The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Doug Beazley

The Court

The Court after McLachlin

By Doug Beazley September 15, 2017 15 September 2017

The Court after McLachlin

 

It is difficult to imagine a Supreme Court of Canada without Beverley McLachlin. For 17 years, she was the court’s rudder, steadying
it in choppy legal waters. So what happens after she’s gone?

Appointed to the court by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as a puisne justice in 1989 and elevated to the top job 11 years later, Beverley McLachlin is the longest-serving chief justice in the court’s history. She led it through a period of consolidation and refinement of Charter law following the “dawn period” under Chief Justices Brian Dickson and Antonio Lamer.

The early years of Supreme Court interpretations of Charter law were action-packed, marked by many split decisions and an activist tone. McLachlin herself – appointed to the bench just a year before Justice Dickson’s retirement – described her approach to Charter law as one of “subtle interpretations” of the broad directions set during the Dickson and Lamer eras. She proved herself adept at stick-handling unanimous decisions on fraught subjects, from physician-assisted dying to maximum trial lengths – a talent that was nurtured during her long tenure on the court.

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NAFTA negotiations

Does Canada’s NAFTA wish list contain key to compromise?

By Doug Beazley August 25, 2017 25 August 2017

Does Canada’s NAFTA wish list contain key to compromise?


Every new article about the negotiations to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement ought to start the way this one does — by admitting that, really, nobody knows anything.

During a rally speech on August 22, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened — again — to tear the agreement up. That was just days after a first round of talks in Washington, D.C. wrapped up with all three NAFTA negotiating teams still very far apart on the key files, such as rules-of-origin and ‘Buy American’.

So the NAFTA talks could end in a deal or in a messy political confrontation between the President and a reluctant Congress over whether he can cancel NAFTA on his own. Oddly enough, one of the most controversial sections in the agreement is offering a glimmer of hope for a compromise.

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Cover story

Will the Jordan ruling speed up reform of our justice system?

By Doug Beazley June 16, 2017 16 June 2017

Will the Jordan ruling speed up reform of our justice system?

 

Back in March — less than a year after the Supreme Court of Canada rolled a live grenade into the nation’s courtrooms with its ruling on R v. Jordan — someone asked Eric Gottardi what he thought the long-term fallout from the decision would be. “I still don’t know what to think of it,” he said. “Whether they’re right or wrong, time will be the judge of that.”

Ask him the same question today and you’ll get roughly the same answer. “The thing is, I still think it’s too early to tell,” says Gottardi, the Vancouver-based criminal lawyer who represented Barrett Jordan on trafficking charges before the SCC when — in an unusually contentious 5-4 split decision — the justices not only ruled that the 49.5 months it took to complete Jordan’s trial constituted a violation of his Charter rights, they set a hard cap on the length of trials: 18 months in provincial court, 30 months in Superior Court.

“We have to see what happens with subsequent cases. We still don’t know if Jordan has rewritten all the relevant jurisprudence, or just the central stuff. In the short term, I think most of the impact has been good. We’re used to seeing these sorts of warnings from the courts almost cyclically. But it’s a perpetual problem — and long-term, it’s not getting any better.”

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Pot legalization

No logo for cannabis

By Doug Beazley May 30, 2017 30 May 2017

No logo for cannabis

 

Walk into a convenience store in Colorado and you might encounter Toast — the new face of marijuana marketing. It’s smokeable cannabis in the form of machine-rolled cigarettes, each tipped with a royal-purple filter embossed with a gold-foil butterfly. The package is jet black, with the label embossed in gold, deco-style type.

The effect is one of sophisticated, rakish elegance — a cocktail-chic approach to a drug typically sold in plastic baggies in city parks. Marijuana is legal for recreational sale and consumption in Colorado. Toast’s makers are pursuing an upscale demographic: well-heeled users who smoke socially and can afford a premium product.

It’s the kind of thing Canadian cannabis producers would very much like to do with their own product once the legal recreational market is in place here. They’re probably going to be disappointed.

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Economy

Why taxing robots is easier said than done

By Doug Beazley March 13, 2017 13 March 2017

Why taxing robots is easier said than done

 

 

The populist wave turning democratic politics inside out throughout the developed West has many drivers; voter paranoia over migration and terrorism is only the obvious one.

Arguably, a bigger factor is the way globalization and the spread of automation have been eliminating many forms of work. Several solutions have been proposed, from the controversial (protectionism) to the novel (a guaranteed annual income). Bill Gates is now getting people to talk about taxing robots.

“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed,” the philanthropist and tech mogul said in a recent interview. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at the same level.”

What Gates proposes is to use the revenue from a robot tax to invest in employee re-training, to speed up the painful adjustment from one form of economy to another. What he fears is a neo-Luddite revolt against automation and new technologies in developed nations. He’s not wrong to worry about it; economists recently told the U.S. Congress that workers earning less than $20 an hour have an 83 per cent chance of losing their jobs to machines.

But how would a robot tax work? Would it work?

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