Substitution (EM)

Use emergencies legislation to forestall market failure

A presumption of most emergencies legislation is that markets continue to function.  However, there should be preparedness for market failures associated with emergency conditions.  Regarding the food system, when markets are at risk of failure, governments should be ready to enact measures comparable to the WWII interventions, including anti-hoarding, since market failure was a driving force beyond many food system measures during that period.

A wide range of instruments were enacted under the authority of the War Measures Act.  In peace time, the federal government would use the Emergencies Act.  With the solutions enacted at the Efficiency stage, decision makers will be in a better legal position in peace time to implement comparable initiatives.  The provinces, however, are usually reluctant to have the federal Emergencies Act invoked for fear that it will supercede their authority. But a case of widespread market failure crosses boundaries and is a national, if not international, emergency and such actions would be both warranted and constitutionally valid.

Related to this is the need for a cross-agency business continuity plan.  During COVID, most firms were scrambling on a product / supply chain by product / supply chain basis to cope with the adjustments, with no overall pre-established plan in place that was developed by government and the food sector.  Out of a post-mortem on the COVID situation such a plan could be developed (Fraser, 2020) and linked to the legislative requirements to address potential market failures.