Do Comparisons Between Tobacco and Climate Change Liability Withstand Scrutiny?

By: Martin Olszynski, Sharon Mascher, and Meinhard Doelle

PDF Version: Do Comparisons Between Tobacco and Climate Change Liability Withstand Scrutiny?

Research Commented On:From Smokes to Smokestacks: Lessons from Tobacco for the Future of Climate Change Liability” (2017) Geo Envtl L Rev (forthcoming)

A few years ago, the Canadian Press reported that environmental groups were “taking inspiration from the legal fight against tobacco to fire warning shots at major energy companies over their alleged role in funding climate change denial and blocking climate-friendly legislation.” The next day, an editorial in the Calgary Herald suggested that “the comparison doesn’t stand up to even cursory examination. One is a product that is always hazardous to human health when consumed, the other is a staple of the modern world.” Setting aside for a moment the fact that tobacco wasn’t always understood as hazardous to human health (back in the 1950s, almost one in every two Americans smoked, and cigarettes were ubiquitous in homes, places of work, universities, restaurants and bars), the past few years have seen an increasing number of comparisons made between the fossil-fuel industry’s potential liability for climate change and “Big Tobacco’s” liability for tobacco-related disease. Very few of these comparisons, however, have considered the legally relevant similarities and differences between these two contexts in detail. In our most recent paper, recently accepted for publication in the Georgetown Environmental Law Review, we set out to do just that.

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Posted in Climate Change, Environmental | Leave a comment

Smoke and Mirrors? With Marihuana Legalization, Parliament Proposes to Drastically Expand Police Power

By: Dylan Finlay

PDF Version: Smoke and Mirrors? With Marihuana Legalization, Parliament Proposes to Drastically Expand Police Power

Legislation Commented On: Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, 1st Session, 42nd Parliament, 2017

Parliament is toting marihuana legalization as a necessary public safety measure. With this sentiment, Parliament is revisiting not only drug-impaired driving laws, but also alcohol-impaired driving laws. Part 2 of Bill C-46 would, if passed, allow police officers to demand that a driver provide breath samples without any suspicion that the individual had been drinking. The relevant section is reproduced below:

Mandatory alcohol screening

320.27 (2) If a peace officer has in his or her possession an approved screening device, the peace officer may, in the course of the lawful exercise of powers under an Act of Parliament or an Act of a provincial legislature or arising at common law, by demand, require the person who is operating a motor vehicle to immediately provide the samples of breath that, in the peace officer’s opinion, are necessary to enable a proper analysis to be made by means of that device and to accompany the peace officer for that purpose.

Parliament seeks the moral high ground in selling its proposed legislation to both the public and the judiciary. To the public, the Liberals hope to sway voters who find a ‘tough-on-crime’ agenda attractive – the same segment of the population that supports stiff mandatory minimum jail sentences. To be fair, as far as politics go, this strategy is sound; the segment of the population that supports legalization of marihuana because prohibition never made much sense to begin with will likely support the Bill no matter its complexities.

The judiciary will be harder to convince. Mandatory alcohol screening (as it is proposed by Bill C-46) violates ss 7 (the right to life, liberty and security of the person), 8 (the right against unreasonable search and seizure), 9 (the right not to be arbitrarily detained), and10(b) (the right to counsel on arrest or detention) of the Canadian Charter of the Rights and Freedoms (the Charter). Parliament must to cast mandatory alcohol screening as a reasonable limit prescribed by law and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society to ‘save’ it under s 1 of the Charter.

The groundwork is being laid for such an argument. On CBC’s ‘The House,’ Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould stated: “I am confident [mandatory alcohol screening] will survive a constitutional challenge. It can be justified in terms of public safety, and safety on the roads, and preventing death” (April 13, 2017).

I do not share the Justice Minister’s confidence. Mandatory alcohol screening (as it is proposed) is a flagrant affront to Charter-values and Charter jurisprudence. The Supreme Court should not find such a law constitutional.

