Looking abroad for a recipe for successful health care reform


Calls for substantial health care reform have been ringing across the province of Quebec and the country. It’s time to answer those calls

Maria Lily Shaw
Troy Media
Calls for substantial health care reform have been ringing across the province of Quebec. It’s time to answer those calls and transform our monopolistic health care system into a mixed, universal system that embraces the value of parallel resources to improve both access and quality of care for patients. The good news is these solutions have already been tested and adopted in other countries with universal health systems, such as the United Kingdom and Sweden. All that remains is to learn from their experiences and add our own personal touch to the recipe where necessary. The proposed recipe for success is composed of ingredients, or reforms, that mix well with the Canada Health Act and have proven beneficial to patients. But like any successful recipe, the order in which the ingredients are mixed is just as important as the ingredients themselves. The first step: electronic patient records and expanded access to health data. Handwritten records and fax-based communication between institutions, archaic practices still present across the province, must make way for the technologies of the present. Taking this step first will enable evidence-based health care planning and facilitate access to patients’ health profiles, among other benefits. Next, the prohibition on duplicate health insurance has to go, closely followed by the ban on dual practice for physicians. Allowing Quebecers to purchase duplicate insurance without restriction would expand the number of options available to patients seeking medically necessary care. Once dual practice is permitted, health care professionals will be able to work in both the independent sector and the government-run system simultaneously and no longer have to jump through administrative hoops to opt-in or -out of the public system. Some may fear that mixing these two ingredients will reduce the available resources in the public system. They can rest easy. The recipe calls for an increase in the supply of medical professionals with three straightforward measures: streamlining the application process for foreign-trained doctors, eliminating medical school quotas, and adopting national licensure to allow medical professionals to practise across the country. Without such additional human resources, access to health services will remain suboptimal, and our health care system will perpetually lack resources. After completing these steps, the ideal conditions would be in place to adopt activity-based funding for Quebec hospitals. Historical budgets, still used today, provide little incentive to innovate or improve the quality or efficiency of care. Activity-based budgets, on the other hand, fund hospitals according to the actual volume of patients they treat and the severity of the patients’ conditions. This ingredient is crucial to the recipe’s success, as it allows the money to follow the patients, making them a source of revenue for hospitals rather than a cost, and consequently removing the need for rationing through long waiting lists. The final step is to delegate the management of some hospitals to entrepreneurs, all while maintaining public funding. This would in no way undermine the universality of our system because care would remain free at point of use. Rather, by increasing competition to attract patients (a source of revenue, remember), operational efficiency would increase, to the benefit of patients. Our health care professionals give their all to care for patients, and they have taken centre stage for the past two years, but the current system is stacked against them. These brave individuals deserve to work in an environment that is flexible and responsive to their patients’ needs. With a dash of political will and a pinch of hard work, this set of reforms could finally drag Quebec’s health care system into the 21st century and place the efficiency of institutions and the well-being of patients among the top priorities, where they have always belonged.
Maria Lily Shaw is an Economist at the Montreal Economic Institute and the author of “Real Solutions for What Ails Canada’s Health Care Systems – Lessons from Sweden and the United Kingdom.”

Playing Russian roulette with food security


Sylvain Charlebois

Troy Media

With war comes economic sanctions. Instead of sending troops to fight the old-fashioned way, wars are fought with money, and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia is no exception.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, the European Union, Turkey and a few more have sanctioned Russia in one way or another.

Canada has targeted the banking system and barred Russian airlines from using its airspace. It has also cancelled all export permits and halted new ones, primarily affecting the aerospace industry.

Nobody knows for sure if these sanctions will work, but both the energy and food sectors have been spared so far by all sanctioning nations.

Sanctions are designed to affect President Vladimir Putin’s regime, not Russia’s people, recognizing that many Russians may not be supportive of the invasion of Ukraine.

Corporations are also potentially affected, as some Canadian companies in the food sector have invested in Russia over the years. American corporate giants Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Starbucks have now pulled out of Russia.

Canadian corporation McCain Foods – which was building a $200-million plant in the Russian Tula region – opted to halt its construction for now. The company may decide to pull its project out in the coming days. But it’s been reported that McCain is still conducting business in Russia.

Meanwhile, McCain has announced it will donate $200,000 to relief efforts in Ukraine, making clear that it condemns Putin’s actions.

On the other hand, Maple Leaf Foods doesn’t have any operations in Russia and has given $500,000 in relief funds to help Ukrainians. Good on them.

Convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard also operates stores in Russia and could be affected by sanctions. The company just announced it was suspending operations in Russia. The company, which controls the Circle K chain, only has 38 stores and more than 320 employees in Russia. It was present in Russia by way of Norway’s Statoil Fuel and Retail.

Some Canadians made calls for a boycott of Canada-based Mac’s and Circle K stores operated by Alimentation Couche-Tard until the Quebec-based company made a clear decision to cease its operations in Russia. That’s likely why it did. The company also donated US$1.5 million to the Red Cross in recent days.

Another major Canadian food player in Russia is Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Tim Hortons. It also owns Burger King and the chain operates 800 stores in Russia. Other than a corporate statement registering concerns about the invasion, no clear decision has been made. Many people recently took to social media to ask the chain to stop conducting business in Russia.

Asking these companies to pull out and stop doing business with Russia is the easiest and most obvious thing to do. The atrocity of the invasion is simply inexcusable.

But we also need to keep in mind that these Canadian companies are very much part of the food security fabric for the Russian people. On the surface, closing convenience stores or fast food joints or not selling French fries could be seen as trivial. But any corporate decision to pull out or cease doing business in the country would compromise Russia’s access to food, thus penalizing its people.

It’s truly a delicate balancing act between reputational risks and food security. The stakes are different when compared with other economic sectors.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was vague and non-committal about whether his government would compensate Canadian companies hurt by sanctions imposed on Russia. Compensating companies conducting business abroad affected by wartime sanctions would set a very dangerous precedent.

The federal government should not compensate Canadian companies hurt by sanctions imposed on Russia, including companies in the agri-food sector. Geopolitical risks are always in the mix when investing abroad, and these companies, not the Canadian people, took on these risks when they opted to invest in Russia.

Moreover, many of these companies have insurance against such sanctions. And sanctions against Russia were actually started more than eight years ago when Russia invaded Crimea.

Canadian companies shouldn’t be surprised by how things are unfolding, and Canadian taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for their choices.Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms matters now more than ever


For two years, governments in Canada have been implementing policies that violate the Charter relating to individual rights and freedom

Now is the time for a regroup, a refresh.

The fight over the removal of the vaccine mandates is just one battle, not the war.

The war is that the mandates were and are unconstitutional.

They must be found to have been unconstitutional, that they have all violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Otherwise, our democracy is diminished – we will not be fully free as a nation of individuals.

We have perhaps 20 or 30 judges who will decide – judges of the courts of appeal of the provinces, the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada.

For those who may have forgotten and those new to the cause, let’s review.

Written constitutional entrenchment of individual rights and freedoms was late coming to Canada – not until they appeared in the Constitution Act of 1982. The act was authorized by the Patriation Agreement of 1981 after 17 months of talks – 114 years after the nation was founded. In the United States, the time between the country’s founding and an entrenched bill of rights was 15 years.

Pierre Trudeau, prime minister of Canada in 1981, broke off talks and tried to unilaterally patriate the Constitution and add his version of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Eight provinces opposed this move and took the federal government to court. In September 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that what the prime minister and his government were trying to do was unconstitutional. Any such changes, the court said, must involve the provinces.

Here’s what the court said: “We have reached the conclusion that the agreement of the provinces of Canada, no views being expressed as to its quantification, is constitutional­ly required for the passing of the ‘Proposed Reso­lution for a Joint Address to Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada’ and that the passing of this Resolution without such agreement would be unconstitutional in the con­ventional sense.”

A last-ditch effort was made in early November 1981 to accomplish patriation, a charter and other changes (Indigenous rights, equalization, etc.).

On Nov. 5, a deal was struck based on a Newfoundland proposal presented the night before to some provinces. Nine provinces and the federal government agreed. Only Quebec did not sign.

Today, and for two years, governments in Canada have been implementing policies that violate the provisions of the Charter related to individual rights and freedoms, particularly Sections 2, 6, 7 and 15.

These involve freedoms of assembly, association, religion, conscience, expression and the press. They involve the right to travel throughout Canada and leave Canada, the right to a livelihood, rights of life, liberty and security of the person and equality before the law.

Those are rather precious rights, one would think.

Governments have attempted to ignore or, in some cases, give passing notice to the Charter in their policies, even though their policies are subject to the Charter. The audacity is astounding.

And in other cases, they try to invoke Section 1 of the Charter as their saviour.

But Section 1 was intended to be used only in times of war, insurrection and perils to the state. The past two years of manufactured emergencies hardly apply.

