Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Life and Legacy of Saint Jim

Few individuals are afforded a public eulogy. Rarer still, as Jim Flaherty was, to be afforded two very obsequious public eulogies in such a short span of time. The first, just three weeks ago, recapped a career in politics spanning two decades. The coverage of Flaherty's retirement from his Finance post -- his political eulogy -- was met with platitudes from pundits and politicians. The coverage of his tragic passing -- his personal eulogy -- was met with much the same. Indeed, the rhetoric has been almost identical, but this is to be expected. How to separate the politics from the man when the two were so deeply entwined?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Belated Vindication of Marc Mayrand

At the height of the furor over the robo-call scandal a few years ago, I used this blog [In Defence of Elections Canada] as an outlet to defend Elections Canada's conduct of that investigation and, in particular, the conduct of Marc Mayrand, the Chief Electoral Officer. At that time I was taken aback by some of the arguments being made in the pres and, in particular, by those nominally deemed progressives attacking Mr. Mayrand. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Spectacularly Fraudulent Pretense of Fair Elections Act

Pierre Poilievre has left no stone unturned in his search for false pretense to justify his entirely unnecessary and deeply undemocratic Fair Elections Act. Apart from the minister himself and his party’s loyal coterie, there is no support for this legislation. Indeed, the response has been nothing short of damning. Canada, once a world leader in forward thinking election law – from the establishment of Elections Canada in 1920 (the first agency of its kind) to subsequent changes to party financing (including the establishment of the Commissioner of Canada Elections in 1974) – has, in what is surely an unprecedented turn for this country, been roundly condemned not only by its own leading intellectuals but by a raft of international observers worried about what the changes portent for Canadian democracy.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Parliament Should Follow the Court's Lead and Assert Its Independence

The aborted appointment of Marc Nadon reaches much deeper than a single failed judicial appointment. Instead it speaks to the worst tendencies in the current government and deep-rooted institutional failures. It is a government that sees the constitution – whether the written text or long established convention – as something to be disregarded when it becomes politically inconvenient. It is a government that fundamentally rejects the federal nature of Canada and, as a consequence, is a government that viscerally rejects the multilateralism and dialogue that such an arrangement necessitates. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Senate Red Herrings and the Path Not Taken

While much of the reaction to Justin Trudeau’s first salvo in an attempt to make the Senate a partisan-free zone has been balanced -- excluding, of course, the other political parties (seemingly validating the problems associated rabid partisanship) – there have been a few extreme criticisms that suggest removing parties from the Senate constitutes a massive problem in and of itself, particularly for accountability. These break down into roughly three broad themes.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Complicated Accountability of the 'New' Commissioner of Canada Elections

Justice Minister Peter MacKay signals how
much more accountability the Fair Elections Act will bring
The recently tabled Fair Elections Act contains a number of provisions which will, in theory, strengthen the Canada Elections Act but these changes are likely little more than a heavy spoon of sugar designed to sweeten the fatal dose of poison it just administered to Elections Canada. That Act will fundamentally restructure that organization, effectively marginalizing it and, with it, Parliament's oversight of Canadian elections. By relocating the office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to -- inexplicably -- the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Conservatives are simultaneously weakening the existing chain of accountability and potentially weakening prosecutions. More problematic, the relocation brings the new incarnation of the office uncomfortably close to the political executive. The independence of the new office, despite the trappings of a fixed term and a secure mandate, is somewhat precarious.

Union Station, Confederation and the Legacy of John A.

"Arriving at MacDonald, MacDonald Station …. Please stand clear of the doors"
As the bicentennial of John A. MacDonald’s birth approaches, and with it Canada’s sesquicentennial, the jockeying is on between politicians and civic leaders attempting to demonstrate which among them has the greatest love for Canada's inaugural Prime Minister. By 2015 we could well wake to find that next to every public building and thoroughfare has been converted into the the Sir John A. MacDonald [Fill-in-the-blank].