Monday, October 06, 2014

Stephen Harper and the War on the Supreme Court

It seems only fitting that at a time when Stephen Harper is preparing to bomb Iraq, in the name of democracy and the rule of law.

And to save us from being beheaded in our bedrooms.

That another of his bombs should be landing on the Supreme Court.

The first judge in a decade to join the Supreme Court of Canada without any parliamentary scrutiny takes his seat Monday, just in time for a fall session featuring important cases on assisted suicide, religion in the public sphere and an Ottawa-Quebec dispute over gun-registry data. 

Justice Clément Gascon of Quebec is a commercial law expert with little background in criminal law. No selection panel of parliamentarians put his name on a shortlist. No public hearing was held in Parliament about his appointment. And Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not cite any of his rulings when he named the 54-year-old Montrealer to the court.

In his never-ending assault on that last bastion of Canadian values.

And the Chief Justice...

Because while Gascon appears to be better choice than Harper's last appointee Marc Nadon, who was chosen for the sole reason that he was the only Canadian judge to have ruled against Omar Khadr.

He also has a history the Cons must have seized upon...

A former labour lawyer with Heenan Blaikie in Montreal who worked for the employer side, he ruled against the unions in a major 2003 challenge to federal employment insurance.

Especially as they prepare to wage war on the public service unions.

And the worst thing about Gascon is that he is a slave to precedent, he will not change with the times, and in the next twenty years that we are now saddled with him he will help diminish the Court or condemn it to mediocrity.

Which is just what Harper wants.

For if once he tried to bully it into submission with his grotesque attempt to smear the Chief Justice.

And his crude threats...

Now he literally doesn't give a damn.

“One of the byproducts of the Nadon fiasco is ‘we’re going to blame the process, instead of looking at ways to fix it. We’re just going to appoint whoever we want.’ There’s no sense of the considerations that fed into the government’s ultimate pick,” University of Ottawa law professor Carissima Mathen said.

He'll do what he wants. If he can't destroy the court, he'll reduce its stature, or demean it like he demeaned the Senate with his rotten appointments.

And what makes all of this even more appalling, is that Harper had a much better candidate than Gascon or Nadon, but went out of his way to make sure she was not appointed. 

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.

And that's how it played out. Judge Bich made it to the short list, along with two judges from the Federal Court of Appeal. One of them was Justice Marc Nadon, an expert in maritime law. Although the prime minister is not obligated to choose from the short list, convention dictates that he should. He bypassed Judge Bich to choose the semi-retired Judge Nadon.

And that's how a great Canadian institution slowly dies, at the hands of depraved leader who has always hated the values it defends.

That's how a country becomes smaller and more mediocre.

I can't think of a worse fate, for a country as big and as beautiful as this one...

And needless to say I don't accept it.

We can and will use this sordid assault on our values and our traditions against him and his Cons in the election campaign.

By among other things, appealing to the pride of Canadians and asking them this question:

Do they really want to live in Stephen Harper's grubby little country?

Do they really want to hand that kind of country on to their children?

Or do they want to make Canada big and beautiful again?

And fire this little leader...

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Scotian said...


One of my core reasons for being so strongly in the Trudeau/Liberal camp this time out comes down to the fact that whatever upsides a Mulcair/NDP government (assuming one is possible, something I see as remote, for reasons I have explained repeatedly, and will not go into here, but even assuming they get a minority/majority they still have the following problem) they lack any institutional experience and memory of the institutions of government at the federal level. They will be unable to tell based on what they knew used to be the case in how things were structured in the various institutions that made up our government prior to Harper the Destroyer and Salter of the Scorched Earth anywhere near as much as the Liberals can. Given that I firmly believe that as bad as what we believe we know to be true in terms of the destruction wreaked by Harper it is likely a fraction/tip of the iceberg to the entirety, and as a process geek I understand just how crucial this repair work will be to not just return us to our proper path but even to maintain our viability as a nation. Yes, I truly believe the damage to be that profound.

At this point I would take Ignatief over Mulcair (indeed, I hold him second only to Layton as enabling the Harper majority, and I recognize it can be fairly argued I have the order reversed even if I disagree), and I was NEVER a fan, never thought he had any business coming back in and thinking he could waltz his way to the PMO, and I was disgusted by the way he operated as leader of the Libs, but in the current situation the Libs still have that all important data (which Harper has done so much to destroy, not just the mechanisms, but the records of them and their work, which will of course make regenerating so much harder, as I said Salter of the Scorched Earth) and that would make him my preferred choice despite the only good thing I was ever able to say about him was that he would be far better than Harper (hardly a high bar to clear), and far less damaging/destructive despite his own clear problems.

I really do not think most partisans have understood just how damaging this Harper regime has been to the nuts and bolts of our basic systems of government, and how completely it has gone to make repairing said destruction irreversible. I think you Simon do have a better inkling than most out here, which is why I am saying this at your blog in a post where it is relevant. Your understanding of how Harper perverts our various systems to his own twisted ends (the REAL Hidden Agenda, and the one I was calling out back before he ever got into PMO) I find to be better than average, which is one of the reasons I like reading and responding to your work.