Just a few sections below Section 1, Section 4(2) states: “In time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection, a House of Commons may be continued by Parliament and a legislative assembly may be continued by the legislature beyond five years if such continuation is not opposed by the votes of more than one-third of the members of the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, as the case may be.”

This clearly shows how we were thinking at the time. Does one think those of us who were drafting this would not treat removing individual freedoms and rights under the same circumstances as extending the life of a Parliament?

And even for argument’s sake, if Section 1 did apply, the four tests in that section haven’t been met by the governments, so Section 1 could apply – especially the tests of “demonstrably justify,” and “free and democratic society.”

No Canadian government has demonstrably justified any of its mandates, let alone conducted them within the values and practices of a free and democratic society. The former would involve an objective cost-benefit analysis and the latter a continuing involvement of Parliament and/or the people.

All of this is most shocking when one considers Section 52 of the Constitution Act 1982, which says: “The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect.”

The beginning of the Charter also says: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”

Every Canadian of thinking age needs to become knowledgeable concerning our Constitution and realize that if we’re to keep it, we must defend it in every way we can within the law. Brian Peckford is a former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and the last living first minister who helped craft the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mentors are key to embracing new Canadians


Constantine Passaris

Troy Media

As a new Canadian, I was fortunate to have had the guidance and mentorship of many outstanding Canadian role models. They helped pave my integration into a new society and provided me with invaluable advice for my professional career.

There’s an important lesson here for nation-building in Canada. Bringing immigrants to Canada is only half of a successful strategy to grow our workforce and population. The other half is making sure we have welcoming communities to facilitate their successful integration into the social, cultural and economic aspects of our civil society.

As a young man who left his old and celebrated country of Greece to live in a new country full of promise and potential, I was immediately struck by remarkable comparisons. I was leaving a country with limited economic potential and settling in a country with tremendous economic opportunity. I was also leaving a country that had invented democracy to embrace a country that was fully committed to practising democracy.

However, Canada was a different country, with a different language and a very different way of doing things.

Most immigrants are deeply aware of the challenges and hardships of moving to a new country. That’s when immigrants see the value and benefits of mentorship which offers a clear pathway toward their successful integration in new social and economic environments.

Having outstanding mentors was a foundational trajectory toward my social integration, supporting my first steps in Canada and directing my career to a successful outcome. Two of my early mentors stand out in my memory. The first was Joey Smallwood and the other was George Stanley. Both left an indelible imprint in my personal life and professional career.

As an international graduate student at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, the significance of being in the presence of Smallwood, the only living father of Confederation, was lost on me. But over time, I became more appreciative of this period being foundational in shaping my love for Canadian politics, informing my public speaking and teaching capabilities, and sharpening my understanding of Canadian public policy.

I spent many afternoons at the Newfoundland legislature, sitting in the legislature’s public bleachers watching Smallwood in action. He was amazing: a seasoned Newfoundland politician who led his province to join the Canadian Confederation. At a professional level, Smallwood helped me take my first baby steps in Canadian public policy.

One of the take-aways from my exposure to Smallwood was his oratorial strategy to repeat important points three times, using different words and phrases. It’s a tactic that I practise to the present day in my lectures, with much success.

Every February, when the anniversary of the Canadian flag is celebrated, my thoughts turn to my friend and mentor George Stanley, who designed the flag. Stanley served for many decades as a professor of history and dean at the Royal Military College in Kingston. Upon his retirement, he served as New Brunswick’s 25th lieutenant-governor.

During Stanley’s tenure as lieutenant-governor, one of his official duties was to sign new legislation into law. In that capacity, he would drive deputy ministers crazy. Always the professor, he would carefully read the submitted legislative text. After that, he would circle inappropriate words with a red pen and suggest alternate sentence structures on the margins. Most of the legislative acts that reached his desk were returned to the responsible deputy minister awash in red ink and extensive corrections.

Stanley taught me the power of history. He was an eloquent advocate that history can explain the present and serve as an inspirational compass for the future. This was evident in his ceremonial uniform, his inspiring speeches, and how he defined his role as the Queen’s representative in New Brunswick.

Few new Canadians have had the honour and the privilege to have fallen in love with Canadian politics because they were inspired by the only living father of Confederation. And even fewer have experienced the thrill of shaking the hand of the man who designed the Canadian flag.

As a new Canadian, I was indeed fortunate to have been guided by the very best mentors and role models Canada had to offer.Dr. Constantine Passaris is a professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick and a recipient of the Order of New Brunswick.

