Thursday, April 03, 2014

In Harper's Canada ... A Budget Bill Isn't Just A Budget

Pay close attention to Harper's "omnibus" bills.  Those contain the bulk of his agenda.  They're so big that he's hoping you don't even look.  These bills are so multi-dimensional that calling them "budget implementation bills" is a bad joke.  Bill C-31, the budget implementation bill for 2014, is no exception.

In single column, english only form, this bill is over 150 pages long ... and it's small print.  Make no mistake about it, this legislation is much more than just a budget implementation bill.  Yes, it contains the usual array of legislative changes to taxation and spending as one would expect.

But it contains even more that people should be concerned about.

First, it contains the legislation to implement FATCA - the most egregious violation of Canadians' rights under our Constitution ever done in the name of a foreign country's laws.  FATCA, and the agreement that the Harper Government has signed with the US, basically hand over your banking information to the US government.  Worse, the US can demand those records up to six years in the past.



I could write an entire tirade about FATCA and the issues of allowing the United States to essentially legislate Canadian rights, but suffice it to say that there is nothing that justifies this vile piece of legislation.  FATCA is illegal legislation in the first place - the United States has _NO_RIGHT_ to create legislation that violates another country's laws.  Further, I suspect that FATCA also violates the fundamental principles contained in other international agreements such as NAFTA, not to mention general principles of international law.

Part 6 of the legislation is where all of the nasty bits appear.  It is a catch-all section containing amendments to a ton of legislation quite unrelated to anything actually part of the budget.  An honest government would table these as individual pieces of legislation that can be debated.

