Paradoxes of Professional Regulation: In Search of Regulatory Principles

By Michael J. Trebilcock

Reviewed by Tracey L. Adams, The University of Western Ontario

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The regulation of professions in Canada is changing, with several Canadian provinces having recently passed, or currently considering, new legislation to alter regulatory practices. In this context, Michael Trebilcock’s new book is timely. Trebilcock is a well-respected legal scholar and policy adviser in this field, and in this book he draws on his experience and knowledge of professional regulation in several domains, nationally and internationally, to illuminate and provide resolutions for several paradoxes in regulation. Trebilcock defines paradox in this context as instances where there is evidence of over- and/or under-regulation. After reviewing the challenges of regulating a field, and prevailing regulatory structures in Canada and several other regions (such as the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and sometimes the EU), he proposes legislative solutions to resolve these regulatory conundrums.

Trebilcock presents five case studies in professional regulation: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), mental health and counseling practitioners, financial planners and advisers, immigration consultants and, briefly, legal service professionals. In addition to examining why and how each field is regulated, he considers the amount of risk to clients and third parties, and what steps might be taken to ensure practitioner competence and ethical conduct, as well as the provision of quality, ethical services. He concludes each case study chapter with policy recommendations, always preferring the lowest level of regulatory intervention. For example, for financial planning, CAM and mental health professional regulation he recommends certification regimes and in some instances, an advisory body to oversee professional bodies certifying practitioners and to advise the government. In contrast, the regulation of immigration consultants is so fraught that full licensure and government (rather than self-) regulation is preferred.

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