Need to Be Safe—from Government!
many Canadians have denounced the recent proroguing of Parliament,
there is another sizeable contingent who heaved a mighty sigh of relief. Prorogation has
resulted in an unexpected, eleventh-hour reprieve from a highly
controversial piece of legislation: Bill C-6, the
proposed Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.
in the House of Commons last June with virtually no opposition, the
bill went to the Senate where it was perceived with a more critical
eye—perhaps due to the deluge of e-mail from concerned citizens who
implored senators to defeat it. In debate, two
senators expressed alarm about what they viewed as its
unconstitutionality, while a third, Senator Elaine McCoy, denounced the
extraordinarily intrusive new regulatory regime as out-and-out
late December, it finally passed, but with amendments. This meant it had to
return to the House of Commons for reconsideration, but fortunately it
died there when the session ended.
C-6 seems so absurdly out of character for a supposedly conservative
government that it calls to mind the 1980s British satirical sitcom
“Yes, Minister”. One
can picture the Harper cabinet—continually berated by the media as
unfeeling droids—brainstorming for ways to demonstrate their tender
concern for the country’s babies. Enter the career
bureaucrats from Health Canada with a plan (“Outlaw killer cribs!”)
designed both to plump up the government’s warm fuzzy image and to
vastly expand their own empire and powers. “We’ll
take it,” cry cabinet members, dismissing Faust from their minds.
fact, Canada already had legislation governing product safety, ever
since 1969: the
Hazardous Products Act. Although
Health Canada bureaucrats admit “this product safety regime has served
us well”, they characterized it as outdated and out of synch with the
modern legislative regimes of Europe and the United States.
absent was any evidence that European and American babies are safer
than Canadian babies as a consequence of that so-called modern
has instead become obvious to even casual observers in recent years is
that the European Union and the United States have both become
gargantuan bureaucracies whose citizens are ever more continually
stripped of their liberties and subjected to state control of the
minutest aspects of their daily lives.
experienced two jaw-dropping examples of this on a vacation to Arizona
last month. The
resort suite I rented via the internet promised a private patio with
hot-tub and a fully-equipped kitchen. Upon arrival, I
found the door to my patio bolted shut. “Entry
prohibited by federal law,” read the sign. Hotel management
explained that the drains in all the resort’s hot-tubs had recently
been found not to comply with new safety regulations. Compliance costs
would be astronomical. Dozens
of hot-tubs would instead be cemented over permanently. But where were the
pots, pans, plates and kitchen utensils? These, too, had been
removed “by federal law” said the embarrassed bellhop. They would be
delivered to a suite only upon explicit customer request. What horrible safety
hazard would have befallen me had the kitchenware been present before I
requested it, I wondered? Only
a bureaucrat could possibly know.
far worse than these inane inconveniences would be the injury that
Canadians would suffer to their traditional legal rights and freedoms
if Bill C-6 is reincarnated and adopted in the next session of
bill would empower Canada to disclose citizens’ confidential
information to foreign governments on the most nebulous of pretexts and
without reliable safeguards for maintaining confidentiality.
of newly hired inspectors would be deployed throughout the country with
instructions—and the legal authority—to poke their noses into every
business place containing consumer products, to seize products and
vehicles, and to order the business to stop manufacturing or selling
its products. No
proof of danger or harm would be required.
homes could be searched, with a warrant—but a warrant could be issued
for the flimsiest of reasons: namely, that the home has a consumer
product stored in it. Under
that criterion, not a single home in the country would be secure from
these legalized invasions.
bill contains other egregious provisions too numerous to catalogue here.
Canada acts as if it is the only thing standing between citizens and
imminent death. The
truth is that the greatest forces keeping individuals safe from
dangerous products are our common-law right to sue for tort, and
business’ self-interest in maintaining their reputation for quality.
Minister Harper once headed an organization, the National Citizens
Coalition, whose motto was “For more freedom through less government.” If he reintroduces
Bill C-6 in the next session of parliament, any lingering doubts about
his abandonment of that philosophy will be laid to rest.