As a public servant I have taken to paying far more attention to what is going on in government, which is likely a good thing. Most recently, with the submission of Bill C-38 to parliament, my colleagues and I, as well as much of Canada, are feeling the effects of this rapidly passing new act. I have no better way to describe this latest act than as daunting. Well over 50 pieces of legislation are being “tweaked” in this over 450 page mega document.

I’ve decided to compile a list of observations I have made and encourage Canadians who are unfamiliar with what is going on to do some research:

1. The act is enormous and broad – CON
I see it as somewhat unsettling that the government has bundled so many changes into one document with the expectation that fellow members of parliament are going to be able to fully wrap their head around it and feel comfortable with what they are approving or denying. I realize this is all part of the majority rule advantage but I strongly believe that it should have been divided into a few different bills grouping together similar legislation so that the changes could be debated more closely and thoroughly.

2. The timeline for approval is very condensed – CON
Taking into consideration the previously mentioned point about how large and broad this act is, the fact that the timelines for approval are so condensed is also alarming. Had the act been divided into sections these timelines would seem more reasonable, but it isn’t divided, and the speed at which this document is passing through readings is a little insane. This naturally makes me question how  well it is being reviewed and how fair the whole process is being run.

3. Stricter regulations for obtaining EI – PRO
How can this not be good? I think encouraging people to look for work and providing them with more resources to do so is fantastic. In the same breath, I also think that making the criteria for obtaining EI more specific is equally great in efforts to discourage the abuse of the system. I know EI is needed for many and I have no problem with helping out those who need the temporary help, but I absolutely do not like that it is being used as a regular source of income for many who can’t seem to understand the concept of working consistent jobs to sustain themselves.

4. Environmental well being is being overshadowed by the economic well being – PRO/CON
The amendments being presented in regards to environmental protection and assessments within regulatory processes are quite significant. The changes suggest that the processes are going to be accelerated and the requirements in this realm less stringent. I see this as both good and bad, as fast tracking certain economically beneficial projects can be very good for our nation, but at the expense of the environment? Will these decisions being made sound as good 5 years from now? Will the changes being made in regards to the environment be as detrimental as people are anticipating?

5. Independent regulatory departments are losing independence – CON
It appears as though more, “overriding” type authorities are being given to ministers, executives, etc. in these formerly quite independent departments. Essentially, depending on the government and individuals, higher ups could make their own decisions if they so choose to, despite the fact that it would go against the current system and be undemocratic of them to do so. Ex: an NDP government could kibosh proposed energy projects in the name of the environment or something of the sort, where as Conservative government could accelerate and over-approve them all in the name of the economy.

6. The name of the act is misleading – CON
For the Conservative government looking to get this act to pass quickly it could be very beneficial that they disguised the contents of the act by calling it “Budget Implementation”  but it distracts many Canadians from looking further into what it actually encompasses.

7. The “Budget Implementation Act” is being reviewed by the finance committee – CON
Contrary to the title of the act, there are way more items within it than those that are budget related. I have a hard time imagining what kind of expertise the finance committee is going to have when it comes to pipeline projects, environment and other non-finance related business.

8. Elimination of the role of Inspector General (CSIS) – CON
Considering this position deals with highly sensitive information and national security I don’t think it should be bundled into such a large bill and overlooked because it needs more focus and discussion than is being allotted to it. Not having the extra “check and balance” of the IG potentially means less privacy for the public and more room for error. I believe CSIS is an important agency and this position’s elimination could cause detriment.

9. OAS age of eligibility from 65 to 67 – PRO
I, contrary to many, believe this is a good thing and don’t quite understand the outrage around it. Statistics show clearly that people are living longer, which for government means paying out OAS for a longer period of time which makes it all the more expensive for them. Additionally, if people are living longer they are likely healthier implying they may be able to work longer as well. I am not sure how significantly the small increase by 2 years affects people and it isn’t a new concept as countries all over Europe increased their retirement ages to 67 years ago.

10. Increase in decision appeals – CON
Due to powers being shifted, “strict” decision timelines for projects (ex: applications submitted to the NEB) being implemented, and environmental assessment amendments there is a lot of room for companies and individuals to move to appeal them. Increasing appeals will tire resources and potentially put significant strain on our system.

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