An opaque kind of transparent governance – Editorial

Bill C-36 was passed by the Senate in one of the last few sessions before the federal parliament broke for the Christmas holidays late December.

The move meant that the controversial piece of legislation cleared the last hurdle to take effect sometime before the spring.

On the face of it, the Bill, which is to become Canada Consumer Product Safety Act once enacted, gives the federal government new powers to act to protect consumers.

‘The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act will give the government important new tools,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Health Minister.

But what kind of tools, how they are to be used and against who are only a few of the dozens of questions that this obscurely drafted legislation has generated among the electorate.

The Bill includes a lot of provisions that refer to regulations that have yet to be drafted, let alone adopted. On that score alone, the legislation appears to be a front for another agenda; but what that agenda is anybody’s guess.

I have spent about two hours researching and reading reactions to the passage of the Bill, and admittedly, what I could read did not even amount to a fraction of the comments on the document posted on the Internet.

And the comments spread over so wide a range that it was very interesting to read one commentator applauding the Bill for putting a final end to Quebec’s dream of independence while others said the Bill meant an end to rights and liberties of Canadian citizens. One commentator even said that Bill 36 was the death knell of the rule of law that was instituted back in 1215 with the Magna Carta.

So many diversified interpretations of the same document can only mean one thing: The language of the legislation is confusing, so much so that there are major differences of interpretation even among constitutional lawyers.

This is just another minus on the scorecard for the Bill. Government of Canada has (or had?) a fundamental policy of openness and transparency, enshrined in its promise to the people of Canada that all its actions will be communicated in a clear and understandable manner and in both official languages wherever and whenever required.

Here we can safely conclude that the federal government has failed to deliver on its promise of openness.

It was also interesting to read that so many of the commentators, having simply grown suspicious over the pro-big business, pro-US and anti-social orientation of legislation adopted by the parliament since Stephen Harper became prime minister, express concerns that the Bill would add just another notch to the process of Americanization of Canada’s system of government.

It would be nice to see that Bill challenged at the Supreme Court of Canada from a standpoint of compatibility with the Charter of Rights.

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