Publishing the Canadian Electrical Code

April 14th, 2015

We are pleased to announce that PS Knight Co Ltd, the owner of RestoreCSA, has published the latest edition of the Canadian Electrical Code (CEC).  The CEC is the body of electrical law that is enforced in every province and territory in Canada and is passed into law Federally for enforcement on Federal lands. 

For two decades, the only way to access electrical law in Canada was through the Canadian Standards Association.  That just changed.

In 2012 the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) started a lawsuit against PS Knight Co Ltd (PS Knight) for the high crime of quoting electrical law when instructing people on electrical law.  Since one cannot instruct on a subject without mentioning that subject, by preventing PS Knight from mentioning its own subject matter the CSA hoped to force its competitor out of business.

Prior to the lawsuit, PS Knight had only published guidebooks about the law, never printing the entirety of electrical law itself.  That said, we had intended to publish the CEC, even posting an image of our pre-release 2012 CEC online.  Once the lawsuit began however, we cancelled our plans for CEC release, preferring to await the results of trial before adding new business lines and thereby new complexities in the case.

Unfortunately however, the CSA has spent the last three years generating pointless and seemingly endless delays, and all at considerable legal expense.  While we’re precluded from itemizing the particulars, there have been recent developments of a similar character to those outlined above and these have incentivized a reassessment of our position on CEC release.  That, and we can’t be expected to suspend ongoing business projects indefinitely.

So, why is our release significant?  Well, the CEC is very important to the CSA.  It’s a massive revenue machine for them and it’s one of CSA’s many monopolies.  Every electrician in the country, every inspector, and thousands of engineers and architects, all need to know the electrical laws that they’re required to comply with.  And until now, the CSA was the only source for those laws.

It’s also significant because the whole basis of CSA’s lawsuit is the peculiar notion that they privately own Canada’s laws.  On this basis they’re upset with anyone who quotes the law, like PS Knight.  We’ve heard from other companies that CSA’s targeted and in many of these cases, to save their businesses, these other firms have surrendered to CSA in the hope that by making protection payments they’ll please their enemies and somehow make friends out of them.  It hasn’t worked.

Finally, our CEC is important because of James Moore, Canada’s Minister of Industry.  You see, back in November of 2013, Moore issued a Determination in Parliament that the CEC is not part of law and on this basis CSA can own it privately.  Since then, we have received declarations from every provincial authority in Canada, each one refuting Moore’s statement and instead affirming that electrical laws passed by their Provincial legislatures are indeed laws in every legal, practical and enforceable sense.

Our publishing of the CEC is an end to CSA’s monopoly on access to public law in electrical regulation and a start to full public access to the full slate of public laws.  It’s also a very public way of putting the now disputed notion of public law itself to the test. 

We’re standing on very solid ground at the moment.  No matter how badly CSA may want to change the law through this case, to formalize acceptance of private law, the laws governing the use of public law are presently, and patently, in our favour. 

Specifically, the PS Knight edition of the CEC is published under the authority of the Alberta Government’s Queen’s Printer.  Quoting directly; “Alberta Queen’s Printer permits any person to reproduce Alberta’s statutes and regulations without seeking permission and without charge, provided due diligence is exercised to ensure the accuracy of the materials produced, and Crown copyright is acknowledged in the following format:  © Alberta Queen’s Printer, 20__.“

We’re following that format exactly.  Our CEC is the entire CEC; every jot and point, every table and calculation, right down to the title noted in the legislation itself.  All of this is reproduced faithfully and with “due diligence to ensure the accuracy of the materials produced.”

Indeed, our CEC is so accurate and complete that we’re selling it with the motto; “All the Code for one-third the price.”  That price being $60 per copy.  That $60 being one third of CSA’s price of $180 per copy.  That being a $120 reduction on a $180 price, and that’s a pretty impressive pricing differential in any market.

The Government of Alberta thinks so too, by the way.  Publishing the CEC is the culmination of several months of discussion with senior government officials, none of whom were pleased with CSA’s claim to own Provincial laws.  Quoting the Premier’s Chief of Staff, “we just will not abide private ownership of Provincial law.”  As positions go, that one seems pretty clear.

Likewise, apart from James Moore, the Federal Government is also increasingly frustrated by the inefficiencies and ineptitudes of CSA, and all of these problems paid for with monopoly level pricing on regulatory items like the CEC.  “According to [Industry Canada research],” as one Federal official reported, the CSA is “not meeting all the needs of regulators, industry and consumers for world-leading Canadian standards at a competitive price.” 

So, what now?  Injunctive relief, probably.  That is, CSA’s only real option is to place a motion before Federal Court seeking an injunction against our publicizing our intention to release the CEC in the future.  Note that it’s not available now.  That’s not a coincidence.

Our CEC is published under Alberta’s Queen’s Printer, which means that we’re permitted to announce publication, as we have, but we have to wait for the Government to pass the new CEC into law prior to selling any copies, and they haven’t passed it into law yet.  Don’t be disappointed though, this is deliberate, it’s a good thing.  Here’s why.

Injunctive relief in this instance will be incredibly difficult to get.  After all, the Queen’s Printer Copyright quoted above is awfully clear and we’ve been awfully careful about our compliance with it.  So on the facts our position is already strong.  Further, as we aren’t actually selling the CEC until later this year, the only objective for injunctive relief is our announcement.  So any injunctive relief would not cover an action, but only our publicity regarding our potential future action (as in, the act of saying that we’ll do something).  The CSA’s chances are therefore very slim.

But then there’s the CSA’s bigger problem.  Care to guess what that might be?

“I’m asking Albertans for a mandate,” said Mr. Prentice, and on April 7th the Province of Alberta headed into an election campaign.  Alright, so the CSA’s chances at injunctive relief are already pretty slim, now add to that the problem of publicly claiming to own Alberta’s laws in the middle of Alberta’s election campaign.  Which politician is senile enough to side with CSA while facing the voters?  As in; “ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have the right to know the laws that apply to you, but you do have to comply with them, you’ll still be fined if you don’t somehow comply and, by the way, you’ll still have to pay extortionate rates for the development of the laws that you can’t, don’t, and won’t ever own or be free to read or know.” 

Yet if CSA waits until after the election to file for injunctive relief they’ll have largely lost their chance to do so.  The notion of injunctive relief assumes that immediate harm is being done, necessitating immediate relief of that harm.  Waiting through four weeks of election before arguing immediate harm doesn’t really affirm a sense of immediacy.

Is that a steep enough hill for CSA?  Because it gets even steeper.

You see, right now the law is clear, that public law is public, hence the name.  Queen’s Printer laws are likewise awfully clear, and according to those laws we’re in the clear.  So CSA’s argument wouldn’t be that our CEC is a violation of law and therefore should be halted pending proof in trial, but that public access to public law is an illegitimate principle and that the laws which affirm that principle ought to be suspended pending their repudiation in court.  Trying to upend the legal status-quo, without a trial, during an election, and in defiance of the Government in whose name the law was passed is, indeed, a very steep hill to climb.

In all of this, as in so much else that we’ve covered on this site, the CSA is facing a choice between coming clean with their conduct or trying to get away with it, between being honest about their actions or trying to cover them up; it’s the difference between integrity and expediency, and thus far they’ve chosen poorly.  The CSA is facing this new competitive threat because of their unethical conduct in this litigation.  There’s a cost to corruption, and it’s costing them dear.

Questions about the PS Knight CEC?  See here.