What to watch for in 2016

– Not Necessarily New Legislation

Having now been the ruling national Government for two months, it’s understandable that the realities of power are sinking in on both the Prime Minister and the new Cabinet Ministers who were provided with quite precise…and public…mandate letters.

First of all, Prime Minister Trudeau should be congratulated for making those mandate letters public as they add a significant element of transparency and accountability to each Minister, which is a welcome change from his predecessor who preferred secrecy and obedience.

Second, Ministers and the PMO have no doubt realized by now that neither ‘sunny ways’ nor the best of political intentions are sufficient to determine and design the appropriate intended change and then devise the means to make it actually happen. Put differently, campaign promises aren’t the same thing as legislative and operational policy reform.

Third, this is a Government that embraces and prioritizes public adulation. It also realizes that it has a public audience that is not especially focused on details (or actual costs) and that likes the change in attitude and approach that the new Government presents. In this scenario, ‘success’ can be measured by a policy ‘commitment’ or launch of ‘consultations’ rather than the introduction of enabling legislation.

Fourth, in defined circumstances, inaction can be legitimately put forward as ‘action’ on a platform commitment. Abandoning the niqab appeal or refusing to enforce the financial reporting requirements for First Nations are examples of this, and appear to be working especially with the intended targeted audiences.

Fifth, Ministers and the PMO have realized by now that the anticipated costs they projected and published are, in many cases, significantly less than what the real costs will be for their intended goals. The Syrian refugee resettlement program is the first example of this and it won’t be the last.

With these realities in mind, watch for the following 10 non legislative initiatives in 2016:

  1. Continuing prominence being given by the Government to ongoing Syrian refugee resettlement arrivals (with limited detail about the actual costs or impact on other programs);
  2. Launch of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls (with imprecise details on tangible issues to be examined or anticipated action outcomes);
  3. Instead of introducing new legislation, Justice Canada abandons all cases launched under C-24 to revoke acquired citizenship of persons convicted terrorism offences;
  4. Justice Canada seeks, and receives, extensions from the Supreme Court of Canada to introduce assisted suicide and RCMP independent employee representation legislation;
  5. A specially constructed House Committee launches national hearings on electoral reform;
  6. The House Public Safety and National Security Committee announces a special study into security oversight and review of C-51;
  7. Announcement of a new Federal-Provincial-Municipal process for new infrastructure funding rollout;
  8. Announcement of a new Federal-Provincial Working Group to develop a Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction strategy to achieve the Paris Accord targets;
  9. Announcement of a special joint initiative with the Assembly of First Nations to implement the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report;
  10. Immigration Canada creates increased numbers for refugee resettlement and family reunification programs and removes Ministerial direction prohibiting face coverings at citizenship swearing in ceremonies.

All of these actions are in accordance with the announced goals of the new Government and, in today’s political world, progress and indeed ‘success’ is not always measured in terms of legislative action.

Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Vice Chair of the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, Director of Operations to the Washington D.C.-based Investigative Project on Terrorism and as a Security Policy Advisor to the Governments of Ontario and Canada.