Time to scrap entitlements for former G-Gs


Renaud Brossard

Troy Media

Julie Payette must feel like she won the lottery.

Despite resigning in shame from her posting as governor general amidst allegations of creating a toxic workplace, she is still entitled to the Cadillac of all retirement packages, courtesy of all of us taxpayers.

First off, there’s the pension. At $150,000 per year, it’s generous enough to put any former governor general amongst the top five per cent of income earners in the country. And that’s not accounting for any other income they might get from any other work or investment they may have.

It’s not like governors general have to work long and hard to be eligible for it either. A governor general’s mandate is typically five years. Payette served for a bit more than three and she still gets a full pension.

That’s because the very second a governor general steps down, they become eligible for the full $150,000 per year taxpayer-funded pension, no matter how long they stay in office. Even if they resign within their first day on the job, they get the total amount in perpetuity.

Even by government standards, this is rich. A federal bureaucrat earning $309,000 per year – the same level as a governor general – would have to wait 27 years to get a similar pension. And unlike governors general, they have to contribute to their pension funds.

Then, there’s the expense accounts. Even in their retirement, governors general can keep billing taxpayers up to $206,000 per year each for travel, hotel and a private office.

And as if a lifetime expense account wasn’t enough, documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation show a governor general’s estate can keep submitting receipts for up to six months after their death.

And they do so with very little transparency. The only reason Canadians found out about the policy is because former governor general Adrienne Clarkson spent over $100,000 some years, which required its very own line in the public accounts. Since leaving office in 2004, Clarkson has asked us to cover over $1.1 million in expenses.

Canadians are understandably outraged by this policy. A recent Léger poll commissioned by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation shows nearly eight in 10 Canadians want the policy scrapped.

Even federal bureaucrats found it a bit rich. A report prepared for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October 2019 recommended the entitlements “end after a defined number of years of leaving office rather than the current for-life regime.”

What has Trudeau done with those recommendations in the last two years? Nothing. They have been gathering dust somewhere in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Let’s be clear; it’s not like changing this policy would require extensive debates or weeks of hard work by highly paid policy advisors.

Post-retirement expense accounts for governors general are not enshrined in law. They’re an administrative policy that stems from a cabinet decision in 1979.

As such, getting rid of it doesn’t involve lengthy debates and readings in Parliament but rather a quick decision from government ministers to scrap it. It shouldn’t take much more than two minutes in the next cabinet meeting.

The fact is, when the country is dealing with a $144.5 billion deficit, our government should do its utmost to identify places where it can save money.

Reining in the entitlements we give to former governors general should be one of those easy decisions. We know it’s popular – eight in 10 Canadians want it. We know the bureaucrats that looked into it find it to be out of whack. It also happens to be something Trudeau promised to review back in 2018.

The only thing we’re left wondering is what’s the holdup in cabinet?

Renaud Brossard is the Quebec Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Terrazzano: Conservative Party leader must prioritize balanced budgets


Franco Terrazzano

Troy Media

Balanced budgets mean less government debt for Canadian kids and grandkids to pay back, less money wasted on interest charges and fewer tax hikes.

At best, the last Conservative Party leader paid lip service to balancing the budget. The next Conservative leader needs to make balancing the budget and bringing Canada back to financial sanity a top priority.

Based on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s last budget, the federal government isn’t expected to balance the books until 2070, according to data from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

That would cost taxpayers $3.8 trillion just to pay interest charges on the debt over those five decades of deficits. Those are trillions of dollars we can’t use to hire more nurses, reduce class sizes or leave in taxpayers’ pockets because they’re going to the bond fund managers on Bay Street through interest payments.

Each Canadian’s share of the federal debt is currently about $30,000. By 2070, that could reach $67,000. That’s a huge tab that the government is piling on the backs of future generations.

What did previous Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole do to stop this tsunami of red ink?

O’Toole wanted to spend about $50 billion more than Trudeau’s last budget.

“The Conservatives proposed government spending in this fiscal year that was higher than what we proposed,” said Trudeau’s finance minister, Chrystia Freeland.

Other than ending the government’s media bailout, O’Toole’s answer to Canada’s spending problem was to turn to remote work for government employees. That’s it: balance the budget one Zoom meeting at a time.

O’Toole said he’d balance the budget within a decade. But how could he balance the budget decades before current projections while spending tens of billions more? O’Toole’s math didn’t add up.

The next Conservative Party leader needs to offer a better vision.

Analysis from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation shows the federal government could balance its budget in 2023-24 by returning spending to pre-pandemic levels of 2018-19, adjusted upward for inflation and population growth.