Part 6 enacts and amends several Acts in order to implement various measures.Division 1 of Part 6 provides for payments to compensate for deductions in certain benefits and allowances that are payable under the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, the War Veterans Allowance Act and the Civilian War-related Benefits Act.Division 2 of Part 6 amends the Bank of Canada Act and the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act to authorize the Bank of Canada to provide banking and custodial services to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation.Division 3 of Part 6 amends the Hazardous Products Act to better regulate the sale and importation of hazardous products intended for use, handling or storage in a work place in Canada in accordance with the Regulatory Cooperation Council Joint Action Plan initiative for work place chemicals. In particular, the amendments implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals with respect to, among other things, labelling and safety data sheet requirements. It also provides for enhanced powers related to administration and enforcement. Finally, it makes amendments to the Canada Labour Code and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act.Division 4 of Part 6 amends the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to authorize individuals to transport beer and spirits from one province to another for their personal consumption.Division 5 of Part 6 amends the Judges Act to increase the number of judges of the Superior Court of Quebec and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.Division 6 of Part 6 amends the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act to prohibit parliamentarians from contributing to their pension and accruing pensionable service as a result of a suspension.Division 7 of Part 6 amends the National Defence Act to recognize the historic names of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force while preserving the integration and the unification achieved under the Canadian Forces Reorganization Act and to provide that the designations of rank and the circumstances of their use are prescribed in regulations made by the Governor in Council.Division 8 of Part 6 amends the Customs Act to extend to 90 days the time for making a request for a review of a seizure, ascertained forfeiture or penalty assessment and to provide that requests for a review and third-party claims can be made directly to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.Division 9 of Part 6 amends the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act to provide for the dissolution of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Board and to repeal the requirement for the President of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to submit a comprehensive report every five years on the Agency’s activities and on the impact those activities have had on regional disparity.Division 10 of Part 6 dissolves the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation and authorizes, among other things, the transfer of its assets and obligations, as well as those of its subsidiaries, to either the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency or Her Majesty in right of Canada as represented by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. It also provides that the employees of the Corporation and its subsidiaries are deemed to have been appointed under the Public Service Employment Act and includes provisions related to their terms and conditions of employment. Furthermore, it amends the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act to, among other things, confer on the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency the authority that is necessary for the administration, management, control and disposal of the assets and obligations transferred to the Agency. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts and repeals the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation Act.Division 11 of Part 6 provides for the transfer of responsibility for the administration of the programs known as the “Online Works of Reference” and the “Virtual Museum of Canada” from the Minister of Canadian Heritage to the Canadian Museum of History.Division 12 of Part 6 amends the Nordion and Theratronics Divestiture Authorization Act to remove certain restrictions on the acquisition of voting shares of Nordion.Division 13 of Part 6 amends the Bank Act to add regulation-making powers respecting a bank’s activities in relation to derivatives and benchmarks.Division 14 of Part 6 amends the Insurance Companies Act to broaden the Governor in Council’s authority to make regulations respecting the conversion of a mutual company into a company with common shares.Division 15 of Part 6 amends the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to support the objectives of the Regulatory Cooperation Council to enhance the alignment of Canadian and U.S. regulations while protecting Canadians. It introduces measures to accelerate and streamline the regulatory process, reduce the administrative burden for manufacturers and importers and improve safety for Canadians through revised oversight procedures and enhanced availability of vehicle safety information.The amendments to the Railway Safety Act and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 modernize the legislation by aligning it with the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management.This Division also amends the Safe Food for Canadians Act to authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting activities related to specified fresh fruits and vegetables, including requiring a person who engages in certain activities to be a member of a specified entity or organization. It also repeals the Board of Arbitration.Division 16 of Part 6 amends the Telecommunications Act to set a maximum amount that a Canadian carrier can charge to another Canadian carrier for certain roaming services.Division 17 of Part 6 amends the Canada Labour Code to allow employees to interrupt their compassionate care leave or leave related to their child’s critical illness, death or disappearance in order to take leave because of sickness or a work-related illness or injury. It also amends the Employment Insurance Act to facilitate access to sickness benefits for claimants who are in receipt of compassionate care benefits or benefits for parents of critically ill children.Division 18 of Part 6 amends the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act to provide that fees fixed under that Act for the use of a facility provided by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency under the Safe Food for Canadians Act as well as fees fixed for services, products and rights and privileges provided by the Agency under that Act are exempt from the application of the User Fees Act.Division 19 of Part 6 amends the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to, among other things, enhance the client identification, record keeping and registration requirements for financial institutions and intermediaries, refer to online casinos, and extend the application of the Act to persons and entities that deal in virtual currencies and foreign money services businesses. Furthermore, it makes modifications in regards to the information that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada may receive, collect or disclose, and expands the circumstances in which the Centre or the Canada Border Services Agency can disclose information received or collected under the Act. It also updates the review and appeal provisions related to cross-border currency reporting and brings Part 1.1 of the Act into force.Division 20 of Part 6 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2 to, among other things,(a) require certain applications to be made electronically;(b) provide for the making of regulations regarding the establishment of a system of administrative monetary penalties for the contravention of conditions applicable to employers hiring foreign workers;(c) provide for the termination of certain applications for permanent residence in respect of which a decision as to whether the selection criteria are met is not made before February 11, 2014; and(d) clarify and strengthen requirements related to the expression of interest regime.Division 21 of Part 6 amends the Public Service Labour Relations Act to clarify that an adjudicator may grant systemic remedies when it has been determined that the employer has engaged in a discriminatory practice.It also clarifies the transitional provisions in respect of essential services that were enacted by the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2.Division 22 of Part 6 amends the Softwood Lumber Products Export Charge Act, 2006 to clarify how payments to provinces under section 99 of that Act are to be determined.Division 23 of Part 6 amends the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 so that the aggregate amount of payments to provinces and territories for matters relating to the establishment of a Canadian securities regulation regime may be fixed through an appropriation Act.Division 24 of Part 6 amends the Protection of Residential Mortgage or Hypothecary Insurance Act and the National Housing Act to provide that certain criteria established in a regulation may apply to an existing insured mortgage or hypothecary loan.Division 25 of Part 6 amends the Trade-marks Act to, among other things, make that Act consistent with the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks and add the authority to make regulations for carrying into effect the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks. The amendments include the simplification of the requirements for obtaining a filing date in relation to an application for the registration of a trade-mark, the elimination of the requirement to declare use of a trade-mark before registration, the reduction of the term of registration of a trade-mark from 15 to 10 years, and the adoption of the classification established by the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks.Division 26 of Part 6 amends the Trade-marks Act to repeal the power to appoint the Registrar of Trade-marks and to provide that the Registrar is the person appointed as Commissioner of Patents under subsection 4(1) of the Patent Act.Division 27 of Part 6 amends the Old Age Security Act to prevent the payment of Old Age Security income-tested benefits for the entire period of a sponsorship undertaking by removing the current 10-year cap.Division 28 of Part 6 enacts the New Bridge for the St. Lawrence Act, respecting the construction and operation of a new bridge in Montreal to replace the Champlain Bridge and the Nuns’ Island Bridge.Division 29 of Part 6 enacts the Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada Act, which establishes the Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada (ATSSC) as a portion of the federal public administration. The ATSSC becomes the sole provider of resources and staff for 11 administrative tribunals and provides facilities and support services to those tribunals, including registry, administrative, research and analysis services. The Division also makes consequential amendments to the Acts establishing those tribunals and to other Acts related to those tribunals.Division 30 of Part 6 enacts the Apprentice Loans Act, which provides for financial assistance for apprentices to help with the cost of their training. Under that Act, apprentices registered in eligible trades will be eligible for loans that will be interest-free until their training ends.
That's quite a laundry list of legislation in here.  Thirty miscellaneous legislative initiatives, some of which are fairly benign, some are much more serious.  

