Harper must end idiotic Supreme Court spat

Times-Herald Editorial Staff
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The Conservative Party of Canada needs to stop picking absurd battles with Canadian institutions.

Stephen Harper smiles as he holds a media availability in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday May 3, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

This is especially true when the fights are ones the CPC stands no chance of winning — including an ill-conceived attempt on electoral reform with a seriously flawed Fair Elections Act — or, worse still, scraps that it gains nothing from when and if it does tally a win.

Falling squarely in that latter category is the Harper government’s idiotic attack on the Supreme Court of Canada’s Chief Justice.

The fight sprung up out of the failed appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court.

In March, Nadon was deemed ineligible to join the body as one of the three Quebec appointees because he did not meet the requirements set out in the Supreme Court Act.

Peter MacKay, Canada’s justice minister, told the House of Commons on Monday that the Act did not prohibit the appointment of a Supreme Court judge from the Federal Court.

“This is not in the Supreme Court Act,” he said.

But according to that Act, judges from Quebec must be appointed from the Court of Appeal or Superior Court of Quebec, or must have 10 years standing with the Quebec bar.

Nadon would have been appointed from the Federal Court of Appeal.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper alleged that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin had made an “inadvisable and inappropriate” attempt to contact him and alert him to Nadon’s ineligibility for the position.

In his statement, he seemed to suggest the Chief Justice had overstepped her bounds and in a way that she could be accused of professional misconduct.

However, McLachlin noted in a statement of her own that she was consulted by the committee that vets nominees and that there was nothing out of the ordinary with her actions.

McLachlin’s comments were supported by the Canadian Bar Association and by Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati — who challenged Nadon’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

With the facts of the case standing against them, the CPC’s attack against the Chief Justice makes little sense.

Even if she were to resign, the persistence of the Prime Minister and Justice Minister — and their very public lambasting of the Chief Justice — reflects poorly on the pair of them and their government.

Rather than accepting a decision backed by legislation and moving on, Harper has instead chosen the tantrum route, and he debases himself and his office in doing so.

Harper suggested a nominee to the Supreme Court. The legislation and the judges on the court ruled against it.

The argument is a dead horse. But that won’t stop the Conservatives from flogging it for no apparent, rational reason.

All Times-Herald editorials are written by its editorial staff.

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, CPC, Federal Court of Appeal House of Commons Superior Court Canadian Bar Association Conservatives

Geographic location: Quebec, Canada, Toronto

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  • Geo
    May 08, 2014 - 18:18

    I think Harper's attack on McLachlin is disgusting and solely motivated by his indignation that the SC decided against him on 2 recent key issues. He's acting like a petulant child bent on revenge, and I for one hopes he keeps acting that way. Nobody likes a whining baby who throws temper tantrums, and Steven will be shown the door sooner rather than later if he keeps it up.