The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

National Blog

How much will the union disclosure bill cost?

By Yves Faguy November 27 2012 27 November 2012

    $10.6 million, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.

    Bill C-377, Russ Hiebert’s private member’s bill that would force extensive public financial disclosures by labour organizations, has always been controversial. Opponents say that, in addition to constitutional and privacy concerns, it boils down to simple union-bashing by trying to set the CRA loose on organized labour. The bill’s supporters say it will bring more accountability and transparency to the way unions operate. (Though private member’s bills historically rarely make it into law, that trend is changing, particularly when bills have the support of the PMO, as is the case here.)

    Yesterday came news that the Canada Revenue Agency estimates the cost of implementing the bill at $10.6 million in the first two years. In what essentially amounted to a Canadian-style filibuster, the NDP responded by tabling a motion in finance committee calling on the House of Commons to put a stop to the bill.

    The CBA has already made clear its position that the bill shouldn’t be passed. Here’s a passage from its September 2012 submission to government:

    As a threshold statement, it is unclear what issue or perceived problem the Bill is intended to address. The Bill mandates greater public disclosure of details of the financial operations of labour unions, and limitations on their political and lobbying activities using mechanisms that could be problematic from a constitutional and a privacy perspective.

    Specifically, the requirements that unions detail disbursements for political, lobbying and collective bargaining activities could violate freedom of expression and freedom of association rights under the Charter. In terms of privacy, the bill forces disclosure of what might be considered sensitive personal information – “financial information and information about political activities or political beliefs.” Here’s what CBA Privacy Law Section Chair Mike Mazzuca (a Partner at Koskie Minsky LLP) told the Commons finance committee on October 25 (his statement begins around the 40 minute mark in the proceedings):

    “To the extent that the bill requires the reporting and making publicly available details of salary benefits for all officers, directors, trustees and employees (of labour groups), we believe it would infringe upon privacy concerns and existing privacy laws.”

    Ultimately, the CBA’s overriding point is this: Federal and provincial labour laws already require unions to disclose, for the benefit of their members, regular and extensive financial statements. So, should governance and transparency really be a matter of general concern to the public as well? Should they be more so than they are for closed corporations, which are accountable to their shareholders? Again, from the CBA’s submission:

    The additional cost of administration to meet the Bill’s requirements would be significant. Unions could be forced to raise dues or reduce services to their members. If dues are raised, unions may in turn seek higher wages to compensate members, potentially resulting in increased costs for employers. Finally, the federal government could also be subject to significant new costs to administer its own obligations under the Bill.

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    Inside Canada-EU trade talks

    By Yves Faguy November 26 2012 26 November 2012

      It isn't always easy gaining insight into how trade negotiations are conducted, which is why these leaked documents prepared fro EU negotiators makes for a good read. Michael Geist and Paul Wells both offer up strong analyses of the document, which had one of Quebec’s opposition parties wringing its hands last week. But what seems clear is that there is still plenty of daylight between each party’s positions, whether it’s on patent protection for brand name pharmaceuticals, supply management, rules of origins for a wide range of goods and cultural protections.

      That said, EU negotiators seem to be broadly satisfied about progress on access to Canada’s public procurement market, however controversial Canada’s concessions might be among the provinces. Also it seems clear that concessions on supply management rules will be limited for both sides, as “there is agreement that these products will not be totally liberalised.”

      Perhaps the most interesting comment in the memo is the one that gets to the pith and substance of what’s at stake for both parties:

      Overall, our key challenge remains that our list of offensive interests is larger than the Canadian one, which puts Canada at a tactical advantage in the end game. On the other hand, Canada will, at this point, also have to take into consideration that the EU market to which it gains preferential access is much larger than its own. The proposed landing zones have also been looked at from the perspective of the fall-out on future negotiations, in particular the US.

