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Simon Doyle.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Simon Doyle is a reporter based in Ottawa who specializes in lobbying and public affairs. Follow him on Twitter @sdoyle333.

Lobbyists for the banking sector will be getting in early with their comments after the Conservative government released a host of new legislative amendments and regulatory changes in its 2015 budget plan.

Many of the proposed legislative changes – affecting a range of sectors from banking to energy to cultural industries – will be in the government's budget implementation bill this spring, though several regulatory changes didn't come with timelines.

"Because we don't know what the event horizon is, what the timelines are, a lot of people will go in in advance and try to lay out the issues in a favourable way," said Michele Austin, senior adviser at Summa Strategies in Ottawa. "There's the pre-work, and then there's the actual submissions on the regulations, which does take a long time considering how technical they are."

Financial industry

Ahead of a fall election, the Tory government is moving on its pledge to create a new financial consumer code for the banking industry, involving amendments to the Bank Act and banks' dealings with consumers.

Groups including the Canadian Bankers Association, representing Canadian banks, have been lobbying since 2013 on the government's new comprehensive financial consumer code that's intended to consolidate a patchwork of rules under the Bank Act, as well as regulation and voluntary codes.

The Tory budget plan, released Tuesday, said the government's new code will introduce banking sector requirements such as "clear and simple" information for consumers including "summary information boxes"; expanded corporate governance requirements so that banks' board members' duties cover consumer protection measures; better reporting by banks on consumer complaints; and "clear and accurate" advertising.

The code will require "cooling-off" periods during which consumers can cancel new banking services within a specific time window without paying a cancellation fee. The budget didn't suggest any fee regulation.

The language suggests the government is proposing a principles-based approach to the financial consumer code, as advocated by the CBA. That would be in contrast to a more specific, prescriptive regulatory rulebook. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada will enforce the new rules and principles.

Other new financial sector measures, the government said, include a bill to fight white collar crime and table financial stability legislation related to the supervisory process for financial institutions.

The government will work with mortgage lenders to provide better and clearer information about mortgage prepayment penalty fees, and create a bank recapitalization regime to protect taxpayers and depositors in the event of a bank failure, the budget plan said. The new regime will involve legislative amendments, regulations and guidelines.

The financial sector will also be consulting with government for the release of a national strategy for financial literacy in 2015-16, and new regulations related to portfolio insurance and the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation.

The government said it also wants to review a rule "that restricts federal pension funds from holding more than 30 per cent of the voting shares of a company."

Timeline of changes

Dan Kelly, chief executive of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, whose group saw favourable small-business tax reductions in the budget, said lobby groups will be parsing the wording of regulatory and legislative changes for any unintended consequences and amendments they could make "midstream."

"We certainly will be spending some time as we go through this," Mr. Kelly said. "Often groups like mine and other business associations will share notes back and forth to find out if there's a measure or two that needs to be trimmed."

Mr. Kelly said the majority of the legislative items will be acted on this year, before Parliament rises in the spring and the political parties head to an election in the fall. That may cause a swarm of lobbying on the budget implementation bill this spring.

"There's enough time prior to the election that I feel confident that the big stuff will happen, and if something does become terribly controversial or an unintended consequence is flagged, the government can kick it forward and plan to do it post-election," he said.

Lobbyists and groups will also be deciding whether to use a bigger voice by joining coalitions and associations or go it alone on issues, Ms. Austin said. Regulatory changes could be delayed by the federal election, giving companies and groups more time to discuss any issues affecting them.

Auto sector

The government also said it will amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to provide the Transport minister with the power to order recalls and levy monetary penalties for violations of the act. Additional changes will be made to the government's vehicle safety regulations.


The Tories will also amend the National Energy Board Act to increase the maximum length of natural gas export licences from 25 to 40 years as British Columbia evaluates several liquefied natural gas projects. The government said the move would help exporters and developers gauge regulatory certainty.


Changes to the Copyright Act would extend Canada's term of copyright from 50 to 70 years for sound recordings. The change would be consistent with proposals under the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks. The Copyright Act will also be amended so that Canada can accede to the Marrakesh Treaty for the visually impaired, the government said.


The government said it will engage in talks with groups like the Canadian Steel Producers Association about the country's trade remedy system under the Special Import Measures Act. The government said it wants to see that imports aren't "unfairly priced or subsidized" as they enter the Canadian market.

The Tories have been consulting with the provinces and lobby groups to reduce trade barriers between provinces, and said they will continue those talks and "regulatory co-operation activities" through a new Internal Trade Promotion Office within the Industry Department.

Simon Doyle is a reporter based in Ottawa who specializes in lobbying and public affairs. Follow him on Twitter @sdoyle333.