Sunday Morning Democracy

Posted on Wednesday, November 30 at 10:25 by robertjb
Fortunately, there were challenges! Sinclair Stevens, former cabinet minister in the Mulroney era, challenged the registration on the grounds that for his part Chief Electoral Officer Jean Pierre Kingsley mishandled the merger. Not only was it done on a Sunday-a fait accompli by the opening of the business day Monday morning- but there should have been a 30 day waiting period before registering this new party. This 30 day waiting period was not at all unreasonable given that a million and a half Canadians were still voting for the PC Party, and that its existence traces back to the time of Confederation. In what is essentially a two party system, one party suffers expedient erasure (the profound implications of which are another subject for another time)on a Sunday morning in favour of party born of betrayal, and suspect pedigree. It would seem that under the circumstances Canada’s chief electoral officer would exercise some prudence – enforcing some sober second thought- instead he becomes party to the collusion. Federal Court Justice, Elizabeth Heneghan, agreed with Stevens that Kingsley mishandled the merger in not enforcing a 30 day waiting period but refused to rule in his favour. To add insult to injury she commented that it wasn’t “a big deal” Obviously, Justice Heneghan did not weigh the full ramifications of this Sunday morning subterfuge and the abeyance of the 30 day waiting period. Stevens then proceeded to the Federal Court of Appeals where a three judge panel ruled to uphold the Justice Heneghan’s ruling. Again they affirmed that Kingsley had acted wrongly, but refused to rule in Stevens favour. Stevens, by now, must be a very frustrated man. The courts agree with him, yet refuse to rule in his favour. One might draw the conclusion that the political expedience that brought about the creation of the CPC has now infected the judiciary. As part of its ruling, Justice Robert DeCary of the appeals court made the incredible comment: It is not uncommon that a court, in its discretion, refuses to quash a decision made unlawfully. What if we regard “discretion” as no more than a euphemism for “selectivity”, and maybe even crass selectivity? For a court to rule in Stevens favour requires, under the circumstances, considerable judicial courage. It appears this is lacking. Clearly, the purpose of appeals courts must be to rectify lower court misjudgments. Both judgments agree with Stevens but refuse to rule in his favour! It would be interesting to hear Justice DeCary defend his court’s “discretion” in this case. The lower courts have put Stevens in a position where he has no alternative but to proceed to the Supreme Court of Canada. He has taken his share of jibes on this issue but his detractors are no more than petty partisans. Politicians, the courts, and the media refuse to address this issue squarely, but it is a crucial one. The Conservative Party of Canada has to date been a stunning failure. One of the fundamental reasons is that Canadians tacitly recognize it was born of political expedience and betrayal. It has an unshakable credibility problem. A huge part of the electorate that would normally support the conservative movement has been alienated. Messer’s Harper and Mackay have practiced incalculable bad judgment, leaving the right more fractured than ever. Stevens’s litigation if successful mitigates that bad judgment. A recent Globe and Mail opinion poll asked readers whether or not we thought the sponsorship scandal could happen again. The only answer is an obvious “Yes”. There will always be those who think they can subvert the rules, the law, or decency to have their way. The real question though is: Do we have the will to enforce laws, and the resolute desire for decency to prevent such occurrences? Canadians have to decide whether we want to settle for Sunday morning democracy or real democracy. If we want real democracy we must support Sinclair Stevens all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, and hope the eminent justices are fully aware of the implications of this case.

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