Tag: Politics

Emergency Powers Without An Emergency?

Prime Minister Trudeau has been pressed by reporters about the COVID-19 “nuclear option” – invoking the federal Emergencies Act.

PM: “At this time we do not see the federal emergencies act as an essential tool today, but we are continuing to look at the situation and will make decisions based on the best recommendations of science.” (Saturday, March 21)

Provinces and territories are closing their borders to inter-provincial travel and shutting down all but essential industries. A COVID-19 positive woman was arrested in Quebec City for taking a walk while quarantined.  As the financial and emotional costs of self-isolation mount, is there still no emergency?  And what comes next?

Apparently, what comes next arrived yesterday (March 25) : Bill C-13, enacted by Parliament in the early hours of the morning. It grants emergency spending powers without a declaration of emergency.  Why does it matter?

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COVID-19 and the Cabinet’s Emergency Powers.

March 21, 2020.  Briefing by Prime Minister Trudeau, responding to a question:

PM: “We have not removed from the table any options. We are looking at a broad array of measures that we can move forward with. At this time we do not see the federal Emergencies Act as an essential tool today, but we are continuing to look at the situation and will make decisions based on the best recommendations of science.”

Question: “What do you need to see before declaring a federal emergency?”

PM: “I think the key issue is are there things that we need to be able to do as a government that we cannot do with the very strong existing regulations that are in place and that our government has as tools.”

 

Background

 

You would have to be a hermit living in a cave not to have heard of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Governments all over the world have introduced special laws to deal with the emergency.  As the rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths have increased, so has the severity of government responses.

But the existing legal powers of government may soon become insufficient.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recalled Parliament to enact legislation permitting special financial measures to support Canadians impacted by the closing of schools, workplaces, restaurants and bars.  That is his first Parliamentary step, but probably not his last.

There are two Canadian laws that have never been used before, but may have to be if conditions worsen.  These are the Emergencies Act and the Quarantine Act.  I had not been familiar with either of these laws until this pandemic arose, but now have read them both.  Fortunately, because these laws have not been used before there is no large body of case law to wade through to understand how they have been interpreted.  Because they have never been interpreted, my interpretation is as good as, or as bad as, anyone else’s.

As between the two laws, I would expect the federal government to use the Emergencies Act first, and if it later becomes necessary, to use the Quarantine Act.  Both of these laws give the government extraordinary powers of a somewhat dictatorial nature.  Because giving a government dictatorial powers is always dangerous, these laws provide some soft safeguards which, one can only hope, will prove to be adequate.

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Will the Paris Agreement Fix the ‘Climate Crisis’?

Preparations are now underway for COP25, a global climate conference of thousands of politicians and observers, opening  December 2 in Madrid.  This conference was to be held in Chile, but the Chilean President cancelled hosting it because of violent riots, sparked by large increases in transit fares and electricity prices.

One COP25 agenda item is the 2015 Paris Agreement, which was supposed to fix the climate crisis. Even if there is such a crisis, the Paris Agreement won’t fix it. [But is there really a climate crisis? You may want to read my two earlier posts on that issue, starting here: The Climate Crisis: Don’t Panic, It’s Not the Titanic.]

Everyone talks about the Paris Agreement, but hardly anyone reads it. The mainstream media says it was to reduce global CO2 emissions.  But that is not what the Agreement says or does. It doesn’t require any country to reduce its emissions Some of the planet’s largest emitters say they will increase their emissions — not just a little, but a lot.

China, the world’s largest emitter and growing rapidly, already accounts for 29% of global CO2. (The USA represents only 13%, Canada 1.6%.)  India, with its less developed but rapidly growing economy, creates another 7%. Yet both China and India (and several Africa countries) project increased emissions with no numerical limit.

Even if all the 195 nations that signed the Agreement do what they said they will do, the net effect will be no significant reduction in CO2 emissions. There is a huge disconnect between what the Agreement is supposed to do and what the nations have said they intend to do.

The current panic over the ‘climate crisis’ makes it politically essential for most governments to respond with dramatic displays of determination to “fight climate change” and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Unfortunately, as Nobel Prize-winning economist William Nordhaus has written in The American Economic Association Journal of August 2018:

“The reality is that most countries are on a business-as-usual trajectory of minimal policies to reduce their emissions …. The international target for climate change with a limit of 2°C appears to be infeasible with reasonably accessible technologies even with very ambitious abatement strategies.”

The only safe political path between the panic and the possible is to pretend to do the impossible. And that is the real purpose of the Paris Agreement.

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