Tagged: Sean Fine Stephen Harper’s Court

A Mid-Summer Review of Current Issues

Senate Abolition or Reform

Now all three major political parties have a position on the Senate. The NDP wants to take the steps necessary for abolition. The Liberals want an improved quality of “eminent” Senators chosen by an independent body. Stephen Harper has declared that he will continue his now official policy of not appointing any more senators, “to save money” and “to pressure the provinces into coming to the table for reform.” Talk of a future referendum on abolition or reform of the Senate is now widespread. For what it’s worth, I think Harper’s policy of non-appointing senators is unconstitutional and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada if it were put to the court on a reference. In my view, it is yet another example of Harper’s persistent putting himself and his policies above the law. Given his track record of unilateralism on every issue, what credibility has he got as a “leader with the provinces” in seeking a consensus for real reform? 

Canada Post Community Mailboxes

Last spring, the City of Hamilton passed a by-law requiring Canada Post to get a permit from the City for the location of their proposed community post boxes, and to pay a permit fee of $200 per box. The City went to the Ontario Superior Court seeking an injunction against Canada Post from installing any further boxes until the court decided the issue. Canada Post challenged the constitutional authority of the municipality to pass their by-law. The issue was: who had the right to control the location of mailboxes used to carry out the federally mandated postal delivery? Justice Alan Whitten found that was within the core power of the federal government, as given to Canada Post, and that Hamilton’s by-law was “inapplicable and inoperative.” The City of Hamilton has now appealed. I will report on the appeal decision once it is heard. 

In the meantime, Canada Post has announced that door-to-door mail delivery would continue in “the core” of downtown Toronto (the heart of the business community). That “core” will end at Bathurst Street and not extend west into my neighbourhood. Toronto councillors took the matter to the Canadian Federation of Municipalities in June for a national response. Now that the practical implications of ending door-to-door mail delivery have become more clear, the one-size-fits-all policy of Canada Post has become a hot-button political issue.

The “Politicization” of Federal Judicial Appointments?

Sean Fine’s fine in-depth analysis of the federal government’s judicial appointment process published in the Globe and Mail on July 25th, entitled “Stephen Harper’s Courts,” and the follow up articles which have appeared through the week, should be required reading for all citizens interested in the justice system. The federal appointment process has always been of concern but, according to Fine, the Harper government has made it worse. The increasing concern about “politics supplanting merit” is a response to the recent appointments of Justices Bradley Miller and Grant Huscroft to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Both are proponents of “Originalism,” the right-wing American legal theory of constitutional analysis championed on the American Supreme Court by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and outside the mainstream of Canadian legal jurisprudence. The surprise appointment last week of Alberta Justice Russell Brown to the Supreme Court of Canada has added to the concern. He has called himself “a conservative libertarian” and has but two years of judicial experience. The Globe and Mail headline today tells it all: [Justice Minister Peter] “MacKay declines to explain court pick.” Wasn’t it Stephen Harper who once campaigned on the need for Parliamentary review of Supreme Court appointments? That was then; this is now.

My First “Official Publication”

I was delighted to open the Globe and Mail this morning and find published a Letter to the Editor I’d written. A comment on “Judge’s Powers,” it follows up on an analysis of the Carter decision which I wrote in a March post, on Re-view from the Bench, relating to speedy Supreme Court decisions. You can read the letter yourself on the Globe and Mail Letters to the Editor webpage for July 30th. Thanks to Malcolm Metcalfe for providing me with the link. Not a bad way to recharge my batteries after a lengthy lay-off.

Hope everyone is enjoying a good summer.

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