The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

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Condo buyers - behave or beware!

By Kim Covert October 29, 2013 29 October 2013

Caveat emptor isn’t just for shoes and snake oil any more – home buyers who don’t follow the rules set by other owners in the same association can find themselves subject to penalties up to and including eviction.

That’s what happened in 2010, when an Ontario judge ordered a disruptive resident in a Toronto condo development to sell up and go. It’s happening again in British Columbia, where condo owner Rose Jordison in Surry, whose neighbours complained about her son’s behaviour, is appealing an ordering requiring her to sell.

Agreements between owners and developers or housing associations in condos or subdivisions regarding the appropriate use of property can often contain clauses that would leave a rural single-family dwelling owner bemused: no doormats or wreaths on doors, for example; requiring a certain type of glass in windows or specific colours of paint on doors and shutters. Four years ago in Ontario, the premier vetoed the growing practice of banning clotheslines.

(Read more after the jump)

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Essentially speaking, budget bill creates controversy

By Kim Covert October 24, 2013 24 October 2013

The federal government tabled a budget implementation bill on Tuesday that among other things would give the government the exclusive power to designate essential services in the public service.

The budget bill follows on previously announced initiatives to change performance evaluations and reform sick days and disability benefits. And it immediately generated controversy.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, in a statement on Tuesday, called the budget measures “another attack on the rights of federal public sector workers.”

 “The collective bargaining rights and the protections of workers who face discrimination, who do dangerous work, or who are treated unfairly will be undermined by the proposals in this bill,” said national president Robyn Benson

Meanwhile, Steven Barrett, a labour lawyer with Sack Goldblatt Mitchell in Toronto, told the Globe and Mail that with its proposals the government “is virtually eviscerating collective bargaining for public servants.”

(Read more after the jump)

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Nobody's mandate, everybody's problem

By Kim Covert October 22, 2013 22 October 2013

An access to information law is like a finely honed sword: effective in the hands of a master swordsman (or woman), but as useless as a butter knife against certain types of armour.

Some in the media and on the opposition benches in government are deft in the art of ATIP requests – we know as much as we do, for instance, about the robocalls affair because of the hard work and canny requests of two Ottawa journalists.

But federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault has warned “the integrity of the system is at risk” due to under-staffing and poor leadership. And that’s just at the federal level. The provinces have their problems too.

(More after the jump)

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How sturdy is your firm’s ethical infrastructure?

By Kim Covert October 17, 2013 17 October 2013

During a lunch-hour session at the CBA Legal Conference in Saskatoon this past August, Tim McGee, CEO of the Law Society of British Columbia made a point that may have been self-evident to some the lawyers in the room but which reframed a picture for others.

As part of three-person panel discussing the impact of the three pillars of the legal profession– regulation, education and association – McGee said a key question for regulators is what their role should be in ensuring  competence. “The conundrum that regulators have is that we are, to all intents and purposes, recognizing entry-level competence.”

It’s probably no surprise then that competence is one of 10 key areas highlighted in the Ethical Practices Self-Evaluation Tool developed by the CBA’s Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee.

(More after the jump)

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Power in politics means costs to consumers

By Kim Covert October 16, 2013 16 October 2013

Wednesday was shaping up to be a good day for political posturing. In the U.S., a last-minute deal may have called a halt to the budgetary brinksmanship between the Democrats, the Republicans and the tiny but powerful Tea Party that threatened to push the American economy over the edge – and thus unbalance the entire global economy. Midnight had been the deadline for a deal – and it ain’t over until Congress gives its OK, which as of this writing had not yet happened.

As usual, the action in Canada was far less dramatic – Wednesday promised a late-afternoon throne speech which was expected to offer Canadians everything but money.

In both countries, however, no matter what happens, fingers will no doubt be pointed, partisan pundits will express outrage, statements will be parsed carefully for hidden meaning. And citizens – consumers, taxpayers, area residents – will follow the action with varying degrees of interest, bracing for the fallout.

In the U.S., the Tea Party was prepared to force the government to default on its debt to achieve its stated goals of ending government interference in the market economy, and slash federal spending – except of course in areas where they approve of said spending, Medicaid and some parks and monuments, for example.

In Canada, the Conservatives, who normally would approve of ending government interference in the market economy, are reportedly planning to go where they’ve formerly avoided treading. There are reports that the throne speech will contain promises to act on the disparity in cross-border pricing of consumer goods – an area where the federal government currently has no role.

Higher prices for the same goods have long been a thorn in the side of Canadians who live near the border – or for book-buyers, who see the difference in cost every time they check the price of a new novel. In 2007, the Toronto law firm Juroviesky and Ricci LLP launched a $2-billion lawsuit alleging auto manufacturers were conspiring to keep prices higher in Canada.

Closing the price gap would no doubt be as popular as two other consumer-focused action points in the speech – unbundling cable TV channels and an airline passenger’s bill of rights.

Cross-border price-discrimination has been in the Conservatives’ headlights for some time now. In the 2013 federal budget, the Conservatives cut the tariffs on baby clothes and sporting goods in an effort to bring down prices. That’s one way to go about it, but our trade agreements with the U.S. mean tariffs have already been cut on many items. Another way, some say, would be to amend certain sections of the Competition Act.

In a September 2012 Industry Canada report obtained by the Globe and Mail, the government was warned that taking action on this issue could have “unintended consequences” – including conflicts with trade agreements.

Guess we’ll have to watch the developments and brace for the fallout.

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