A constitutional battle lies ahead. This post will provide a summary of police procedure and the law as it relates to alcohol screening, present arguments for and against mandatory screening’s constitutionality, and ultimately conclude that mandatory alcohol screening is unconstitutional. For the purposes of this post, the focus will be on s 10(b) of the Charter, as this is the focus of the prevailing case law on alcohol screening generally. Continue reading

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Upholding the Lexin Equipment Order – The AER Wins the Battle, But Most Likely Will Lose the War

By: Heather Lilles

PDF Version: Upholding the Lexin Equipment Order – The AER Wins the Battle, But Most Likely Will Lose the War

Case Commented On: Interim Order and Order Re Equipment (ABQB), Alberta Energy Regulator (applicant) and Lexin Resources Ltd. (respondent), Court File Number 1701-02272 and Alberta Energy Regulator v Lexin Resources Ltd., 2017 ABQB 219 (CanLII)

Lexin Resources may only be a junior oil and gas company, but recent extensive coverage by local news agencies (see here for example) has caused the name of the small oil and gas producer to become as familiar as its larger counterparts, or – perhaps – as infamous as Redwater Energy Corporation. Redwater, another junior in the Canadian industry, became notorious last October when Chief Justice Neil Wittmann of the Court of Queen’s Bench allowed the Receiver of Redwater to disclaim unproductive oil and gas assets even where those assets were subject to abandonment orders from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). See the post of Professor Bankes on the Redwater decision here.

Like Redwater Energy, Lexin has been petitioned into bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, RSC 1985, c B-3. In Lexin’s case, a Receiver was appointed on the application of the Alberta Energy Regulator – an unprecedented step for the Regulator. This post addresses two of the recent court actions involving Lexin Resources and the AER: the Interim Order Re Equipment which was issued by the Court of Queen’s Bench on February 14, 2017 (the “Interim Order”) and the recent decision in Alberta Energy Regulator v Lexin Resources Ltd., 2017 ABQB 219 (CanLII) (the “Lexin Decision”). This post does not directly discuss Lexin’s bankruptcy or what effect the Court of Appeal’s decision in Redwater (not yet released) could have on Lexin’s bankruptcy and its AER licensed assets. Continue reading

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The Expert Panel Report on Federal Environmental Assessment: Discretion, Transparency, and Accountability

By: Shaun Fluker and Drew Yewchuk

PDF Version: The Expert Panel Report on Federal Environmental Assessment: Discretion, Transparency, and Accountability

Report Commented On: Expert Panel on the Review of Federal Environmental Assessment Processes, Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada

Last November, the University of Calgary’s Public Interest Law Clinic, on behalf of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) Southern Alberta Chapter, presented to the Expert Panel responsible for Canada’s federal environmental assessment process. The presentation focused exclusively on problems with the federal environmental assessment process in Canada’s national parks under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012SC 2012 c 19 s 52 (CEAA 2012). We described that presentation here, and the full written submission to the Panel including exhibits is available here (CPAWS Submission). The Expert Panel Report, Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada, was released April 5, 2017. Professor Arlene Kwasniak provided some background and an overview of key aspects of the report here. CPAWS left the Expert Panel with three messages in relation to the current federal environmental assessment process in the national parks: there is (1) too much discretion; (2) not enough transparency; and (3) a complete lack of accountability. In this post, we comment on how the Report addresses each of these points.

As an overall comment, it is disappointing the Expert Panel did not specifically address environmental assessment in the national parks. The Report focuses on sustainability as the measuring stick for impact assessment: “Federal IA [impact assessment] should provide assurance that approved projects, plans and policies contribute a net benefit to environmental, social, economic, health and cultural well-being.” (at 2.1.3) While sustainability is a commendable objective generally, this commitment to sustainability and its polycentric consideration of factors is not consistent with the legislated priority of maintaining or restoring ecological integrity in the national parks. The legislated ecological integrity mandate set out in section 8(2) of the Canada National Parks Act, SC 2000 c 32 demands an assessment process which skews in favour of environmental protection over economic and other social considerations. Perhaps, however, the Expert Panel was thinking of national parks and the ecological integrity mandate in its recommendation for regional impact assessments. The Report specifically calls for regional impact assessments that address matters such as baseline conditions and thresholds for federal lands with the potential for cumulative effects problems (at 3.5). Continue reading

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Punitive Damages and the Residential Tenancies Act

By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton

PDF Version: Punitive Damages and the Residential Tenancies Act

Case Commented On: Wilderdijk-Streutker v Zhao, 2017 ABPC 24 (CanLII)

Punitive damages are rarely awarded in residential tenancy disputes, but Wilderdijk-Streutker v Zhao is one of those rare cases. And although an award of punitive damages is very fact-dependent, there are some principles and rules of law which residential landlords and tenants who are contemplating claiming punitive damages should be aware of. They should also be aware that there are a few unsettled issues concerning the awarding of punitive damages in this context. Those unsettled issues are the focus of this post. Continue reading

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Posted in Property | Leave a comment