Paging the Supreme Court

More than six years after forming government, the Conservatives want the Supreme Court to review their plans for Senate reform.

The Supreme Court reference, expected to be formally announced in the fall, would cause another round of delays in the passage of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Bill C-7. Since 2006, the Conservative government has called for all new senators to be selected through provincial elections and to serve under a fixed term, with the latest version of the legislation proposing a nine-year mandate…

The Quebec government called on the province’s court of appeal to rule on C-7’s constitutionality last May, although the matter has yet to be heard. In that context, sources said the government intends to refer its unilateral reform plans to the Supreme Court as a pre-emptive move against an eventual challenge.




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Paging the Supreme Court

  1. The Harper government: sometimes taking a reasonable course of action, several years after everyone points out it’s a good idea.

    Look for an open bid on new fighter jets in 2029.

  2. This will be an interesting reference!

    I imagine that the Supremes may well say that the House is entitled to pass such legislation, and there’s nothing unconstitutional about the proposal per se, however, they’ll likely also point out that the legislation would be constitutionally meaningless. Given that the constitution trumps legislation, a “mere” statute laying out guidelines as to how the PM should fill vacant Senate seats could be ignored by a PM at will (though I acknowledge that there may be a political cost to such a move). More importantly, a statute imposing term limits on Senators would be ABSOLUTELY meaningless from a legal standpoint. If a Senator wished to keep his or her seat in the Senate past a statutory term limit, there’s nothing that could be done. You could wave the statute in the Senator’s face, sure, but their counter-argument would be to wave the CONSTITUTION in your face.

    This is, imho, simply not the way to reform the Senate. If the legislation is deemed constitutional (if meaningless) it may well add some moral pressure on Senators, and moral and political pressure on PMs, but legally, it’s not worth the paper it will be printed on.

    This all reminds me of the legislation the Tories passed which was purportedly meant to limit a PMs ability to call an election at a time of his or her choosing, but in reality did literally NOTHING to actually limit a PMs ability to call an election at a time of his or her choosing.

    • As I was reading through your post, I was thinking, “fixed election dates all over again”; then I read the last line . . . you nailed it.
      The concern I have is that this government will market, spin, obfuscate and outright make statements they know to be untrue (cf. Stephen Harper on coalitions) that will serve to confuse the populace (as they are intended to do), and render any arguments based on fact, law, constitutionality and so on meaningless; the CPC will just rail against Liberal-appointed judges, entitled to their entitlements, and so on, their conservative consensus media (Levant, Adler, Lilley, Murphy and the rest) will join in and add some more toxicity to the discourse.
      Oh joy.

      • One funny thing is, you could end up with a bunch of unelected senators who are more or less supposed to only make constructive changes, and serving at the same time as elected senators who feel they have a strong mandate to vote against stuff. Then after eight years some might voluntarily retire and some may not (would their opinion of their “mandate” alter after they refused to step down?).And all of this could happen in a framework that still doesn’t allow for resolution of gridlock between the upper and lower chamber.

        • Their Senate reform is looking like something hatched by Kramer and Newman

      • The concern I have is that this government will market, spin, obfuscate and outright make statements they know to be untrue that will serve to confuse the populace (as they are intended to do), and render any arguments based on fact, law, constitutionality and so on meaningless.

        There’s certainly precedent for that. The Tories were quite insistent that their “fixed election date” law fixed the dates of federal elections, when in reality it did no such thing and never could (it was both not worded properly to do what they said it would do, and it was constitutionally moot regardless). Then, on the veiled voting policy, the Tories insisted that they were changing the law to require voters to be visually identified at the polling booth when in reality their proposal did NO SUCH THING (requiring a person to show their face at the polling station while NOT requiring them to show photo ID against which their face could be compared in no way allows voters to be visually identified at the polling station).

        It seem to me that these are three examples that go to the heart of how we govern ourselves and on which the Tories have loudly insisted that they’re doing X, while in no way actually doing X.

    • What really makes Harper’s election law a farce, rather than just silly, is the fact the no one really expected that HE would be the first one to break it.

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