Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Hole We're In Gets Deeper

Yesterday, the Supreme Court was put in the embarrassing position of deciding whether or not to approve one of its potential members. The reason was another of Stephen Harper's attempts to get his way. The arguments in front of the court were legal. But the real question was -- and is -- whether there were eminently more qualified justices than Marc Nadon. Andrew Coyne writes:

No legal expert that I am aware of considers Mr. Nadon to be among even the first rank of jurists from Quebec, except in the relatively narrow field of maritime law. I haven’t seen anyone question his competence, either. But: distinguished? Influential? Authoritative? Add to that his age (64) and semi-retired status, and you have what in legal terms is called a head-scratcher.

What seems to have closed the deal, so far as anyone can explain it, was rather a vague sense in the Prime Minister’s Office that he was ideologically sympatico, apparently largely on the strength of one ruling: his dissent in the case of Omar Khadr, the convicted terrorist/child soldier (depending on your point of view), in which he sided with the government’s position that it was not obliged under the Charter to seek his return from the United States.

The argument has nothing to do with Nadon's character. By all accounts, his personal reputation is blameless. The problem is that this prime minister has politcized the civil service and the military. Now he is attempting to politcize the last branch of government which has offered him any opposition. Nadon is a political conservative. That credential, more than anything else, recommended him to the prime minister. Coyne writes:

What you have here, in other words, is an example of affirmative action for right-wingers. The Prime Minister wanted a conservative on the court — so that, rather than merit, became the criterion.

That has always been the criterion for Stephen Harper's personnel appointments. And consider his choices -- Mike Duffy, Arthur Porter, Bruce Carson -- names that now live in infamy. Harper's eye for talent is notoriously bad. If Marc Nadon takes a seat on the nation's highest court, Canadians should worry. Every time Mr. Harper gets his way, the hole we're in gets deeper.

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