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Editor's Box - Is bill C-12 destined for the scrap heap?

|Written By Kelly Harris

All signs are pointing toward a federal election in Canada sooner rather than later. In fact we may be in the midst of one as this edition of Canadian Lawyer InHouse is being delivered to offices around the country.

All signs are pointing toward a federal election in Canada sooner rather than later. In fact we may be in the midst of one as this edition of Canadian Lawyer InHouse is being delivered to offices around the country.


Depending on the outcome and timing of the next federal election, Canada’s laws covering economically embattled individuals and companies could once again fall with the government that introduced them.


Of course, bill C-12, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005, could be fully implemented by the end of June. Somehow I doubt it, and the government has given no indication this will happen.


The amendments received royal assent in December 2007, at press time few of the changes have been brought into force.


One could argue the only pieces brought into force are the ones with political advantages, such as the Wage Earners Protection Program Act, a potential safety net for those who lose their jobs due to a company’s bankruptcy. What about the other, less politically advantageous changes? Well, the last update from the
government was enactment by March 2009 or later.


We contacted Industry Canada for this edition’s cover story, “Legislative limbo” on page 14, to ask for a timeline for implimenting bill C-12. What we got was an affirmation about the importance of the law and the need to bring it fully into force. What we didn’t get was any sort of timeline or even a “we hope to have it done by” date. So, it looks like “or later” is more accurate.


Regardless of how you feel about the amendments, the idea we can have Canadian law that is sound enough to make it through the House of Commons, the Senate, and receive royal assent, yet is not ready to be brought into force more than a year later, must raise questions.


There are other implications. For example, if bill C-12 is not enacted because of the outcome of an election, it’ll be the fourth time in the last 30 years the legal, business, and political community has embarked on changing the law, only to see government change instead.


Bill C-12 already marks the sixth time in the past 30 years that a government sought to change the laws.  In that time, only twice has a government  been successful. It’s enough to make you question our political process and the way we build laws entirely. Especially laws so complex they take more than a year to enforce after being passed through Parliament.


If in fact bill C-12 is scuttled as a result of an election, the experts in the field may be less inclined to engage in the process in the future. And that is bad for any process of rebuilding a country’s laws.


While governments can be changed, the experts we rely on for advice help provide our country with consistency. Then again, the failure of governments to enact bankruptcy laws is just about as consistent as you can get. 

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