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Bill 11 — International Commercial Arbitration Amendment Act

Today in the legislature we debated Bill 11: International Commercial Arbitration Amendment Act, 2018 at second reading.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my second reading speech.

Text of Speech

A. Weaver: Thank you, Hon. Speaker. I had thought that it was a much longer speaking list, and that I would be speaking subsequent to other speakers. But I do thank you for recognizing me.

I arise to speak in favour of the bill before us. That is Bill 11, International Commercial Arbitration Amendment Act 2018. As has been mentioned, this is an important piece of legislation that modernizes our existing International Commercial Arbitration Act, taking into account the changes that were done by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law in 2006 in their updates to model legislation there.

This comes on the recent move that Ontario did to update its act in March, 2017, where they did something very similar, in a very similar attempt to modernize the original 1985 model law that was adopted by B.C. — we were one of the first to do so, frankly — as well as other jurisdictions.

It’s clear as well that this is not something that was dreamt up overnight, that obviously there has been some good work that was done unto this over many years. So it’s important to credit both sides of this House for the work that they’ve done to bring this to fruition to ensure that we actually bring our arbitration law up to international standards, taking into account the best practices that exist as outlined in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law’s model law.

As the government has noted…. The government has suggested that they have a responsibility — and I agree — to ensure that standards are modern, that they meet the standards of the bar and judiciary, and that these standards have the confidence of international and domestic clients. This is one of the goals of modernizing our present legislation.

In addition, virtually all provinces and territories in Canada have incorporated UNCITRAL — sorry, I won’t say it again; it’s the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, the UNCITRAL, a model law of 1985 — into their respective statutes.

Each province or territory has a separate piece of legislation that deals typically with domestic or international commercial arbitrations. In fact, all Canadian provinces and territories as well, with the exception of Quebec, have adopted and ratified the New York convention, allowing for the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards from its signatory states, of which Canada and British Columbia are.

Ontario was in fact the first Canadian jurisdiction to amend its legislation to reflect the changes made to the model law in 2006. As I noted, this was done in March, 2017 — last year. And B.C. was setting the stage to do that. Of course, we had something rather irritating occur between March and May of last year. Irritating for some, but delightful for others. We had an election, and that clearly would have ensured there were these sort of pieces of legislation that take time to develop.

Obviously, the civil service had been working hard on this in consultation with stakeholders as well as government, and this piece of legislation smoothly passed through the transition from the former government to the present government, and is brought here today for our debate — and presumably adoption, based on the comments I’ve heard from both sides of this House.

Federally, international commercial arbitration is governed by the Commercial Arbitration Act. This deals with things like investor-state disputes brought under NAFTA or CETA and similar agreements. NAFTA, of course, is the subject of much debate as we speak here in this Legislature, due to negotiations happening with our federal government, Mexico and the United States.

I’d like to provide a quote here from an individual. I’d like to get the exact…. It’s the International Arbitration Review — edition 8, Canada — by Gordon Tarnowsky, QC, Rachel Howie, Chloe A. Snider and Holly Cunliffe, published in the Law Reviews of August 2017.

They say this. “Although similar in many respects, there are certain marked differences in international commercial arbitration legislation among Canadian jurisdictions. This situation can create unforeseen risk to inter-jurisdictional entities that might ultimately resort to arbitration in more than one jurisdiction, or to those choosing a city in Canada as a seat of arbitration, if they are not fully aware of the variations.”

This is one of the reasons why it’s critical for us to adopt legislation along the lines we have here, to modernize and bring the standards that are adopted by the United Nations arbitration laws here, both nationally and federally.

Australia did some recent work in this regard. Prior to 2010, domestic legislation regarding arbitration varied between each and all of the various different states in Australia. The model commercial and arbitration bill that they agreed upon by the standing committee there of the Attorneys General actually was a way of creating domestic arbitration law throughout Australia that was uniform. They’ve all since adopted that, and we’re hoping to see such things happen here in Canada as well.

There are a couple of benefits of adopting this law. Not only is it important to have Vancouver become a host for international arbitration; it’s one of the selling cards of Vancouver. A government led by Premier Gordon Campbell did a very fine job of actually bringing British Columbia to its pinnacle of international recognition as a go-to destination in the world, culminating in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Prior to that, of course, we have to give due respect to Bill Bennett, who recognized…. He was probably the first that really went beyond the parochial vision of British Columbia as only a province of Canada, with bringing in Expo 86, I believe it was. I was in Vancouver, living there at the time, at UBC. That, too, put British Columbia on the international arena as a go-to destination. The 2010 Winter Olympics — another critical aspect in this regard. And Vancouver has grown.

This is very much a bill that’s focused on Vancouver, but Vancouver has grown to become an international city, one that unfortunately has by-products associated with that happening, one of which is, of course, the affordability crisis that’s affecting Vancouver. Nevertheless, this is actually good for business, this bill. This bill is good for business and for sending business the exact type of signal that they need to say that British Columbia is open for business, it’s open for international business, and it’s a go-to destination if you want to actually have business in the new economy.

I’m excited by the prospects of this emerging economy that’s happening here in British Columbia. I’m less excited by the trials and tribulations of members opposite as they sulk and complain about Kinder Morgan and others.

There are so many opportunities in British Columbia. Adopting legislation like this, legislation that modernizes our arbitration proceedings, actually positions Vancouver as a leader, a go-to destination in the world, along with places like Paris and New York — to come and actually have arbitration cases settled in a very non-partisan way, in a way that’s viewed to not have any particular biases. We have a good brand internationally, Canada, in terms of brokers of deals and being fair-minded, and Vancouver and British Columbia and Vancouver can lead in that regard.

It does have that other very important signal that it’s sending — that in Vancouver, in British Columbia, we want to be a focal point for international business, and we want companies to come here. We want companies like Tesla to come here. We’d love it in British Columbia if Tesla came to B.C. and built a giga factory in Terrace, to ship those batteries to Chicago or Prince Rupert via the railway that exists. We’d love companies to actually build in terms of the innovation potential that we can offer here.

This is the direction we’re going. This piece of legislation is critical to continue our path forward to building Vancouver as an international hub for excellence and British Columbia, in general, with all its communities, from north to south, east to west, rural to urban, suburban to single cabins on the lake. We’re excited about the prospects for British Columbia.

Another benefit of this bill, of course, is that there is, coming forward relatively soon…. I believe it is in 2022 that Vancouver is bidding to host the international United Nations conference. My notes here don’t actually have the date. Well, they do somewhere, but they’re buried within my multiple pages of notes.

In this international conference which is coming to Vancouver, it’s kind of hard, as part of your bid, to put a bid in to host the international UN conference on arbitration and then, at the same time, not have brought yourself up to standards — standards that, since 1985, recognize that in fact we have the preponderance of technology that exists today that didn’t exist then, and many other such examples.

With that, I’ll say that, after speaking with both my colleague from Saanich North and the Islands as well as my colleague from Cowichan Valley, we are in support of this bill and look forward to committee stage and supporting the bill through to final adoption in this Legislature.

Video of Speech

One Comment

  1. April 14, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    I know this might be basic, but is there a quick and simple definition somewhere of the arbitration and pre arbitration processes?

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