The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Doug Beazley

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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Foreign investment

Opaque guidance: National security review guidelines

By Doug Beazley March 6, 2017 6 March 2017

Opaque guidance: National security review guidelines


Nine years ago, the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper was faced with a thorny public relations problem. Vancouver-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates wanted to sell its space division — maker of the Canadarm, the Dextre space station robot and the Radarsat-2 satellite — to a U.S. firm for $1.3 billion.

Critics ripped the deal as a sell-out of Canadian technological sovereignty. Stung by the blowback, the Harper government blocked the sale, using the only tool it had at the time: the “net benefit” test in the Investment Canada Act, the federal law that allows the government to review foreign investment. Net benefit is a blunt instrument; the threshold for review is quite specific and limited by the value of the proposed investment and by where the foreign investor comes from (WTO nations get a higher threshold). A year later, the government amended the ICA to add a second hurdle for foreign investment: a national security test.

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Cover story

Who owns space?

By Doug Beazley December 7, 2016 7 December 2016

Who owns space?

 

When Canadian-American tech mogul Elon Musk stood before an International Astronautical Congress audience in Mexico in September to roll out a wildly ambitious plan to start ferrying human settlers to Mars over the next decade or so, online comment boards instantly lit up with armchair engineers arguing over whether the plan could actually work.

The tiny international community of specialists in space law, on the other hand, zeroed in on a different question – whether what Musk was planning would be legal.

Sounds academic, right? It’s not – not any more. Fifty years after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space – better known as the ‘Outer Space Treaty’ – private enterprise has started pushing forward into the vacuum left by the slow collapse of government-sponsored manned space exploration following the end of the Cold War. Musk’s grand vision notwithstanding, private enterprise’s interest in space is commercial, not scientific: There are vast sums of money to be made up there – from mining, power generation and tourism, for starters – and no shortage of entrepreneurs looking to plant their flag in extraterrestrial soil.

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