That’s balancing the budget by returning spending to all-time highs. The federal government spent more money in 2018-19 – before the pandemic or any cross-country recession – than it did during any single year during the Second World War.

How would the federal government find those savings?

With the government’s massive overspending, finding savings in every area of the budget should be like finding water in the ocean.

The government will have to do the little things right. That means no more spending thousands of dollars on sex toy shows in Germany or marijuana simulation kits for the military or red carpet galas for communications bureaucrats.

The government will also have to do the big things right. No more giving 312,825 federal government bureaucrats pay raises during a pandemic while their neighbours lose their jobs and businesses.

No more giving businesses like the Ford Motor Company $295 million. Trudeau has announced more than $18 billion in corporate welfare since 2017. No more increasing the blank cheque that some premiers receive through equalization by $1 billion every year forever. And no more forcing struggling taxpayers to give the CBC $1.4 billion per year.

Taxpayers expect leadership at the top. That means MPs need to reverse the multiple pay raises they’ve given themselves during the pandemic. Political parties should be forced to repay the $3.7 million they took through the wage subsidy that was meant to help businesses during the pandemic. And former governors general shouldn’t be able to expense taxpayers for more than $200,000 every year for the rest of their lives and up to six months after their death.

There’s still ample fat left to cut in Ottawa. The next Conservative leader needs to make balanced budgets a top priority.

Franco Terrazzano is the Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Free expression is still under threat with Bill-C11


