Transition and the legislative process

A key challenge of transition is the limited time devoted to legislative processes in Canadian jurisdictions and the associated volume of items to consider when legislatures and councils are in session.  Significant changes to legislation, or adoption of new legislation, is infrequent, with sometimes 20-30 years passing between significant amendments to existing Acts.  There is significant literature on how to modify Parliamentary processes to improve the efficient functioning of legislatures, but this is beyond the scope of this site.  However, improvements in this realm would facilitate many of the proposals here. Advocates for change, of course, can not significantly influence legislative schedules. Working together, however, across the many change areas outlined on this site, they can attempt to co-ordinate their advocacy efforts so that governments aren't playing legislative change proposals off each other because of limited legislative time. A related difficulty is that substantive food system issues are infrequently viewed as a legislative priority unless entwined with other domains that are seen to be a greater priority. In the interim, many early stage proposals for change will likely have to minimize legislative changes to address the realities of Canada's legislative limitations, with more invoking of Orders - in - Council and other administrative and regulatory initiatives that do not require legislative debate.

In part because of this difficulty, the annual Budget process (leading to the Budget Bill) has often become a focal point for changes to legislation, programs and other expenditures. It is now common for budget proposals to drive the introduction of new or amended instruments, which is rather "cart before the horse".  For example, the 2019 Budget proposed a number of national food policy implementation expenditures in advance of a policy being announced. A key advocacy tactical decision, depending on the agenda, is whether to use the Budget process rather than a more direct legislative approach.

A third challenge is the often long gap between passage of a bill and when it comes into force. Coming into force is usually dependent on the writing of a new core regulations. Additionally, a transition period for many actors is often specified upon coming into force, which effectively further delays implementation.  The 2002 Pest Control Products Act did not come into force until 2006.  The 2012 Safe Food for Canadians Act did not come into force untiil 2019 and in early 2021 not  all it's provisions had been implemented.


Provincial / territorial




Existing legislation

Each Act listed here is part of the Canadian food system.  The full Act is linked to the title, but under some of the Acts are selected provisions related to proposed changes that support Efficiency, Substitution and Redesign strategies across the 10 Goals for a new joined up food system.  Note that complete listings of pertinent food and agriculture statutes can be found in 2 volumes of Halsbury's Laws of Canada, one on agriculture, one on food.

Department of AAFC Act

The Act that created the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food and provides for its mandate and functions. This Act becomes the Department of Food and Food Security Act.

Proposed amendments

Canada Health Act

Becomes the Canada Health Promotion Act

Proposed amendments

Canada Shipping Act

Administrative lead is Transport Canada and sets the rules for shipping and navigation.

Canada Transportation Act

This Act guides transportation policy, programming and governance.

Proposed amendments
Canadian Agricultural Products Act

The Act exists to ..."regulate the marketing of agricultural products in import, export and interprovincial trade and to provide for national standards and grades of agricultural products, for their inspection and grading, for the registration of establishments and for standards governing establishments"

Canadian Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act

The act governs the packaging, labelling, sale, importation and advertising of prepackaged goods, including food.

Proposed amendments

This Act established the Canadian Dairy Commission.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act


Coastal Fisheries Protection Act

Empowers the Minister to manage foreign fishing fleets in Canadian waters.

Competition Act

The Act regulates trade and commerce as it relates to conspiracies, trade practices and mergers that affect competition.  Its purpose is to: “‘maintain and encourage competition in Canada’; promote efficiency in the Canadian economy; promote reciprocal participation in Canadian and foreign markets with international partners; to ensure small / medium size business enterprises have an ‘equitable opportunity to participate in the Canadian economy’ and; to provide consumers with competitive prices and variety of product choices” (Government of Canada, 2013).  The Act sets out rules regarding abuse of dominance, mergers and pricing and enforces its mandate through both civil and criminal law. Areas categorized as criminal offenses include: “price-fixing, market-sharing, and output restriction cartel”  whereas “dominant firm conduct and mergers”  are investigated as civil matters, and are judged for their impact on competition within an industry (Government of Canada, 2013). In theory,   there are options for remedies if firms engage in anti-competitive  practices (Mendly-Zambo et al., 2018).