This is also why I have such an enduring and burning rage for the NDP and Layton, because I will never accept that I saw all of this coming with Harper in the PMO and all the smart political people at the leadership of the NDP especially Jack Layton himself (someone who I credit as a seriously capable politico, the fact I disagreed with how he chose to use those skills and capabilities does not mean I ever discounted them, indeed because I saw their strengths it only makes it worse for me) did not. Which means they were willing to gamble this result against their being the ones to pick up the pieces if they successfully displaced the Libs and succeeded Harpers time in office. That they were willing to risk this level of destruction to all those progressive programs and policies, those institutions that took DECADES to build up, including having the mechanisms which empowered them being at risk of destruction (as Harper clearly has done). I can understand the partisans letting their own issues with the Libs and their own passion blind them, it is after all the nature of these things, but the leadership of the party, no, that is entirely different IMHO. To quote Mulroney to Turner in 1984, to Layton, You had a choice Sir.

To be concluded...

Scotian said...


I raise that last because I hear/read voices saying the NDP deserve their chance, that since they have a clean record they should follow the Harper regime, not the Trudeau Libs. Leaving aside all other issues already raised about their ethics regarding Harper and his rise to the PMO, their culpability in it, and the insane risks they ran not just with their own political beliefs and successes over the decades but the very stability of the nation itself, the best argument against this is that lack of institutional experience and memory I started this comment talking about. When you get down to it, Mulcair and Trudeau have fairly similar lengths of time in experience with the federal level as politicians and leaders (although Mulcair gets the better there by virtue of the powers a LOO gets), but the Lib party, both in terms of caucus and support infrastructure is clearly the 800 pound gorilla in terms of that experience despite Trudeau himself being seen as a novice (which as you know I am not in agreement with, still fairly new yes, but a neophyte/novice, no, you do not win a leadership the way he did, rebuild such a beaten and broken party as the Libs were after 2011 without proving some real ability and gaining real experience in managing a large national organization).

No, the Mulcair NDP would be providing further advantage to the Harper agenda of destruction, albeit not by their design, just because they lack that critical knowledge I just spoke about, and as Mulcair said himself about Trudeau and I turn back on him and his party, forming a government to repair the path of destruction Harper left behind is not an entry level possition, or a place to be learning it on the job. No, this is the time for those with real history and experience, and even they are going to have a massive degree of difficulty in what repairs they can make, it realloy is that bad in my estimation.

Leaving all my personal issues with the current federal NDP, this one practical reason would be enough to force me into the Lib camp this time out, and I have to wonder how true this will be for so many other voters out there, even if only at the subconscious level of awareness. I think by now there has developed outside the Harper partisans a recognition that not only has his policies been alien to our traditions, but that he has clearly done massive changes to our basic institutions of governance itself, evn for those whose awareness of politics is usually extremly limited beyond being regular voters. I've seen a lot of evidence to support that pattern developing, and I hope it is a national trend, there are indications it is, but as I have said before, until after the next election result proves it I am taking nothing for granted. Harper has to go first of all, then the successor government needs to first find out and then show Canadians the extent of the true damage and then start the long road in repairing it (where possible, things like the Wheat Board are gone for good thanks to trade deals in place for example) while also doing the more usual duties of a government. Not an easy place to be at all.

So good on you for continuing to make issues like this such a powerful part of your blogging focus, you are well read and respected I believe but many not just progressives but many centrists like myself, perhaps I am more prolific in making my presence known than most centrists, but I suspect you have more of them than one might think. We are after all the plurality of actual voters, and arguably the majority within this nation.

You do good work Simon, and you do it in a way I could never pull off, and yet you retain real substance in what you say. This is something I value, amd impressed by, and will admit to being somewhat jealous of, but I long ago came to terms that I am as I am, and I have my own place in the grand scheme of things. Thank you for allowing me a welcome place for doing so.

e.a.f. said...

Ah, well, lets see there are history books and to the best of my knowledge all the NDP and Liberal candidates have been known to read. What harper has destroyed can be repaired; renewed; re-implemented. Mulcair and Trudeau are the leaders of their respective parties, but sometimes their back and front benches have more talent and experience than the actual leaders. If they don't arrive with their own version of the "little shits in short pants" Canada will be fine with either of the three leaders. Please don't forget Ms. May and the Greens. For all the carrying on we are doing, voters may get so fed up, when they go into the voting booth, they may have a "moment of rebellion" and vote Green. Brand new type party. Brand new type government. Don't worry Canada will survive. We won't have to worry about going to war. We won't have to worry about being under survaillence continually. Our medical system might remain intact. You can bet there will be more emphasis on the environment.

For my vote, its anyone but Con.

Simon said...

hi will always be welcome here. I respect your opinions, even if I don't always agree with them. Because I know your heart is in the right place, and you did see what a threat Harper and his gang were sooner than most. Having said that as you also know, I'm not willing to take a partisan position at this time. I admire some of the qualities of both Trudeau and Mulcair, and I'm willing to wait and see how effectively they can rally the population to defeat the Harper Cons. Which as you can probably guess from what I write, is my singular obsession... ;)

Simon said...

hi e.a.f... you're right to remind us about Elizabeth May, since she is a good person, and her speeches on the war have been the best I've heard so far. And like you, I would trust any of the progressive party to uphold our Canadian values. Which at the end of the day, is all I really want....