Monday, 16 December 2013

Judicial Rebellion or Judicial Intransigence? Public Policy and its Judges

On CTV’s Question Period this past Sunday (Dec 15), Ontario’s Colin Westman pontificated in high-minded philosophical terms about his (now) very public disagreement with the Conservative government's policy which mandates a victim surcharge be applied during sentencing. Westman decried the policy as targeting 'broken souls' and resulting in severe harms such as poor children not getting a pair of skates or mortgages going unpaid. The surcharge may very well be unjust and, indeed, may impose a substantial burden on convicted criminals who are not well-off financially; it may also be terrible public policy. The problem, however, is that this policy is now law and Mr. Westman is a sitting judge.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Senate Abolition by Attrition: The Fool's Errand of Constitutional Idiocy

Few issues in Canadian politics have been able to capture the collective idiocy of politicians, pundits and the general public as the Senate. The Official Opposition -- the government in waiting, we're told -- entreats the public to help 'roll up the red carpet', claiming the upper chamber is simply not needed. Indeed, the common refrain from many is one of 'abolish! abolish!' as if by virtue of a simple gesture or utterance a populist consensus (inherently undemocratic) one can simply disregard a country's constitution. That the NDP with its questionable interpretation of federalism would fail to understand the inherently federal nature of the Senate (designed specifically not to represent individual citizens based upon population) is unsurprising.  The 'unelected and unaccountable' trope, too, is troubling as it places a premium on voting as the sole mechanism of legitimacy for any institution.