      Geist picks up on this last point:

      Investor protection is another major stumbling block, particularly since the EU is concerned that the Canadian agreement will establish a precedent for a possible future deal with the United States. For example, Canada wants reduced investor protection in the financial services sector, which the EU says is unacceptable. Canada also wants the right to expropriate without compensation to pursue "legitimate" policy objectives, an approach the EU will not accept. Further, there are major disagreements over the structure and applicability of an investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism.

      It also hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that, with respect to investment market access, “the primary target remains exempting EU investors from the Investment Canada Act” and its (as yet to be fully fleshed out) net benefit test.

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      Norton Rose's next steps

      By Yves Faguy November 26 2012 26 November 2012

        Last week I caught up with Norman Steinberg to talk about what's ahead in the wake of its recent merger with Fulbright & Jaworski:

        Interview with Norman Steinberg on recent merger from National Magazine TV on Vimeo.

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        Where did all the women go?

        By Yves Faguy November 20 2012 20 November 2012

          After posting this departure memo sent by a former junior associate (and mother) at Clifford Chance, Paul Campos does his own math and concludes:

          There were 55,063 more JD students at ABA law schools in 2011 than 1971. 59,665 more women were enrolled as JD students in ABA law schools in 2011 than in 1971, while 4,632 fewer men were enrolled as JD students in ABA law schools in 2011 than in 1971. Holding everything else constant, if the gender ratio between men and women law students had remained the same over the past 40 years there would have been about 86,141 people enrolled as JD students in ABA law schools in 2011, and about 24,498 people would have graduated from those schools. This number of graduates is approximately 12% higher than the total number of new jobs for lawyers (21,880) the BLS estimates will become available on average per year for lawyers between 2010 and 2020. Clearly, the fact that law schools have produced an enormous oversupply of people with law degrees over the course of the last generation has an extremely significant gender component. Note that there’s all sorts of evidence that egalitarian gender practices in regard to law school admissions have had a remarkably muted effect in regard to making law less of a male-dominated profession (For example, 35 years after women started going to law school in numbers not much smaller than men, 85% of the partners and 95% of the managing partners at large law firms are men).

          Which leads Campos to ask this question:

          Have law schools managed to expand far beyond the actual economic demand for law degrees in large part because of an always unstated and usually unconscious assumption that comparatively large numbers of women law graduates would drop out of the profession within a few years of graduation?

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          "The US border has been breached for Canadian law firms"

          By Yves Faguy November 15 2012 15 November 2012

            National caught up with Jordan Furlong this week to discuss the impact of recent mergers involving Norton Rose, FMC and Fasken Martineau on Canadian firms:

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            The pro-life movement's new approach

            By Yves Faguy November 14 2012 14 November 2012

              Charlie Gillis explains how the pro-life movement is changing its tactics in advocating for fetal rights:

              A pivotal moment came last May, when representatives from the Association for Reformed Political Action, a national Christian advocacy group, approached Vancouver-based activist Mike Schouten about running an initiative to build support for fetal protection legislation. Schouten, 36, is a former Christian Heritage Party candidate with a history of backing hardline conservative causes (including limits on Muslim immigration). He also has a knack for teasing rational arguments out of emotional issues. The result was WeNeedaLaw.ca, an online campaign using social media and electronic petitions to paint Canada’s lack of an abortion law as an international anomaly—an embarrassment not by the standards of social conservatives, but of liberal democracies like Sweden and France.[...]

              The group’s approach is part of a broader strategy within the anti-abortion movement to win hearts and minds instead of lecturing or shaming. “Changing the culture” was the theme of a national conference held last month in Toronto by LifeCanada, the umbrella organization of pro-life groups across the country; it could be viewed as the coalition’s mission statement for the future. “The view of the pro-life movement for the last two decades has been that of a small minority outside the mainstream, older and probably religious fundamentalist,” says Lisa Smith, president of LifeCanada’s board, from her home in Drayton Valley, Alta. “But we can look around now and see young people taking up the cause. I think there’s a lot of optimism and encouragement.”

