Omnibus Legislation and Supreme Court Embargoes

May 29, 2018

So episode 76 – a new record.  But you know that right? Because you subscribe to the show on iTunes and have already rated and reviewed the podcast – right? You should.

Hey look we have a sponsor! Let the podcast money start rolling in! But seriously a huge thanks to Emond Publishing!

We tried to keep it short this week. We failed. But who could blame us – I mean we were talking about Budget implementation bills.

More than a year ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood in the House of Commons and spoke some truths about omnibus legislation. He said that, for many years, the previous government used omnibus legislation as a way of avoiding debate. He complained that the Harper Conservatives would “put everything into a piece of legislation, whether it had links to it or not.”

Trudeau was right. Omnibus bills were abused by the Harper government to the detriment of democracy. Omnibus legislation too often leads to a divisive all-or-nothing approach to the legislative process. This is especially true because when legislation is overbroad, filled with unconnected amendments and unfocused, debate is difficult and evidenced-based study is next to impossible.

So, we did not even bother to read bill C-74, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures because why on earth would a bill all about implementing the budget include any substantive amendments to the Criminal Code?

However, bill C-74 does just that and the brand new criminal law is buried on page 527 of the 556-page bill. The amendment was so well hidden that even Liberal MPs sitting on the House of Commons Finance Committee, which is currently studying the bill, were caught by surprise.

In addition to implementing the budget, the bill amends the Criminal Code to allow corporations to buy their way out of a criminal conviction. This new legal loophole is called a remediation agreement. It would work something like this. Step one: A corporation engages in a criminal activity such as a massive fraud or conspiracy. Step two: The corporation is caught and charged criminally. Step three: The prosecutor reviews the file and determines that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. Step four: If the corporation agrees that it committed a crime and pays back all of the ill-gotten profits, then the prosecutor can ask the court to drop all criminal charges.

So we do what parliament won’t be able to do – study the new criminal code amendment.

But before we do that we talk about the 50-year embargo on Supreme Court documents – too long? Some former Supreme Court judges think so,

We also have some new art – it is still new because it is way easier to just copy and past this section each week – from an awesome young designer Parker Mazerolle – serious he is crazy good – go check out his work.

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Emilie Taman on Twitter: @EmilieTaman

Michael Spratt on Twitter: @mspratt

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