For example, Divisions 9 and 10 very clearly set the stage for dismantling the Atlantic Opportunities Agency and related organizations which are designed to stimulate the economy in Canada's Atlantic provinces - which have been traditionally shaky economically.  
Division 9 of Part 6 amends the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act to provide for the dissolution of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Board and to repeal the requirement for the President of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to submit a comprehensive report every five years on the Agency’s activities and on the impact those activities have had on regional disparity.Division 10 of Part 6 dissolves the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation and authorizes, among other things, the transfer of its assets and obligations, as well as those of its subsidiaries, to either the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency or Her Majesty in right of Canada as represented by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. It also provides that the employees of the Corporation and its subsidiaries are deemed to have been appointed under the Public Service Employment Act and includes provisions related to their terms and conditions of employment. Furthermore, it amends the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Act to, among other things, confer on the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency the authority that is necessary for the administration, management, control and disposal of the assets and obligations transferred to the Agency. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts and repeals the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation Act.
This is one of many strange bits of legislation in here.  Reading the legislation itself, it appears to dismantle the "arms-length" relationship between the Federal government  and these agencies.  Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but what it does do is create a situation where the government can then absorb the agency into the bureaucracy - where it can then be quietly dismantled without making a particularly large amount of noise.

Another little gem is this:  (Division 15)
The amendments to the Railway Safety Act and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 modernize the legislation by aligning it with the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management.
If you are anything like me, you looked at this and wondered just what the "Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management" was.  I haven't even heard of this thing before.  I did a little digging to find it, and the link is there ... now I'll have to go look more closely at it.

However, in the absence of a full and clear analysis of this directive, I went an looked into the Railway Safety Act, and in particular what C-31 does to it.  C-31 reads as follows:



231. Section 50 of the Railway Safety Act and the heading before it are repealed.
The Railway Safety Act S50 reads:
  • 50. (1) Subject to subsection (2), a copy of each regulation that is proposed to be made under subsection 7(1), section 7.1, subsection 16(5.1) or section 18, 24, 37, 47 or 47.1 shall be published in the Canada Gazette at least 90 days before its proposed effective date, and interested persons shall be given a reasonable opportunity within those 90 days to make representations to the Minister with respect to the regulation.Marginal note:Exceptions(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of a proposed regulation that(a) has previously been published pursuant to that subsection, whether or not it has been changed as a result of representations made pursuant to that subsection; or(b) makes no substantive change to an existing regulation.
    • R.S., 1985, c. 32 (4th Supp.), s. 50;
    •  1999, c. 9, s. 36;
    •  2012, c. 19, s. 485.
    Hmmm...so S50 is repealed, which means that there is no longer a requirement to publish the revised regulations in the Canada Gazette.  Granted, most people do not read the Canada Gazette on a daily basis (I certainly do not, but I have definitely gone to it as a point of reference on many occasions).

    What this does is further reinforce the ability of the Harper Government to govern in secret.  The Canada Gazette is the public journal of the government.  It is intended as a means by which the public can readily inform themselves about the activities of government and the direct consequences of those activities.  The impact of this is to bury regulatory changes that can and often do affect Canadians quite directly in a plethora of departmental information sources.  Most Canadians probably have no idea what departments are responsible for what - I was shocked to see this "cabinet directive" on the Treasury Board website.


    Bill C-31 is yet another case of the Harper Government burying tons of legislative crap under an avalanche of paper.  There is no practical way that our legislators can objectively review this legislation and its implications in the limited time that the Harper Government allows for debate.



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