              The effect has been to refurbish the image of the anti-abortion movement, and its newfound momentum has not escaped the attention of its pro-choice foes. Carolyn Egan, a veteran activist with the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), says the pro-choice camp must now step up its response that even discussing a fetal rights law is the first step on a slippery slope. “Their strategy could be referred to as anti-choice by stealth,” she says. “Step by step, they want to create barriers for women to access abortions. But it’s true that the message is gaining some traction.”

              Be that as it may, The National Post has a new poll out in which finds that a full 60 percent of Canadians say that abortion should always be legal, without restriction.That's up from 51 percent in February.  And yes, it probably has something to do with this vote.

               

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              Using counsel's submissions without attribution

              By Yves Faguy November 13 2012 13 November 2012

                An interesting case was heard today at the SCC, with Osler’s Mahmud Jamal representing the CBA as intervenor. In Cojocaru v. BC Women's Hospital et al, the justices are considering a judge’s duties in giving attribution when writing reasons for judgment.

                Briefly, the trial judge found in favour of a child born severely brain damaged, who sued for medical malpractice. Trouble is he used, without attribution, the plaintiff’s written argument (321 paragraphs of a 368 paragraph judgment) and apparently neglected to address several arguments raised by the defendants. The CBA’s position on this is that the SCC should follow a functional context-specific approach.

                Jamal tried to make the case that judicial writing draws upon many sources including past judgments, submissions and doctrine. It can be appropriate at times to adopt submissions, Jamal told Natalie Stechyson at Postmedia. “The challenge is to identify the circumstances where doing so gives the perception that the losing party hasn’t been heard – and that’s the difficult question for the Supreme Court Tuesday.”

                The test asks whether the reasons given are sufficient to fulfil their various functions, namely:

                • to justify and explain the result
                • to tell the losing party why he or she lost (for the judge to give proof that he has heard and considered both sides' evidence and arguments and has not taken extraneous considerations into account)
                • to provide public accountability (to satisfy the public that justice is not only done, but seen to be done), and to permit effective appellate review (to allow for informed consideration of the grounds of appeal).

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                Stepping down from the Supreme Court

                By Yves Faguy November 13 2012 13 November 2012

                  Philip Slayton at Canadian Lawyer wonders why so many Supreme Courts of Canada Justices retire before the mandatory retirement age of 75:

                  “Compare the Supreme Court of Canada to its American equivalent. Appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States is for life. More than half the judges appointed to the U.S. court since its creation have died in office. The last four SCOTUS judges to retire were Lewis Powell at age 80, John Paul Stevens at 90, Sandra Day O’Connor at 76, and David Souter at 70. Their average length of service on the court was almost 25 years. The average length of service of the last four Canadian Supreme Court justices to retire was just over 10 years.”

                  He offers up a few theories:

                  "When a judge leaves the Supreme Court prematurely, it is likely a combination of all these factors — tough job, dull town, attractive opportunities elsewhere, not much love in the air on Wellington Street — plus, no doubt, a few idiosyncratic personal considerations. But the question remains: Why don’t the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada who go early have the mettle of their American counterparts? Why don’t they stick it out?"

                  There’s no question that the job of a Supreme Court Justice is a tough slog, and personality clashes can be a factor. That said, by all accounts the McLachlin court has a reputation for being quite convivial, at least more so than the Lamer court ever was. As for the argument of more attractive opportunities elsewhere, who knows? It strikes me as a personal thing. Louise Arbour stepped down after a short five years on the SCC to become UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, but she was always known as someone more comfortable working in the field – a woman of action, so to speak.

                  In the end what differentiates our top court from the American one is our mandatory retirement rule. And given the 50-50 polarizing state of politics in the US, the members of the court simply have an added incentive to staying on longer: They dig in because the stakes are higher.

