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Canadian Parliament Approves Budgetary Reforms

On June 29, the Canadian Senate passed the 2012 omnibus budget act (C-38), approximately two weeks after the House of Commons sent the measure to the upper chamber, according to the Associated Equipment Distributors. Immediately after passage the measure received royal assent, giving it the force of law and making several controversial changes to Canadian policy.

The budget pursues major overhauls of tax, retirement and regulatory policies. C-38 also rewrites the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and creates the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to judge whether projects are likely to have adverse environmental effects. The new process would allow for the recognition of assessments by other jurisdictions and mandates opportunities for public participation.

On the energy and infrastructure front, the budget establishes that pipelines may not necessarily be deemed to be obstructions to navigation routes of endangered species. Under the change, Cabinet officials will now have direct roles in environmental reviews.

The omnibus budget bill was both contentious and controversial with members of Parliament due to the lack of specifics regarding its sweeping changes to a number of long-standing programs. Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s conservative government has said the cuts are necessary to restore the nation’s fiscal health, but has refused repeated requests to reveal details about the measure’s impact. Other controversial provisions lay out the process for raising the retirement age from 60 to 65 and for increasing the portion of pension funds due from employees to 50 percent.

C-38 was the first of two budget measures that Parliament must approve. Canada’s second implementing budget resolution will be introduced by Conservative Party leaders this fall, with significant reforms to labor and tax laws promised.