Popular wisdom holds that Stephen Harper's incandescent hatred of Pierre Trudeau is rooted in the National Energy Program. But, Michael Harris writes, it goes much deeper than that:
Stephen Harper’s real fight is not with the Supreme Court per se, but with the 1982 Constitution that created the charter. The problem for the Supreme Court is that it has the sole responsibility to assess all laws passed by Parliament against their interpretation of the charter. That means laws sometimes get struck down — although Parliament always has the option of responding with another law.
Ultimately, Harper is trying to crush a vision of Canada that sits behind the bulletproof glass of the Constitution — Pierre Trudeau’s vision, which saw the people as greater than their government. Harper can’t get at it, he can’t change it — and he can’t stand it.
And, so, we find ourselves spectators once again as Mr. Harper tries to do an end run around the Constitution in his second attempt to pick a Quebec judge from the Federal Court of Appeal:
Mainville’s appointment violates Section 98 of the Constitution: “The judges of the courts of Quebec shall be selected from the Bar of that province.”
Part of the problem is procedural hocus-pocus. Harper never bothered to ask the Supreme Court to answer the question about whether a federal judge could be appointed directly to the Supreme Court. Instead, when Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin tried to forewarn the PM and the Justice minister (really the same person) that there might be problems with the Nadon appointment, Harper reached for a mudball.
Last week, the Court informed the government that, if it wished to go fishing into Canadians' Internet travels, it needed a warrant. The Charter keeps getting in the way. And it's driving Stephen Harper crazy.