There is so much misinformation, narrowly biased coverage and raw emotion online that concern me about our society's ability to think critically about the important issues of the day. I want to provoke a deeper level of thought by offering an explanation of issues as I see them. You may agree or disagree, but hopefully you will at least think about the issues.
I am a retired litigation lawyer with over 40 years of experience in environmental, electricity, competition, and constitutional issues. I have appeared at all levels of court including the Supreme Court of Canada, and in every province of Canada. I have been invited as a guest lecturer at almost all of the law schools in this country. I am also the author of over 100 legal articles and a law book, and have been an adjunct faculty member at four Canadian law schools.
Canada’s Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner (EC), Mario Dion, released his bombshell report on August 14 [EC Report]. He found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had violated section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act by attempting to pressure former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) to terminate the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin for his own political benefit. Errol Mendes, a well-regarded constitutional law professor, has criticized the EC’s report, arguing that Dion misinterpreted his own act and exceeded his jurisdiction [ Mendes Opinion ]. However, in my view, Dion got it right, and Mendes got it wrong. Here’s why.
If it was ethical for a PM to try to end a criminal prosecution for political benefit to himself and his party it would also be ethical to try to start a prosecution for political benefit. Neither type of political interference is consistent with the rule of law in a democracy.
Continue reading “Did Our Prime Minister Violate the Conflict of Interest Act?”
It is not every day that I have, respectfully, to disagree with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), but today is that day.
The Globe and Mail newspaper this morning quoted SCC Chief Justice Richard Wagner saying that he would like to see public nomination hearings for appeal court judges, much like the ones held for the SCC. Such hearings for SCC nominees are largely a waste of time. Why expand an essentially useless and potentially harmful process?
Chief Justice Wagner was quoted as saying that explanations are necessary “Because people need and deserve the information. There is no reason we should not give it to them. We have nothing to hide.” I agree with those sentiments as far as they go, but all the relevant information can be provided in a printed bio or CV or by reading Wikipedia. The questions politicians really want answered have nothing to do with information. Rather, it is about the nominees’ views on politically controversial issues. Yet these views are almost never obtained on questioning.
Continue reading “Confirmation Hearings for Canadian Appeal Court Nominees”
“Even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if it kept its mouth shut.” Korean proverb.
As most Canadians who follow the news will know, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the Vice-Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff was suspended from his position in 2016 and subsequently prosecuted for the alleged criminal offence of breach of trust. He was accused of having leaked secret Canadian government information about a Navy shipbuilding contract. On May 8, 2019 the prosecutor stayed the charges against him and the judge told him that he was free to go.
But that has not ended the controversy about the prosecution. There has been extensive speculation about political interference from the Prime Minister’s office. That speculation may have gained some support from the evidence of Mr. Norman’s superior, Chief of the Defence Staff General Jon Vance, that Vance had discussed the matter with Mr. Trudeau and his top advisors, including then-principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford. The Prime Minister has denied any political interference and to date no one has produced any evidence of it. I am inclined to believe the Prime Minister. However, the absence of direct interference by elected politicians is not the same as lack of political considerations in the prosecution.
As events have unfolded, the prosecutor, the RCMP and the Prime Minister all look bad.
Continue reading “The Vice-Admiral Norman Case: A Prosecution Without Political Interference?”
Governments have often made decisions based on impulse rather than reason. A classic example is the fallacy of “the last straw” – the straw that broke the camel’s back. Similar impulsive decisions are now being made in the assessment of a pipeline’s effects. Let’s think about that.
If a camel’s back can hold, let’s say, 1000 straws, and if one more straw will break its back, it is illogical to believe that it was only the last straw that broke its back. Each of the 1001 straws has weight. All of them together create load on the camel’s back. The first straw is no better than the last straw. They are all load. If you don’t believe me, just ask the camel!
THE LAST STRAW DIDN’T BREAK THE CAMEL’S BACK
If you remove one or more of the 1000 loaded straws, then adding that proverbial “last straw” will be harmless. The false assumption is that all of the old load is okay, but new load is not. This leads us to the wrong decision: to ban new load while preserving old load. The right question is not “Which load is good load?” but rather, “How should Canada decide who is allowed to add straws onto the camel’s back (up to the maximum load)?” The task is to allocate space rationally on the limited capacity of the camel’s back.
