Federal budget bill to include grab bag of law changes

The 2023 federal budget released this week includes a series of affordability measures, tax changes, and major spends on health care and the clean economy. However, tucked into the 255-page document is a series of smaller items you may have missed.

Specifically, a scan of the “proposed legislative action” annex—largely non-fiscal measures the Liberals plan to stuff into the coming budget implementation bill, or BIA—indicates a host of grab-bag law changes.

From moving ahead with an electronic citizenship program and changes for natural health products, to amending an act regarding royal titles and imposing new privacy requirements on political parties, here are some of the odds and ends in the budget.

NATURAL HEALTH PRODUCT OVERSIGHT

According to the budget, the government plans to amend the Food and Drugs Act to extend powers brought under the ‘Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa’s Law)’ to regulate natural health products.

This change would allow regulators to take stronger action when health and safety issues are flagged with natural health products on the market.

IMPROVING GIG WORKER PROTECTIONS

Changes are coming to the Canada Labor Code to improve job protections for federally regulated gig workers.

“For those in the gig economy, such as those who rely on an app or digital platform for their source of work, this can have a real impact on the stability and security of their livelihoods,” reads the budget.

This change would seek to strengthen prohibitions against employee misclassification so that federally-regulated gig workers don’t miss out on the same labor rights, employer contributions, and entitlements as “traditional” employees.

It builds on a 2021 change that applies to misclassification of employees in the private sector.

ENABLING ELECTRONIC CITIZENSHIP PROGRAM

The Liberals are eyeing amendments to the Citizenship Act to allow for “the electronic administration of the citizenship program; automated and machine-assisted processing; and the collection and use of biometric information.”

The budget states this would allow for “faster and more efficient” citizenship application processing, a push likely motivated by the still-substantial backlog.

Currently, citizenship applications rely on name-based searches to screen applicants to verify their identities, but now the federal government wants to be able to use tools like fingerprints, similar to what is done for visa and permanent resident programs because they say they provide more accurate information.

Ten million dollars is being allocated for the next five years to help implement the new biometric approach.

This change is separate from the proposal to allow new Canadians to skip the in-person citizenship ceremony and take their oath through “a secure online solution.”

LEAVE FOR A CHILD’S DEATH OR DISAPPEARANCE

Another Canada Labor Code change will see expansions to the eligibility to leave related to the death or disappearance of a child.

“The death or disappearance of a child is a tragic and devastating moment and can leave parents unable to work. Ensuring parents have the support they need to navigate a devastating period in their lives is critical to their emotional, mental, and physical well-being,” reads the budget.

This change would apply to workers in federally regulated sectors.

AMENDING ROYAL STYLE AND TITLES

In perhaps the most mysterious line in the 2023 federal budget, the Liberals say they plan to amend the “Royal Style and Titles Act” through the coming budget bill.

Mentioned only in the legislative annex, the government is giving no other indications of what these changes would entail.

The act itself, ratified in 1953, is just five pages long. At the time, it conferred upon Elizabeth II the title of Queen of Canada.

It still references “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith” so perhaps that’s being updated to reflect that King Charles III is now on the job.

BANNING COSMETIC TESTING ON ANIMALS

The federal government is proposing amendments to the Food and Drugs Act to ban cosmetic testing on animals.

“The proposed amendments would prohibit: testing cosmetics on animals in Canada; selling cosmetics that rely on animal testing data to establish the product’s safety, with some exceptions; and false or misleading labeling pertaining to the testing of cosmetics on animals,” reads the budget .

This is a change the government had already signaled was afoot, but is now being stitched into the BIA.

POLITICAL PARTY PRIVACY STANDARDS

For some time privacy experts have balked at how political parties are not subject to federal privacy laws and have limited obligations when it comes to transparency around the information they harvest from the electorate.

Now, perhaps responding to the BC privacy commissioner ruling that federal parties are subject to that provinces’ Personal Information Protection Act, it appears some tightening is ahead.

The Liberals are looking to build on a move they took in 2019 to require parties to post their privacy policies online, by establishing “a uniform federal approach in respect of federal political parties’ collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in a manner that overrides overlapping provincial legislation.”

This would be done by amending the Canada Elections Act.

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