Tuesday, 29 April 2014

What the Court's Reference Re Senate Reform Really Says About Trudeau's Appointments Scheme

While the Senate may be a headache for the government, the Governor General may provide the solution to the third party's perceived appointments problem. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have written off Justin Trudeau's proposed -- albeit vague -- appointments scheme. Writing about the Supreme Court of Canada’s Senate reference, Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin argues that: 
The Trudeau plan, should he come to power, would see him appoint a special non-partisan panel to forward nominations for the Senate. That creates problems on its own. How do you find a credible non-partisan panel? 
The Supreme Court decision adds more woes. As NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s office has pointed out, clauses 64 and 65 of the court’s decision appear to require that any new consultative process for Senate selection obtain provincial agreement and constitutional change. If such is the case, Mr. Trudeau has a Stephen Harper-like dilemma – only worse, because he’s already committed to his reform.
There seems to be a broad consensus in the media, and particularly in Parliament, that the Trudeau plan is entirely unworkable and, as Martin claims, the Court’s decision makes it even more improbable. The contrary is actually true. If anything, the Court’s ruling has cleared the way for Trudeau by clearly showing what will not be permissible – elections – and, in doing so, has left the realm of possibility considerably open. I argue that Trudeau’s critics are deliberately misreading the ruling. The Court’s ruling is much more nuanced and leaves the executive with considerable leeway. Finally, contrary to both the NDP and the Conservatives, there is a viable model that can be readily adapted and, surprising, it is a model established by the Conservatives and subsequently demonstrated to work quite well.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The Spectre of Mega-constitutional Change

The ink on the Supreme Court of Canada's judgement in the Senate Reference (available here) has barely dried and yet the prognostications that the effort to reform the Senate is dead seem to be legion. As the CBC's Terry Milewski tweeted: "SCOC on Senate reform: forget it. Abolition? Double forget it". That sentiment appears to be common.

The Court has not dealt a blow to reform; rather, it is has dealt a blow to a particular approach to reform. It has, yet again, reaffirmed the federal nature of the country, acknowledged (again) that the provinces are not merely glorified municipalities and subservient to the central government, and, importantly, reminded the Harper government that the Constitution is much more than a few words committed to paper.

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.