The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Doug Beazley

Securities law

It’s becoming easier to be green – with better returns

By Doug Beazley June 7, 2018 7 June 2018

It’s becoming easier to be green – with better returns

 

It’s a very good time to be in the planet-saving business. Decades back, when the nascent “socially responsible investment” sector was just getting started, SRI was a boutique product.

It had scored some conspicuous victories — having played a key role in pressuring South Africa’s business community to publicly repudiate apartheid, for example – but it was still a niche market, a way for conscientious investors to sacrifice a few points of profit to their ethics. Nobody really expected SRI products to keep pace with the market. But then they did — and then some.

Genus’s Fossil-Free CanGlobe Equity Fund, which excludes oil companies and high-carbon emitters, has increased in value 102 per cent since it started in 2013. A comparable benchmark fund composed of large-cap Canadian and international stocks grew by roughly 81 per cent over the same period. The Jantzi Social Index, which tracks large-cap Canadian firms that meet a high standard of social and environmental responsibility, has seen those firms rise in value more than 41 per cent since 2006; the S&P/TSX 60 trailed at least two points behind.

 

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Environment

The Trans Mountain purchase: Some unresolved legal issues

By Doug Beazley June 6, 2018 6 June 2018

The Trans Mountain purchase: Some unresolved legal issues

 

Given the kind of year Rachel Notley has had, you could forgive the Alberta premier for taking a small victory lap last month after the federal government went all the way for Trans Mountain.

Reacting to the Trudeau government’s announcement that it would be purchasing the existing Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion — to guarantee construction of a politically-fraught expansion to transport Alberta’s bitumen to the Pacific coast — Notley argued the purchase would put an end to B.C. Premier John Horgan’s legal attempts to frustrate the work.

“As a result of the pipeline having been purchased by the federal government, they have a form of Crown immunity which actually limits the degree to which provincial laws would apply to the project because it’s a federal project now,” Notley told reporters.

“I suspect premier Horgan will be going off to get legal advice … some folks would suggest their reference case will have less relevance than before today’s announcement.”

Is she right? Horgan hasn’t taken off the table his government’s reference case before the provincial Court of Appeal — to rule on the province’s power to restrict the flow of diluted bitumen through British Columbia. Does he know something Notley doesn’t?

 

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Decriminalization

Could Portugal’s drug policy work in Canada?

By Doug Beazley May 22, 2018 22 May 2018

Could Portugal’s drug policy work in Canada?

 

Party policy conventions are to politics what fantasy football is to the real thing. Delegates gather to discuss blue-sky proposals to reshape the nation and the world — banning nuclear weapons, for example, or putting new limits on abortion access. Then the professionals weigh in to explain why those ideas won’t fly.

Sometimes the reasons are legal; sometimes they’re political. Sometimes they’re both — which is what happened when Liberal Party of Canada delegates gathered in Halifax last month to talk about following the Portuguese model on drug policy: decriminalizing consumption and possession of small amounts and diverting users into the health care system. The resolution hadn’t even been adopted before key members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet were taking turns tossing buckets of cold water on the idea.

“I recognize there’s a lot of comparison with Portugal and Canada but I think we have to develop the Canadian model here,” said Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

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Trade

Trade and national security risks

By Doug Beazley April 23, 2018 23 April 2018

Trade and national security risks

 

It’s a measure of just how unsettled things have gotten in the realm of international trade law commentary: the experts have started quoting Frank Zappa.

A quip attributed to the late gonzo rock star — “You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline” — has been making the rounds in emails exchanged by trade lawyers. It’s a gag, of course, but it also reads as a better-phrased version of the justification U.S. President Donald Trump offered for his decision to cite a threat to national security to justify massive new tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium.

“Our steel industry is in bad shape,” Trump tweeted on March 2, before mashing the all-caps key. “IF YOU DON’T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY!”

Trump has been president of the United States for over a year now, and in that time he has trampled any number of the political norms that serve as the unwritten laws of western democracy — in how he approaches party politics, gender and race relations, diplomacy and the rule of law, to list just the obvious examples.

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Competition law

Competition Bureau takes baby steps on its Big Data learning curve

By Doug Beazley December 20, 2017 20 December 2017

Competition Bureau takes baby steps on its Big Data learning curve

 

Every conversation about competition law and big data seems to start with Google.

The internet behemoth’s parent company took in $78.65 billion over the past three quarters as its stock hit all-time highs. So it probably didn’t break a sweat when the European Union slapped it with a record US$2.7 billion antitrust fine in June — punishment for abusing its dominance of the search engine market by placing its own shopping services above those of competitors on its web search queues.

In the U.S., Missouri recently signalled what could be the start of an antitrust push against Google with an investigation into whether the company has manipulated search results to frustrate competition. And Canada? In April 2016, the Competition Bureau wrapped up an abuse-of-dominance investigation of Google with a report that largely absolved the company of misdeeds (although it did get Google to suspend the use of anti-competitive clauses in its advertising terms and conditions for five years).

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