Issue Archive

The Genetic Non-Discrimination Act: Dead on arrival?

The recent attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare in the U.S. was a colossal and embarrassing failure, blame for which has been thrown in every direction, including President Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, and Democrats. Even the U.S. system of government is partly responsible: The Republican Governor for Ohio noted in an interview that the U.S. is not a “parliamentary system”, the implication being that in a republic such as the U.S., the president cannot unilaterally push through their own legislative agenda. This is why the legislative process in the U.S. is so complicated, and why it is very much about deal-making and compromise, often at the expense of substance.

In contrast, in a parliamentary system like Canada, a prime minister with a majority government faces few legislative constraints. There is no need to build coalitions with opposition members, and loyalty of the governing party’s caucus to vote a certain way can be commanded through control of things like cabinet and committee positions, who stays in caucus, and even who can run in the next election.

However, despite such broad legislative authority, the Liberal government appears to have landed in a debacle of its own making with the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act (GNDA), created last week when Bill S-201 passed third reading in the House of Commons by a margin of 222-60. Despite strong opposition from the Liberal government, 104 Liberal backbenchers voted in favour of S-201, and the government’s primary criticism of the GNDA, that it is a provincial matter, appears a bit suspect.

This issue of PrivacyScan looks at the GNDA, and questions why a Liberal government would want to challenge the constitutional authority of Parliament by ceding territory over the regulation of genetic discrimination.

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