By Mark Mancini
Troy Media

In the spring of 2021, the federal government faced considerable backlash for its clumsy attempt at regulating Canadian content on the Internet. Bill C-10 was concerned with “compelling companies like Netflix Inc and TikTok Inc to finance and promote Canadian content.” It was controversial, not least because the law could be read to target content produced on user-driven sites (such as TikTok), thereby ensnaring individual content creators rather than the tech giants and subjecting them to discoverability requirements and penalties.
One of the biggest concerns was free expression. Bill C-10 could be read to grant Canada’s telecom and broadcast regulator (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission or CRTC) power to regulate the content of individual expressions, something that – to many of us – presented constitutional and regulatory concerns. As University of Ottawa’s Professor Michael Geist stated upon the tabling of the Bill, it “hand[ed] massive new powers …[to the CRTC] to regulate online streaming services, opening the door to mandated Cancon payments, discoverability requirements, and confidential information disclosures, all backed by new fining powers.”
Mercifully, Bill C-10 died because of the election, and some of us thought that would be the end of this story. Not so. The Trudeau government recently re-introduced the same pig with different lipstick: Bill C-11. It’s enough to say this Bill is generally not an improvement on its predecessor, at least from the perspective of the power it vests in the CRTC. Its central defect is failing to solve the problem with Bill C-10, and indeed making it worse by simply allowing the CRTC to apply the law to users in certain cases. This should be, if not constitutionally problematic, then politically so. If the CRTC can apply the law to a large class of individual users, the government can evade its responsibility for this controversial choice in Parliament. In other words, the CRTC will still have the power to regulate user-generated content and subject that content to discoverability regulations and users to potential penalties. It has this power despite the Bill being designed to obscure it.
In Bill C-11’s backgrounder, the government says this new legislation solves two problems with its predecessor, Bill C-10. First, “it captures commercial programs regardless of how they are distributed, including on social media services.” Second, “the proposed bill is also clear that the regulator does not have the power to regulate Canadians’ everyday use of social media, including when they post amateur content to these services.”
It seems, then, that the proposed Bill does not apply to Canadian users or individual creators. And the opening part of the actual text of the Bill sounds promising. It says it must be construed and applied in a manner that is consistent with “(a) the freedom of expression and journalistic, creative and programming independence enjoyed by broadcasting undertakings.” Section 4.1 (1) of the Bill sounds even better: “This Act does not apply in respect of a program that is uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service for transmission over the Internet and reception by other users of the service.” This seems to deal with the problem so many critics had with Bill C-10 when it removed key exemptions that extended its scope to include the average TikTok user.
So far, this sounds like a real improvement. But the promise fades when we consider the CRTC’s new regulation-making power. A regulation is a form of law – the power to make regulations is given to an agency by the elected legislature. This isn’t itself inherently problematic, and, of course, regulation-making is widespread today. But this goes further. Section 4.1(2) of the Bill basically “takes back” s.4.1(1) by giving the CRTC power to make regulations governing “programs” despite the seeming exclusion of user content. If not constitutionally problematic, it is politically so since it allows the government to evade responsibility for the potentially vast scope of this law.
The clause is the central problem with this new Bill. It is cabined by a few factors – namely s.4.2 (2) (a), which directs the CRTC to consider “the extent to which a program, uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service, directly or indirectly generates revenues” as it makes regulations. Based on comments made by the minister, the target here appears to be YouTube music. But many other types of user-generated content could conceivably fall under the scope of the law, including user-generated TikTok videos or podcasts that indirectly generate revenue and have other features that fall within the scope of the regulation-making power.
The end result is that this technical change has the potential to ensnare countless users on various platforms. Professor Geist has summarized the wide berth of power granted to the CRTC in Bill C-11 as follows:
Views on the scope of this regulatory approach may vary, but it is undeniable that:
1. regulating content uploaded to social media services through the discoverability requirement is still very much alive for some user-generated content;
2. the regulations extend far beyond just music on Youtube;
3. some of the safeguards in Bill C-10 have been removed; and
4. the CRTC is left more powerful than ever with respect to Internet regulation.
The Bill basically downloads real decision-making a level down into regulations. Rather than the government taking responsibility for regulating user content in this fashion, it instead intends to grant it to the “independent” CRTC. If there is controversy about any future regulation, the government can shift responsibility to the CRTC. The regulation-making just reinforces this, by granting power to the CRTC to expand the scope of the law and make decisions that should fall to Parliament.
An eerie silence has met Ottawa’s plan to regulate the Internet and outlaw hurtful – not just hateful – expression
A critic could say that the statute constrains the regulation-making power and that the income-generation factor is one non-exhaustive factor. Perhaps. But I could grant all of this and still maintain that the Bill purports to grant significant power to the CRTC to apply the law to users, something the backgrounder suggests it does not. This disparity between substance and rhetoric is disturbing.
It is important here to address another possible response. Much is made in administrative law about the need to empower regulatory experts to make decisions in the public interest. So far as this goes, the device of delegation could be useful. But it is not always and everywhere so, and there are differences in degree. A delegation to the CRTC here may be justifiable, but the government should take responsibility for the choice to regulate user content. Presumably, this should be something that – if it needs to be addressed – should be addressed in the primary law rather than by the CRTC in its own wide, relatively unconstrained discretion. In other words, if Youtube music is the problem, the law should be appropriately tailored.
The basic problem here might be more fundamental. What is the need for this Bill? It seems the regulatory goal here may be to subject the Act’s requirements to users who generate a certain income, for example, among other things. If that is the regulatory goal, why is the CRTC regulatory mechanism desirable? If the government wants to make this policy choice, why can’t it do so in plain view in Parliament?
There are real democratic trade-offs to using this sort of regulation-making power and, more specifically, downloading responsibility to the CRTC. This is a controversial application of a regulatory law – with penalties – to a potentially huge class of users. Not only does the government permit by stealth what it says it has amended the Bill to prevent, but it does it here by delegating to the CRTC. I do not see this legal device, and this Bill, as any better than Bill C-10.

Mark Mancini is a PhD student at the Allard School of Law (University of British Columbia), where he studies the law of judicial review particularly as it applies to the carceral state. He is a graduate of the University of New Brunswick, Faculty of Law (JD) and the University of Chicago Law School (LLM).

