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Legislation and Best Practice – their Complex Relationship

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Legislation and Best Practice – their Complex Relationship


I’ve been engaged in legislative development for a long time at the federal and provincial level. And given my long-standing relationship with the Canadian Common Ground Alliance, I’ve been asked many times to provide my opinion on the relationship between legislation and best practice. In short, the two are closely related, yet distinct in their purpose and scope. Legislation refers to the laws and regulations passed by governments and other governing bodies, while best practice refers to the optimal approach or methodology for achieving a particular outcome or goal. 

This always leads to the next question: Can legislation and best practices work together to achieve positive outcomes?

Legislation is generally created in response to a need for control in a particular area – usually in the form of laws, regulations, guidelines, or standards. The purpose of legislation is to provide a framework for behavior that ensures compliance with certain rules or guidelines. 

Best practice, on the other hand, is an optimal way of achieving a particular outcome. It refers to a methodology or approach that has been proven to be effective in achieving a particular goal or objective. 

The relationship between the two is complex. On the one hand, legislation can be used to establish best practices. For example, a law that requires construction sites to follow certain safety guidelines may be based on best practices developed by the construction industry. In this case, legislation can be used to codify and enforce best practices, ensuring that they are followed and implemented.

On the other hand, best practices can also inform legislation. When lawmakers are developing new laws or regulations, they may look to established best practices for guidance. This can help to ensure that the legislation is based on the most effective and efficient methods of achieving the desired outcome.

However, there can also be conflicts between legislation and best practice. In some cases, legislation may be outdated or may not reflect current best practices creating situations where organizations are forced to choose between following the law or following best practices. In these situations, organizations may choose to adopt best practices voluntarily, even if they are not legally required to do so.


Mike Sullivan – President, Utility Safety Partners


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