                  The Justice whose name is most often mentioned as the next to step down is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The 79-year-old Clinton appointee has survived two bouts of cancer and has hinted she might retire before Obama’s mandate is up. Were that to happen, the Obama administration would have an opportunity to maintain the current ideological balance by appointing a new Justice that could be expected to vote with the minority liberal wing of the court. But should a Republican-appointed Justice, such as Antonin Scalia or Anthony Kennedy (both 76) take his leave, the president would have a rare opportunity to reposition that balance. Many court watchers think that is unlikely, if only because the two men are intent on securing their respective legacies, and would not care to be associated with such a shift. Headlines like these certainly feed that notion.

                  Contrast that with reactions in Canada’s papers to Harper’s five appointments to the Court. Sure, there’s been the odd story about Harper's chance at reshaping the court to align it with his conservative principles. But there has been little outcry over his choice of nominees, even from opposition critics. Of course nobody is suggesting that Harper isn’t trying to put a more conservative bent on a court that will continue to impact Canadians well after he has left office. But the mandatory retirement rule assures both right and left of a regular turnover of Supreme Court Justices, at least insofar has it is more likely to reflect shifts in electoral patterns. And for that reason alone, the pressure to stay on isn't quite the same.

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                  Protesting and freedom of speech

                  By Yves Faguy November 11 2012 11 November 2012

                    In the aftermath of the student protests, there is an interesting debate under way about the trials and tribulations surrounding Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (aka GND) and what his recent conviction says about freedom of speech in this country.

                    Quebec’s Superior Court ruled earlier this month that GND, the more radical of the student leaders last spring, was guilty of contempt of court for having incited protesters to ignore an injunction allowing students to return to class (It was a Laval University student who sought and won both the injunction and the contempt of court ruling). Here’s the line from an interview GND gave on Radio-Canada in May that got him into trouble:

                    “I think that it is completely legitimate for students to undertake the means necessary to respect the democratic choice to strike... It’s completely regrettable that a minority of students are using the courts to go around decisions that were made collectively... If students need to form picket lines to ensure that their strike votes are respected, we think that’s a completely legitimate.”

                    In his ruling Justice Jacques Denis wrote that GND had advocated “anarchy and civil disobedience.”

                    Yves Boisvert, no fan of GND, fears that the student leader has not been judged under a standard of proof appropriate for a criminal case.

                    “The injunction obtained by this student prohibits blocking entry to class. Not picketing. GND is talking about forming picket lines. He’s not saying that people should be prevented from entering class, and certainly not in this particular department [at Laval University]. He’s saying 1) that turning to the courts is deplorable, which is a perfectly legitimate opinion, that I hope we can still express in public. And 2) That he thinks it’s legitimate to resort to forming picket lines to ensure that strike votes are respected. He is careful not to give any recommendations or encouragement, and not to openly challenge the court order. He expresses the opinion of his group. Cleverly, he stands close to the thin line that separates freedom of expression and inciting violations of law. " [Our translation]

                    Sentencing arguments were heard on Friday. The lawyer representing the student who initially asked for the injunction and then followed through with the contempt of court filing is asking for a 30-day prison sentence or 150 hours of community work for GND.  As for the student leader, well, no surprise there: He'll be appealing his conviction.

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                    Should we worry about the privatization of prosecutions?

                    By Yves Faguy November 1 2012 1 November 2012

                      Remarking on news that Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is moving to private practice (at Skadden’s in Chicago) to focus on corporate investigations, L. Lee Smith notices how many of the functions of prosecutions are being privatized:

                      Hardly surprising, but a comment by Mr. Fitzgerald caught my ear: “I’m not changing who I am, ... just who my client is.” The news article went on to note that he expected to be conducting internal corporate investigations, perhaps similar to the one former FBI Director and federal prosecutor Louis Freeh did on behalf of Penn State.

