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How quietly promised law changes in the 2024 federal budget could impact your day-to-day life

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The 2024 federal budget released last week includes numerous big spending promises that have garnered headlines.

But, tucked into the 416-page document are also series of smaller items, such as promising to amend the law regarding infant formula and to force banks to label government rebates, that you may have missed.

Specifically, a scan of the "legislative measures" annex — more than 60 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 are coming. 

Here are a handful of the odds and ends in the budget that could impact your day-to-day life.

Making exemptions for infant formula

One of the most notable incoming law reforms is to the Food and Drugs Act, allowing the minister of health to issue an order exempting persons or products from certain requirements under the law.

The example of how this reform is intended to be used, according to the federal government, is in instances where health products such as infant formulas are exempted in order to increase supply in the event of a shortage.

Relatedly, the budget also proposes to expand the regulation-making authority related to drug and medical device shortages, to include foods for a special dietary purpose, such as human milk fortifiers and infant formulas.

Preventing nicotine youth marketing

Further tamping down on an issue the federal government has been outspoken on in recent months, the Liberals will be advancing amendments to the Food and Drugs Act to "prevent unintended and harmful uses of therapeutic products," by tamping down the youth marketing rules for the "addictive" therapies related to smoking cessation.

This comes after Ottawa signalled in March that new restrictions on how the products are marketed and sold would be coming "imminently." 

It's expected these changes will complement steps already taken in some provinces, where nicotine pouches must be sold in pharmacies, as well as limiting the sale of flavoured pouches.

Easing ways to save for a child's education

Amendments are also coming to the Canada Education Savings Act, implementing an automatic enrolment in the Canada Learning Bond (CLB) for eligible children whose families do not open a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).

Framed as making it easier for parents to save, currently the CLB is available for eligible children from low-income families born in 2004 or later and provides an initial payment of $500, plus $100 for each additional year of eligibility, up to age 15, for a maximum of $2,000. 

In addition to the automatic enrolment, the government plans to extend the age to retroactively claim the CLB, from 20 to 30 years.

Cracking down on auto theft, devices

If you've gone to bed hoping that your vehicle will still be where you parked it when you wake up, it's worth noting that the federal government plans to use the incoming budget bill to introduce a raft of amendments to the Criminal Code to create new auto theft offences.

Specifically: auto theft involving the use of violence or links to organized crime; possession or distribution of an electronic or digital device for the purposes of committing auto theft; and laundering proceeds of crime for the benefit of a criminal organization. 

The government also wants to create a new "aggravating factor" that would be applicable at sentencing where there's evidence the offender involved a young person in the commission of a crime.

Relatedly, Radiocommunication Act amendments are incoming to give the federal industry minister the power to "issue orders that may prohibit or restrict the sale, distribution and importation" of devices that can be used to intercept communications for criminal activity, such as auto theft.

Consumer cellphone, banking changes

The budget bill is expected to include alterations to Canada's Telecommunications Act to ban service providers from charging consumers switching fees, and to allow consumers self-serve options to cancel or modify plans with their existing cable, internet and cellphone providers. These providers will also have to notify customers of upcoming contract expiries.

Beyond the various financial promises in the budget meant to impact your wallet, reforms are afoot when it comes to your banking experience overall.

The federal government is proposing to "establish a framework for consumer-driven banking" with the potential to see new tools created to "help Canadians better keep track of bills, track a budget, collect and compare information," and more. 

Specifically to get the ball rolling on this, the incoming massive package of budget-related law changes will include amendments to the Bank Act and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act.

Labelling gov't payments to Canadians

Also on the banking front, seemingly sparked by how certain banks are hesitating to alter what the Canada Carbon Rebate is called when it lands in your bank account, the federal government intends to advance amendments to the Financial Administration Act. 

These reforms, if passed, would give Ottawa the power to dictate to financial institutions how to label government payments deposited in your accounts. Specifically they could spell out how certain rebates or refunds are to be worded on account statements and online banking records.

Relatedly, the Liberals are looking to change the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act to give federal officials the authority to share information in instances where there may be non-compliance with the fuel charge.

While specifics remain sparse, this seems to indicate that should a province not comply with the pollution pricing system – as Saskatchewan has indicated it intends to in respect to natural gas – the federal national revenue minister has the power to tell the public. 

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