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Comparing Emergency Powers

How different is the United States from Canada? With the recent declaration of National Emergency by Prime Minister Trudeau, there’s a fair bit of discussion concerning the exact powers he is granted in the event of a National Emergency.

Since the Canadian Government’s Powers depend on the type of emergency, I’ll compare with a Public Order Emergency, as that is the type in the news currently. Because the National Emergencies Act provides the US President with 126 powers that don’t require a vote from congress (and an additional thirteen that do), I’ll only list the ones comparable to those of Canada.

United States: National EmergencyCanada: Public Order Emergency
– Didn’t find anything close to thatThe Government may regulate or prohibit “any public assembly that may reasonably be expected to lead to a breach of the peace”
-There are some provisions about not going in certain areas, but otherwise not much along these linesThe Government may regulate or prohibit “travel to, from or within any specified area”
Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the president can block and freeze assets

During war, transfer of boats to non-citizens can require consent from the secretary of transportation. They also can’t be built for non-citizens.

Atomic Energy Commission may suspect atomic energy licenses if necessary to the common defense and security

Secretary of Transportation may requisition a vessel owned by US citizens
The Government may regulate or prohibit “the use of specified property”
Criminal provisions of the Espionage Act extend to prohibited places (with some caveats) The Government may make orders or regulations with respect to “the designation and securing of protected places”
President may allocate coal and require the transportation thereof for the use of any electric powerplant or fuel burning installation…The Government may make orders or regulations with respect to “the assumption of the control, and the restoration and maintenance, of public utilities and services”
In national defense, members of the military can be kept working after their service expires. Reserves can be called to active duty.

President may suspend provisions related to labor management relations with respect to any post. bureau. office or activity of the Department of State

President may implement alternate pay adjustments for members of the uniformed services

The Government may make orders or regulations with respect to “the authorization of or direction to any person, or any person of a class of persons, to render essential services of a type that that person, or a person of that class, is competent to provide and the provision of reasonable compensation in respect of services so rendered”
President may impose fees and limitations on the importation of certain agricultural productsThe Government may make orders or regulations with respect to the imposition “on summary conviction, of a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both that fine and imprisonment” for not following any order/regulation from the declaration of National Emergency
Maybe the provision about applying the espionage act? There really wasn’t anything else that was similar.The Government may make orders or regulations with respect to the imposition ” on indictment, of a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both that fine and imprisonment” for not following any order/regulation from the declaration of National Emergency

In short, while the US President is granted many more specific powers, they are just that, specific. The majority apply only to emergencies that are war or national security- though those do suggest that anyone who has ever served in the military, retired or otherwise, could be called to serve. Other than that, most of them are simply “you have permission to skip this batch of bureaucratic paperwork and just do things” in nature.

The only really broad powers the President has come from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which does allow for asset seizure, bank account freezing and the like. It can only be enacted in the event of an international emergency, but is still well worth watching.

Very few of the powers allotted the US President, in event of a national emergency, are anywhere near as sweeping as those the Canadian Government possesses. While the Canadian government is more limited in the length of an emergency, and by the definition of an emergency, its powers are far greater and broader than those of the United States.

The United States allows the President broad freedom to declare an emergency, but precisely limits his power. Canada limits the declaration of an emergency, but provides sweeping powers. It’s worth remembering that Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy

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