                      Privatizing prosecution, or something close to it, has become the newest edifice in the intersection between corporations and crime. In the last decade or so, large corporations, particularly those funded, paid, or regulated by the federal and state governments (hospitals, universities, banks and publicly traded companies) have created and expanded compliance offices. While it’s possible these institutions are discovering the moral value of abiding by the law, it’s more probable that they’ve discovered the economic value of looking prosecutorial, instead of conspiratorial. The organization that can honestly and perhaps publicly say, “We had a problem, and we’re fixing it,” stands in a far better posture with the government and the public than one that is perceived to be hiding its wrongdoing.

                      Of course, the downside is that individuals don’t have same rights in corporate investigations as they do when the government is in charge of the file:

                      A corporation is not a person when it comes to confronting its criminal conduct. A person can’t cut off an offending limb, grow a new one and continue on. A corporation can do something like that. If a corporation’s goal is to control the damage to it resulting from its employees acts it can and will distance itself from the individual. The role of the internal investigator, as Mr. Fitzgerald’s comments suggest, must necessarily align itself with the greater good of the organization, disregarding the defenses and interests of the corporation’s individual members. Individual employees facing such a situation may find that prosecutorial perspective has been privatized and should seek protection in their own counsel.

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                      Opitz v. Wrzesnewskyj reactions, continued

                      By Yves Faguy October 26 2012 26 October 2012

                        Emmett Macfarlane says the SCC made the right call yesterday and takes further issue with the Chief Justice's dissenting opinion in yesterday's divided ruling:

                        In effect, the minority position is that it doesn’t matter whether the voter was, in reality, eligible to vote; what matters is whether all the I’s were dotted and T’s crossed from a procedural perspective. This approach, according to the majority, is contrary to the main (though not only) purpose of the Elections Act and the Charter of Rights: enfranchising Canadian citizens. The majority writes that the “procedural safeguards in the Act are important; however, they should not be treated as ends in themselves. Rather, they should be treated as a means of ensuring that only those who have the right to vote may do so. It is that end that must always be kept in sight.”

                        […]

                        The minority’s reasoning has highly problematic implications. First, it suggests the onus is not on a complainant to demonstrate irregularities actually affected the outcome of an election but that in light of procedural irregularities otherwise legitimate votes should nonetheless be discounted. This goes to the heart of the franchise. Not only does it fail to safeguard constitutionally protected voting rights, but it would also have the perverse effect of producing the sort of irregularities we want to avoid (legitimate votes being discounted).

                        Second, if the minority judgment had won out in this case, it would mean an avalanche of litigation after every election for any riding outcome with a margin of a few hundred votes. If the mere existence of administrative errors creeping into our electoral process causes a crisis of confidence for some people, imagine what dozens of court challenges to the results in every federal and provincial election would do.

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                        How many internets are there?

                        By Yves Faguy October 26 2012 26 October 2012

                          Quite a few, apparently. From The Economist:

                          China demonstrates a basic truth: that the internet, despite its global image, is not the same everywhere. “The internet doesn’t exist,” says Steve Prentice of Gartner, a research and consulting firm. “There are 190 different internets.” One way or another, just about every government tries to control what its citizens may do online. Using Skype to make a voice call, Mr Prentice notes, is routine in America, subject to some restrictions in Canada and can get you arrested in Ethiopia.

                          Case in point: China’s recent move to block online access to The New York Times after the news organization published a piece about the massive fortune amassed by Premier Wen Jiabo’s family during his years in power. But as the Economist points out, China’s leadership is not alone in trying to put the lid on embarrassing revelations:

                          Governments often ask internet companies to remove material that breaks local laws or offends local sensibilities, and even Western democracies are not above trying to censor political content. Last year Google turned down a request from Spanish regulators to delete 270 search results referring to mayors, prosecutors and other public figures. In September this year police in Brazil briefly detained the head of Google’s operations there after the company balked at an order to remove YouTube videos about a paternity suit involving a mayoral candidate, before Google complied.

                          For more on requests from government agencies and courts around the world to remove content from its services, here's Google's Transparency Report.
                           

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