Invoking the Emergencies Act will help Canada’s reputation abroad


By Sylvain Charlebois
Dalhousie University

In recent days, many Canadians have watched in disbelief as protesters easily blocked many access points between the United States and Canada.
For six painful days, the blockades included the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., a key trade conduit between the two countries, forcing trucks to be rerouted towards Sarnia.
Other border crossings were disrupted in Manitoba, Alberta and now British Columbia. Many shipments were delayed and some cargo had to be scrapped, including blueberries and greens. That’s more waste and more costs to the industry and consumers.
And now, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is invoking the Emergencies Act.
Given how far things have gone, the federal government had to consider all options.
Disrupting cities like Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and others can be troubling for citizens. But the risks are significantly different when trade between two countries stops. If supply chains are the backbone of our economy, the border is its spinal cord.
The impact of the blockades was immediate. Manufacturing plants were closing, and it barely took a few hours before the White House called Trudeau to share its concerns.
Our food supply chain is messy these days and the last thing it needed was more human-induced logistical predicaments created by the very disruptive truckers’ convoy.
If some people didn’t know that the border between Canada and United States has been the focus for both economies over the years, they know now. Keeping the longest border in the world open, peaceful and disruption-free is no easy feat.
It has taken decades to foster a spirit of interdependence between the two countries, especially for the agri-food sector. In the last year, Canada was the second-largest export market for U.S. agricultural exports, totalling more than $26 billion and accounting for 15 per cent of all U.S. agricultural exports. At the same time, the United States imported more than $30 billion worth of agricultural products from Canada.
So the border is busy and, without that trade, the food security landscape in Canada would look quite different.
Economically, the impact of blockades will be inconsequential. Companies have a way of dealing with anything we throw at them, especially in food distribution. Empty shelves are bad for business and importers and exporters will do anything not to see us leave grocery stores empty-handed.
The damage, though, is beyond numbers. What may be impacted by blockades are reputation and trust. To be summoned by Washington is nothing short of embarrassing. This is Canada, one of the most peaceful countries in the world.
As the smaller and less economically influential of the two trading partners, Canada has a lot more to lose because America has more logistical options. Blocking a border will have potentially long-term consequences in Canada. This may persuade the U.S. to reconsider strategic alternatives or change its stance on certain more sensitive trade issues, like softwood lumber and dairy. Canada may just have made a stronger case for “America First” advocates.
But consumers will be hurt the most. It’s much too soon to know how Canada’s food affordability will be impacted by the unlawful blockades. But with many shipments being destroyed or delayed, plus the increasing pressures due to increasing fuel costs, some food prices could rise beyond what was predicted just a few months ago.
Canadians face enough financial pressures right now. This added a layer that’s simply not necessary.
The concept of using driverless vehicles through autonomous technology for micro and large-scale highway freight transport has merit, perhaps more than ever.
Some companies have had to cut production due to procurement issues caused by blockades. It has made companies think differently about transportation across North America, and eliminating human drivers may be more appealing now.
In the end, blockades happen for a reason. But for our trading partner in the south, it doesn’t matter what the reason is. Damage was done.
For our food supply chain’s sake, there’s nothing more disruptive than civil unrest – nothing. It’s even worse than climate change. Reputation and trust are damaged, permanently in some cases.
No matter how we look at what’s happening, the federal government has some serious diplomatic issues to address. So invoking the Emergencies Act is also about protecting Canada’s reputation abroad.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act must be updated to serve Canadians better


Henrietta Ross

Troy Media

Thousands of Canadians undergo bankruptcy or undertake a consumer proposal to help manage their debts every year. From 2012 to July 2021, more than one million Canadian debtors used the insolvency system. The void within Canada’s insolvency legislation is deeply lacking in terms of specific references, standards or accountability concerning the accuracy of recording and reporting of bankruptcy and consumer proposal information on consumer credit reports.

The Canadian Debtors Association is calling on all parties in the credit, debt and insolvency industry to work together to modernize Canada’s Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) to help Canadians in financial difficulty.

A core principle of Canada’s insolvency legislation and policy is to provide a “fresh start” for people who are overwhelmed by debt. This principle is widely accepted by legislators, stakeholder groups, academics and insolvency experts. Generally, it entails obtaining relief from existing debt so that debtors can regain control of their finances.

But while the BIA intends a fresh start, debtors see this as a false start because, after undertaking a BIA-subscribed debt relief solution, debtors experience problems from inaccurate insolvency-related reporting on their credit report. This inaccurate reporting is widespread and frustrates the very underpinning of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act by thwarting the fresh start Canadians expect and deserve. To resolve this dilemma, new legislative measures are needed that will stipulate the correct representation of insolvency-related information on consumer credit reports.

Over the past several years, there has been explosive growth in the use of consumer credit and a massive expansion in how consumer credit reports and personal credit history are used. These monumental changes in the volume and use of credit reports touch virtually every important aspect of the daily lives of Canadians.

Explicit responsibility for the integrity and accuracy of this information does not exist. The ACT does not stipulate any regulated authority in credit reporting matters. The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (OSB) has a supervisory role in the administration of the insolvency system, including maintaining public records and statistics, but there is no direction from the OSB as to how BIA debt-relief options of bankruptcy and consumer proposal should be described or interpreted on credit reports.

Once a person files for bankruptcy or a proposal, the legislation contains a provision for stay of proceedings, which is intended to prevent creditors from either starting or continuing legal action against the debtor. The problem is that, by providing erroneous and misleading information for credit reports, creditors imply that certain debts continue as delinquent and unaddressed. Such implication circumvents the legal stay of proceedings. This non-compliance of the stay order by creditors simply should not be allowed.

