Sheila Copps Throws a Brick

March 13th, 2014

The Hon. Sheila Copps, P.C., OC stirs the pot:

Office of the Hon. Tracy MacCharles
Minister of Consumer Services
900 Bay Street, 6th Floor, Mowat Block
Toronto, Ontario M7A1L2

Attn:  [redact]

Dear Sirs:

Re: Five Questions From

I note that Mr. Gordon Knight, of, formally requested that your Department furnish responses to five questions relating to your Government’s relationship with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).  Your Department responded by stating that your colleagues at the CSA are suing Mr. Knight and, on this basis, it is not appropriate for you to answer his questions.

As below, I am now submitting these same five questions to your Department.  It is wholly appropriate for your Department to answer my questions as I am not a party to any CSA related claim.

I further note that Mr. Knight submitted his questions to your Department on September 8th of last year and received your refusal to answer his questions on March 3rd of this year.  I hope for an early response, given that you have already spent twenty-six weeks studying this issue.

For background, the Ontario Electrical Safety Code is an amended version of the Canadian Electrical Code and is managed through your department.  The Canadian Electrical Code is coordinated by the Canadian Standards Association (“CSA”) under the supervision and certifying authority of the Standards Council of Canada.  The Standards Council of Canada reports to the Minister of Industry of the Federal Government.

Mr. Knight’s letter of August 15th noted with concern that tradespersons in Ontario are being charged $175 to read the Canadian Electrical Code.  In Ontario, the Ontario Electrical Safety Code is priced at $225.  Actual production cost of these materials is about $15.  Access to either the Canadian Electrical Code or the Ontario Electrical Safety Code is not optional for electricians, these Codes are the rules that they operate by. 

The Province of Ontario is paying CSA a per-unit royalty for sales of the Ontario Electrical Safety Code.  The basis for this payment is the notion that CSA “owns” Ontario’s electrical laws on the basis of having lobbied the Province for their adoption into law. 

In this context, I would like to receive the Government of Ontario’s response to the following questions:

1. Does the Province of Ontario believe that private companies can own public law?

2. If public law cannot be privately owned, what is the basis for royalty payments made by the Province to CSA?

3. Does the Province of Ontario pay royalties to any other lobby group or private company in exchange for submissions made to any legislative committee or any Provincial Ministry?

4. If there is no basis for royalty payments made by the Province to CSA, will the Province of Ontario commit to an immediate termination of all such payments to CSA and an attempted recovery of past payments made to CSA?

5. Does the Province of Ontario agree that if public law cannot be privately owned, and if dissemination of public law is in the public interest, there is no basis for restricting the private dissemination of public law?

As discussed, the issues of private ownership of public law, of unimpeded public access to public law, and of the equality of citizens in respect of the law, are all affected by Government attitudes to the above noted questions.  This is not a minor matter.  Foundational precedents are being challenged by CSA.  The Provincial Government’s response will either set new precedents and usher a wave of new claims upon those new precedents, or it will affirm the historical contiguity of our common understanding of equality before the law. 

I look forward to your early response.


Honourable Sheila Copps P.C. OC