Standards for Sale - Part 2

January 21st, 2014

RestoreCSA recently commented that CSA members are paying to have regulations developed to their liking which they may then leverage to their commercial advantage.

Of course, the CSA is in full denial mode, disputing that they produce regulations at all.  In their view, the CSA produces only standards, not regulations and surely not laws.  Of course, they’re ignoring the fact that what they call standards are passed into law by various legislative bodies.  But compliance with CSA’s various texts cannot be a legal requirement and a voluntary standard at the same time.  Either compliance is required or not; either the text is actually part of law or is merely a suggestion. 

Readers will recall that the Minister of Industry, James Moore, issued a Parliamentary Determination on Nov. 28th in which he declared that all CSA generated text in law is unenforceable due to its “voluntary” nature.  In response, RestoreCSA asked the provincial governments whether they intend to comply with the Minister’s determination by discontinuing enforcement of CSA generated electrical laws / suggestions.  To date, every provincial government in Canada, without exception, is enforcing electrical law in defiance of the Minister’s determination.

Why do you suppose the Minister of Industry would claim that laws drafted by the CSA aren’t really laws when his own Department, his cabinet colleagues, and all of the provincial governments have claimed the opposite?  Why do you think Industry Canada would claim that the CSA is not a regulator while simultaneously accepting their regulations as law?  Why does government deny that the CSA has legislative authority while affording them power to amend legislation without Parliamentary review?  Why all the contradictions?

Ambiguity is profitable, that’s why.  To one audience, the CSA can claim to be merely a developer of voluntary standards, it portrays itself as harmless and helpful.  Canada’s energy sector is being lured by this argument right now.  To other audiences however, the CSA claims to be a public regulator with the power to draft legislation.  The CSA will offer the one claim or the other, depending on which of the two mutually exclusive claims is the more profitable at the moment.

Care for an example?  Lets look at CSA’s safety regulations for public playgrounds.  In 1990, the CSA had a small footprint in playground regulations, they were called “guidelines” back then.  In 1997, the CSA was working on a new set of playground standards and the committee they struck for the purpose included most of the country’s playground manufacturers.  But there were no worries about conflict of interest because the texts they were drafting were voluntary, they were just “guidelines.”  In 1998 however, once the new texts were ready, the CSA rebadged their voluntary guidelines as “standards.”  The City of Toronto then sent staff to CSA standards workshops where they learned that existing City playgrounds were “not compliant.”  Staff were referencing the “requirement to make the play equipment compliant with the new standards” and the need to remove “CSA infractions.”  By 2000, government agencies were being advised “to be familiar with and comply with” the new CSA standard.  Municipalities by then regarded CSA as a “lawmaker.”

Note the language.  It took just three years to move from “guidelines” to “standards” and from “voluntary” to “requirement.”  But all of these terms refer to the same text. 

In response, in late-1998 the City of Toronto established the CSA Playground Compliance Program.  This involved the mass removal of existing City playground equipment and replacing it with new equipment, 80% of which was purchased from members of the CSA playground committee. 

In a multi-year process, the City of Toronto conducted removals and replacements at 54 sites and alterations at 728 sites.  The 1998 projected cost was $5.65MM, including the $1.6MM allocated for 1999 and $4.0MM to complete the program.  The entire project cost was funded by debt.

Little Tikes Commercial is a CSA playground committee member.  By 2002, they had received $808,699 in City of Toronto playground contracts.  Henderson Recreation Equipment is a CSA playground committee member, and they received $1,538,057 in City of Toronto playground contracts by the end of 2002.  Belair Recreational Products is likewise a CSA playground committee member.  They received $1,587,274 in City of Toronto playground contracts.  These are the same companies who drafted the playground guidelines / standards / requirements which generated the municipal government expenditures in the first place.

Lest there be any doubt about incentives, all three of these CSA contributors and City of Toronto funding recipients are members of an advocacy group called the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA).  The CPRA advertised one of its conferences thusly; “Buying Power!  Municipalities in Canada spend over 2 billion dollars on projects and services in the parks and recreation sector alone!”

Ambiguity gives access to taxpayer money.  The City of Toronto was likely unaware that regulations being pitched as legal requirements were merely suggestions, and they likely feel awkward about spending millions of taxpayer dollars unnecessarily.  In 2003 for instance, the City of Toronto was asked whether CSA members received a majority of playground replacement contracts.  The City denied it.  But a Freedom of Information request confirmed that these three CSA members “had received over 80% of the City of Toronto contracts at that time.” 

On January 14th, RestoreCSA said the following;  “companies have to pay CSA to get in the door, then they pay CSA for influence at committees, then they pay CSA to develop standards to their liking, then these firms can leverage the new standards to their commercial benefit.” 

Changing even a small detail of regulation, a specified paint colour for instance, necessitates massive expenditure in compliance.  Controlling the regulatory process is therefore quite profitable.  And recall that CSA inclusions in Federal and provincial law consistently contain provisions to alter those laws, most usually with terms like “accepted as amended.”  That is, the CSA committees have the power to amend Federal and provincial laws without Parliamentary review.  The CSA members of these committees have the power to alter Canada’s laws to suit their commercial interests.

How did they get this power?  Well, they paid for it, the CSA sold it, and the Minister of Industry approved it.  Are you ok with that?


RestoreCSA acknowledges the contributions to this article of source documentation and related records by a number of anonymous sources.