Flawed insolvency information on consumer credit reports also has harsh implications for Canadians. Misappropriated delinquency ratings, bankruptcy mislabelling, and intermingled insolvency terms all represent layers of misinformation that belie the truth. Even third-party companies that buy credit reporting information from a major credit bureau like Trans Union erroneously show “bankruptcy” on reports of debtors who did not file for bankruptcy. This hurts consumers badly and causes unnecessary suffering, such as the denial of employment opportunities, denial of a lease from a landlord, increased costs for services such as insurance and delays in the rehabilitation of their credit history, to name a few examples. When debtors try to correct their credit reports, they struggle in vain with the current system.

Because credit reports wield such enormous power, with significant influence over the livelihood and well-being of individuals, ensuring accurate information is crucial. Accurate information is also imperative because a bankruptcy or a consumer proposal is a closely scrutinized part of the consumer’s credit history.

The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act must preserve its essential integrity by introducing clear standards that address insolvency-reporting information and regulated measures that ensure the accuracy of this information on consumer credit reports. The time has come to fortify the legislation and regulations by adding provisions for insolvency reporting to ensure the standardization and accuracy of this information on consumer credit reports.

Henrietta Ross is President and CEO of the Canadian Debtors Association.

Leaders’ Debates Commission is a waste of public money

Renaud Brossard

Troy Media

Say your backyard needs a new fence and your neighbour offers to pay for it. Chances are you would take that deal.

That’s what we’ve done historically with federal leaders’ debates. Large media organizations would cover the costs and haggle with the parties about how the debates should be organized.

Since 2018 though, the federal government has decided to make taxpayers pay for the debates while leaving it up to the parties and large media organizations to haggle over the format with the bureaucrats at the Leaders’ Debates Commission.

It’s time to realize the experiment has failed and go back to the old model that included no expense for taxpayers.

The Leaders’ Debates Commission is costing us all a pretty penny.

Take the 2019 election for instance, the first one where the Leaders’ Debates Commission had its chance to shine. Paying for staff, consultants and debate organization cost all of us more than $3.7 million.

For the last campaign, costs seem to have jumped up as the commission got a $4.4-million budget this year.

But the costs aren’t limited to election years.

Even when there’s no election campaign, and therefore no debate to organize, taxpayers are still paying the salaries of the federal bureaucrats working for the debate commission and any retainer they may have with lawyers and consultants.

That’s how the Leaders’ Debates Commission spent $330,000 of our money in 2020-21, despite the fact no elections were held. The commission even spent more than $17,000 on performance bonuses for its employees.

And while the Leaders’ Debates Commission takes care of financing, it doesn’t exactly have special in-house expertise for producing debates. Rather, it contracts other organizations to do it.

For the 2019 election, it gave $1.7 million to the CBC to handle debate production to cover all the technical aspects from set design to on-site directing.

This hasn’t changed as of the last election, with the CBC billing the debates commission $2 million for both French and English debates this year.

It hasn’t exactly done a stellar job at organizing those either. There was nearly as much ink spilled over the poor performance of the Leaders’ Debates Commission as there was about what the politicians were saying.

Case in point, the Globe and Mail’s TV critic John Doyle dedicated an entire column to it, calling it “an example of utter failure in Canadian television.”

Over at the Toronto Sun, Lorrie Goldstein called it “a farce,” adding “it’s time to drive a stake through the heart of Canada’s Leaders’ Debates Commission.”

And the Toronto Star’s Robin Sears said of the debate organizers that they “should have been removed from the debate stage.”

And we could go on.

It’s not like leaders’ debates would disappear without the commission. Before its creation in 2018, large media broadcasters would typically band together to organize federal leaders’ debates.

In the 2015 election, for instance, Canadian voters got to see party leaders face-off in five different debates – two in French and three in English – organized independently by various media outlets.

Some organizations still organize debates outside of the Leaders’ Debates Commission. That’s why French Canadians got two French debates in the last election, one organized by the federal bureaucracy and another organized independently by Quebec media group TVA.

What has changed is that instead of having the costs borne by large mediaorganizations who would typically pay for it, it is now our collective burden to share.

That’s what led some members of Parliament like Corey Tochor to wonder why exactly we’ve been paying for something the private sector was more than happy to pay for in the past.

As the federal government looks at ways to cut its $144.5-billion deficit, it can’t afford to overlook any source of savings. Spending $4.4 million per year in taxpayers’ funds to do something the private sector has been willing to do for free for the past few decades should be at the top of the list.

Renaud Brossard is the Interim Atlantic Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.