Canada is facing two pipeline-related issues similar to the camel’s back. The first of these is CO2 emissions, the second, underwater noise caused by increased tanker traffic.
Continue reading “The Last Straw and the Pipeline”
The Canadian Senate’s Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources invited me to make a short presentation to it on April 2, 2019, on my proposed amendments to the Impact Assessment Act, C-69.
Below I have set out first, my written opening statement, and second, the transcript of my part of the oral presentation with questions from several Senators.
SENATE OF CANADA
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENERGY, THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
OPENING STATEMENT OF ANDREW ROMAN
April 2, 2019
Madam Chair and Honourable Senators, thank you for inviting me. And a special thanks to Maxime Fortin for arranging my presentation.
I am here because I want Canada’s impact assessment process to work well, for the sake of my children and grandchildren, and for those of all Canadians. That will not be the case unless C-69 is significantly amended. Good ideas that are badly implemented don’t make good laws. Without major amendments it is unlikely that there will be any new pipeline or electricity transmission proposals under C-69.
I have had a 45 year legal career advising and representing clients across Canada. Clients have included some First Nations (FNs), environmental groups, domestic and international corporations and federal and provincial governments. I have taught and practiced environmental law and advocacy. The federal government retained me to draft the first environmental assessment rules for its impact assessments. I have appeared as legal counsel for both the federal government and NGOs in pipeline hearings and court applications arising from them. I have also worked on drafting different kinds of laws for Ottawa and several provinces.
MY WRITING ON C-69
I recently published two blog posts on C-69, receiving over 4,000 views, here:
Analysis of C-69
How to Amend C-69
The second of these has a table providing a detailed list of suggested amendments. I would encourage you to read these blogs.
WHO WILL BE THE WINNERS AND LOSERS UNDER C-69?
Those who want to keep Canada’s oil and gas in the ground will be the winners. Everyone else will be the losers. Continue reading “My Presentation to the Senate on Amendments to the Impact Assessment Act, C-69, April 2, 2019”
The Prime Minister‘s real message was: “You can either do what I want or you can do what you want. The decision is yours.”
The Prime Minister, while addressing the resignations of former Ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR) and Jane Philpott on television on March 7, said that different interpretations of the same events, and miscommunication had led to an erosion of trust. But that’s not what caused the resignations. Different interpretations of the same events are ethically neutral. The resignation letters showed a disagreement about ethics.
The Resignations Were About Ethics
The resignations were spurred by ethical disagreement with what the Prime Minister and his staff were attempting to achieve in their conversations with the former Attorney General about SNC-Lavalin’s criminal prosecution.
If what the PM was attempting to do was unethical, his motivation for doing so, and any ambiguities in the language used in the attempt, do not matter.
Continue reading “It’s Your Decision…”
Did the Prime Minister’s Office panic over SNC-Lavalin’s story of impeding doom? Or did they have real numbers showing the future effects of a criminal prosecution?
In the last few weeks the Canadian media have feasted daily on the political controversy over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s treatment of the former Attorney, General Jody Wilson-Raybould. This controversy arose over SNC-Lavalin’s repeated meetings with the Prime Minister’s Office, intended to persuade the PM to persuade the AG to intervene in a criminal prosecution of that company.
The SNC-Lavalin story that the PM, the PMO and the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick told was that unless the company was protected from criminal prosecution there would be catastrophic consequences, not just for the now-reformed company but also, collateral damage for other, innocent parties: the company’s employees, shareholders and pensioners. I have seen no public numbers to quantify the estimated extent of these damages, merely the assumption that they would be catastrophic and unjust. The PM seemed to have assumed that most, if not all of SNC-Lavalin’s 9,000 Canadian employees are likely to become unemployed. He has responded to his critics by saying that there is nothing wrong with his trying to protect these 9,000 Canadian jobs. But what if those jobs aren’t at risk, and don’t need his protection? Did the PM just risk his career and his government over an exaggeration?
Continue reading “Rumours of Death: The Panic Over SNC-Lavalin”