Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Politicizing The Court

Stephen Harper has worked very hard to politicize this country's institutions. The story of how he tried to politicize the Supreme Court is beginning to emerge. Geoff Stevens writes:

I am indebted to Sean Fine, the very good justice reporter at the Globe and Mail, for pulling aside the curtain that normally shields the judicial-selection process from public scrutiny. Working with sources independent of the Supreme Court -- no leaks there! -- Fine uncovered two crucial lists.

One was the long list, prepared by the Prime Minister's Office and the Justice Department, of six potential candidates for a Supreme Court vacancy from Quebec. Early last summer, that list went to a five-member selection panel of parliamentarians -- three Conservative MPs, one New Democrat and one Liberal. The panel did its due diligence, consulting with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, studying judgments written by the six jurists, and traveling to Montreal to seek the advice of leaders of the Quebec bench and bar.

This time, PMO/Justice, looking for someone who could be counted on to support their anti-crime agenda, were unable to find a reliable prospect among the judges of the Quebec bench or in the ranks of the province's senior lawyers. The most impressive candidate from the Court of Appeal was Justice Marie-France Bich, a former law professor, who was valued for her strong judgments and her streak of independent thinking. But was she sufficiently conservative?

The strategists at PMO/Justice could not ignore Judge Bich. They put her on their long list, but made possible for Harper not to appoint her by loading their long list with the names of no fewer than four members of the Ottawa-based, government-friendly Federal Court of Canada. This meant that when the selection panel cut the long list of six to their short list of three, there would have to be at least one candidate from the ranks of Federal Court.

It was this list that Chief Justice Janet McLachlin warned Peter MacKay about. She did not specifically lobby against Justice Marc Nadon. It was the four justices from the federal bench that concerned her:

What MacKay should have done was to halt the process, tell the PM that their devious court-packing scheme hadn't worked, and advise him either to appoint Marie-France Bich (the only eligible name left on the short list) or start the selection over again (thereby leaving the Supreme Court short-handed for another year or so).

MacKay could have done that -- not that his boss, Stephen Harper, would have been amused at being told it was beyond his power to make the Supremes sing right.

But that's not the story Mr. Harper is telling. Should anyone be surprised?


the salamander said...

... echoes of Lord Black et al.. controlling, scamming, manipulating, deceiving.. then squirelling away the incriminating documents... and bold enough to deny deny deny to the bitter end ... twits of a feather .. or turds of a feather as Simon d'Montreal points out today

Its apparent The Harper Fallacy strategy is to overwhelm the nation with daily scandal, malpractice, incompetance, deceit, obstruction and transparent secrecy.. counting on media and voters to be unable to keep track of the ConFused events, frauds

Who will it be today? An arrested backbencher? Another unconstitutional Omnibus tidbit, Eve & Dimitri? Michael Sona? Del Mastro? F35? Dead caribou? Asbestos found in Poilievre's underwear?

Owen Gray said...

Like the discredited Lord of Cross Harbour, salamander, Harper believes that he possesses the royal jelly, and that -- regardless of what the court says -- he is above the law.

Scotian said...

Remember back in 2005 when Harper said we could trust the Liberal civil service, media and courts to keep him in check? Well he's managed to eliminate two of the three and he's clearly hard at work to try and get rid of the final barrier to his total control of all aspects of Canadian political life, the courts. His contempt for the Courts is legendary and very well documented, they have dared to tell him that what he thinks and wants does not conform with Canadian judicial precedent, the Charter, and Constitution, and instead of doing the hard work of actually trying to create conditions so as to make these changes legally he instead does what he has done in everything else, lie, cheat, and break the law to gain his own advantage and to hell with everything else. This is exactly the sort of thing that should most disqualify someone from ever holding high political office, let alone the PMO let alone retaining it while being blatantly caught repeatedly in the act as Harper has been throughout his history ass PM.

Harper makes it very difficult for me to not sound like a broken record, and I get tired of it, but I will not stop saying the truth just because it gets so repetitive. This is the only PM in the history of Canada where the epithet "Crime Minister" not only fits instead of being a rhetorical flourish, it is if anything an understatement. Judge Dredd with his famous quote "I am the Law!" would be less disastrous than Harper in this way of looking at the law and our civil society for which the PM is responsible for governing. Lest we forget, Canada's motto is Peace, Order, and Good Government, and under Harper we are seeing NONE of them!

Owen Gray said...

Peace, Order and Good Government. Harper claims that he walks in John A. Macdonald's footsteps, Scotian.

Old Tomorrow understood people. Were he here today, he's have Harper's number.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

He'd have more than just his number I suspect, the man had a bit of a temper as I recall, and given the way Harper has poured his excrement on the legacy of his party in both the hostile takeover and in the actions of the CPC ever since I would expect his temper to be white hot. This business with the courts though is particularly dangerous, so far he hasn't been able to get his version of an Antonin Scalila or Clarence Thomas, but he is clearly wanting to. I honestly believe the only reason we have not seen use of the Notwithstanding clause by Harper is that he knows that usage would be at least as polarizing as Meech Lake was with similar results for his party in the next election. Besides, doing things the way he does instead of using that clause allows him to fly much more under the radar of the general public.

We want judges who are not going to allow their partisan interests interfere with their judicial work, and prior to Harper we actually did have a relatively balanced set up in the civil service and the court structure. Indeed, it is repairing that damage once he is gone that is one of my key concerns because of how many senior people he has driven out, how much institutional knowledge has been deliberately destroyed by his actions, indeed how many institutions themselves have been obliterated by direct action of this PM.

One of thew few signs of hope I see though comes from the fact that this attempt to rig the Supreme Court appears to be catching notice outside of just we political followers into the wider public, and the reaction seems to be fairly consistently negative. Harper has been overreaching for a long time, but this particular one after all the scandals, not least the Senate ones, damaged his credibility may be one of the ones that helps resonate enough to drive people to the polls to make sure he does not return to power. We do still see wave elections, just ask the PCPC in 1993, and Harper is clearly creating the potentials for it, but whether it appears or not I'm still waiting to see.

Owen Gray said...

In his biography of Macdonald, Richard Gwyn writes that Macdonald loved the law, Scotian.

I can't imagine he'd feel anything but contempt for Harper.

Owen Gray said...

It's obvious that Harper is allergic to the truth, Scotian. People can only take being lied to for so long.

e.a.f. said...

nothing stevie slime does surprises me. he just reminds me of a crook who got let into the bank vault and doesn't know when to quite. The guy is a disgrace and so are the rest of them, who don't want to do anything to change their party. sick, sick, sick.

Owen Gray said...

He's determined to get out of the bank with what he wants, e.a.f. -- and to cook the books before he's done.