.
Sixteen business groups, including the Canadian and U.S. Chambers of Commerce and Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, sent a letter to David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador in Washington, D.C. last Friday. They asked for Robert Carberry, formerly assistant secretary for the Regulatory Cooperation Council secretariat at the Privy Council Office, to be put back in his role.
“More than any single individual on either side of the border, Mr. Carberry’s leadership and dedication to regulatory cooperation between our countries and the many disparate agencies of our governments has been essential to the success of [this] key bilateral initiative,” the letter says.
The Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) is part of the wider Beyond the Border initiative, signed by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper in 2011.
Control of the council was moved to the Treasury Board from the Privy Council earlier this spring.
The signatories called for Mr. Carberry to lead the initiative for at least another year. He retired on Wednesday.
“We wouldn’t normally comment on public service personnel,” said Warren Everson, senior vice president of policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “But Mr. Carberry has been so much a spark plug of this program, so much a leader of it. So we were very distressed to hear that he was leaving.”
The Canadian Chamber has also expressed concern about the RCC move to Treasury Board. “The program is equal parts diplomacy with the United States and consultation with Canadian business,” said Mr. Everson. “Treasury Board, strong as the organization is, is not really set up to do those two things.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted U.S President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for the North American Leaders’ Summit on Wednesday in Ottawa.
“Our hope is that the governments remain committed to the regulatory cooperation process,” said Dan Ujczo, counsel at Dickinson Wright and president of the Ohio-Canada Business Association. He said the best way to do so would be to bring back Mr. Carberry, or have him contribute “in some type of capacity outside of government, to ensure that this continues.”
With the U.S. presidential election now less than six months away, few expect any more big announcements on Canada-U.S. bilateral issues in the short-term. But this is just the time for progress on more pragmatic issues, like regulatory cooperation, said Mr. Everson.
In an email, Treasury Board spokesperson Kelly James said that Canada-U.S. regulatory cooperation remains a priority, and that Treasury Board “is excited about the increased synergies” that will result from having the RCC housed there.
Treasury Board President Scott Brison “is keenly interested in advancing this file, and is seeking opportunities to engage with his U.S. counterparts, as well as with stakeholders, in this area,” said James in her email.
Regulatory harmonization tends to fall under the radar, below bigger issues like softwood lumber. But it’s a top concern for businesses on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. “The RCC is number one, in terms of negative impacts on global competitiveness,” said James Philips, president of the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance.
Divergent standards and regulations have a disproportionate impact on small- and medium-sized companies, said Philips. “These regulations can kill them, and I think they do,” he said.
Losing Mr. Carberry was a “very decisive negative” for the RCC, said Mr. Philips. “Getting anybody new in there is going to cause a restart in many ways.”