The Act is enforced by the Competition Bureau, a “law enforcement agency” (Competition Bureau Canada, 2018) led by the Commissioner of Competition that is responsible for administering and amending the Competition Act, 1985. It also has memoranda of understanding with provincial consumer protection agencies such as the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, and international partners.

The Commissioner of Competition  has the option to request voluntary compliance with legislation however, if that does not occur the Commissioner can refer the matter to the Competition Tribunal (Competition Bureau of Canada, 2018). The Competition Tribunal is the primary adjudicative body that reviews issues that fall under civil law, as the intent of the tribunal is to provide “flexible enforcement and litigation process to uphold fair and efficient business practices” (Competition Tribunal, 2018).

Proposed amendments
Emergencies Act

The act allows for special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies (peace time).

Proposed amendments
Export and Import Permits Act

The act sets out rules for the export and transfer of goods and technology and the import of goods.

Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act

Division VI of CTA deals with Transport of Western Grain. Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.

Farm Income Protection Act

One of the few with a mandated evaluation component, environmental assessment of agreements entered into under the Act be done within two years of the agreement and every five years thereafter. In addition, the agreement must "provide for the circumstances and conditions under which insurance may be withheld, restricted or enhanced for the purpose of protecting the environment and of encouraging sound management practices to ensure environmental sustainability."  Evaluations to date show mixed results re: biodiversity.  Evaluation of income stability tools

Farm Products Agencies Act
Feeds Act
Fertilizers Act
Fisheries Act
Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act

The act grants the Minister jurisdiction over the management of harbours.

Food and Drugs Act
Health of Animals Act

The act concerns itself with diseases, toxic substances that may affect animals or be transmitted by animals to humans, and animal protection.

Oceans Act

The act addresses collaborative development and implementation of a national strategy for the management of estuarine, coastal and marine ecosystems.  The lead department is Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but it also empowers the Coast Guard.

Pest Control Products Act

The Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) regulates the approval of pesticides.  It is administered by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada.

Proposed amendments
Safe Food for Canadians Act (regulations into force 2019)
Seeds Act
Species at Risk Act

Regarding protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada

Sustainable Development Act

The federal government is required, under the Act, to have sustainable development strategy and all ministries must also have a strategy that complies with the Act as it relates to their mandate.  The AAFC "commitment to sustainable development flows from its mandate of helping the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products industries compete in domestic and international markets, deriving economic returns to the sector and the Canadian economy as a whole. Sustainable management of natural resources is a core requirement for an economically successful agricultural sector." (Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy: Supplementary to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s 2014-2015 Report on Plans and Priorities, AGRIC. & AGRI-FOOD CAN)

New legislation

Canada Food Act

Given some of the jurisdictional parallels between health and food in Canada , an Act comparable to the Canada Health Act could be adopted that sets out the criteria for participation of all food system actors in the change process.

Food Packaging Resource Minimization Act

This Act, based on the Energy Efficiency Act, sets out national environmental performance standards to which packaging materials must comply.  It could be administered by CFIA, as part of their review of food safety provisions for packaging, by AAFC, or by Natural Resources Canada.  All these units would have to improve their environmental competency to fulfill the mandate.

National Food Policy Council of Canada Act (drafted by Sasha McNicoll, then of Food Secure Canada)

Legislation to formalize the form and function of a National Food Policy Council.  The federal government has proposed creating a National Food Policy Advisory Council, with no indication at this point that it will be formally created by legislation.


Used commonly in Commonwealth countries instead of, or to supplement, legislation debated in Parliament.  In Canada, the government of the day creates the order and has it approved by the Governor General.

From Labour Force Development

An Order in Council from May, 1943 (P.C.3620), passed under the War Measures Act, is of the kind to be modified:

The Minister of Labour is to enter into agreements with each province “for the purpose of making more effective use of the agricultural manpower within each province, of recruiting workers, whether male or female, suitable for farm work in one province, and of transporting the said workers to and placing them on the farms of another province” (Britnell & Fowke, 1962:180).

A more up-to-date version might read:

The Ministers of Labour and of Agriculture and Agrifood are to enter into agreements with each province for the purpose of making more effective use of critical food system labour within each province, of recruiting, training and setting conditions for  workers, including providing supports for the movement of said workers to critical locations in  another province.