By Emmett Macfarlane - Saturday, April 27, 2013 - 0 Comments
An unnecessary tempest over the Patriation Reference
Late Friday the Supreme Court released a statement regarding its internal investigation into allegations—published in a recent book by scholar Frédéric Bastien—that two of its justices made inappropriate disclosures about the Court’s deliberations regarding the 1981 patriation reference case.
Drawing on documents obtained from the British government through freedom of information requests (Bastien also received Canadian documents, but they were apparently heavily redacted), the book alleges that, in 1980, former Justice Willard Estey informed British officials the Court would be addressing the patriation issue, which centered on whether the federal government under Pierre Trudeau required provincial consent to seek constitutional change (at the time, the Canadian Constitution did not have its own amending formula: any changes thus required an Act of the British Parliament). More significantly, it is alleged that then-Chief Justice Bora Laskin revealed to British and Canadian government officials that the Court was divided on the issue and also gave his two cents on when he thought a decision would be forthcoming.
If the allegations are true, Estey’s and especially Laskin’s actions were completely inappropriate. The Court jealously guards the substantive details of its internal decision-making in order to preserve its institutional independence and impartiality. Details about how specific cases are rendered could threaten the institution’s legitimacy, particularly in the context of the patriation reference, which led to constitutional negotiations in which Quebec was left the odd province out. That case—one of the Court’s most politically explosive—continues to feed nationalist sentiment in Quebec.
But while the allegations may create a disappointing black mark on the reputation of two former judges, they do not come close to calling into question the validity of the Court’s ruling. There is no sense that the personal communications described in the book were designed to influence the Court’s decision. Nor, it should be noted, were they successful if that was the aim. Even if we twist this story into one of crazy conspiracy, where Laskin was working with Trudeau to help bring about patriation, they did not succeed: Laskin was on the losing side of a Court decision that said Trudeau was bound, by convention though not by law, to seek substantial provincial consent.
Nevertheless, the book’s allegations unsurprisingly caused an uproar in Quebec, where the idea of betrayal prospers (the story of the kitchen accord meetings where the federal government got all remaining provinces on board, except Quebec, is recalled by some Quebec sovereigntists as “the night of the long knives”).
Quebec’s National Assembly unanimously called on Ottawa to release all documents regarding the patriation process and to investigate the claims. This demand was probably inevitable. Sovereigntists make hay out of any hint that Quebec’s interests were harmed by federal institutions, and federalist provincial parties in Quebec have to make a show of “confronting Ottawa” just to keep pace. More disappointing was that the federal leader of the Official Opposition, Tom Mulcair, voiced support for the motion as well. “It’s what everyone wants,” he said.
Imprudently, and perhaps far too self-conscious about a perceived threat to its reputation, the Supreme Court then announced it was conducting an internal investigation.
Nothing was going to come from this. All of the judges involved in the 1981 case are dead. There were unlikely to be phone records. Estey and Laskin were unlikely to have kept their own records about having inappropriate conversations. Why the Court announced an investigation into some rather vague allegations of misconduct by two deceased judges is a bit of a puzzle. And yesterday the Court released an entirely predictable short statement: “The Supreme Court of Canada conducted a thorough review of its records and it does not have any documents relevant to the alleged communications by former Chief Justice Bora Laskin and former Mr. Justice Willard Estey in relation to the patriation of the Constitution of Canada. This concludes the Court’s review.”
Enter Mulcair. The Court’s statement, he said, was simply not credible. “You won’t find something you don’t ask for. Those documents were given to Mr. Bastien by the Canadian government … and large elements were taken out. So the first thing that one would have expected the Supreme Court to do is to ask for the full version, read them, and start an investigation,” he said. “Instead, what they seem to have said from this cryptic, one-paragraph statement, is: ‘We looked in our filing cabinet and we don’t have them.’ … It’s a clear indication that the Supreme Court had no intention all along of ever dealing with this issue seriously. But unfortunately, it is an extremely serious issue.”
The implication of Mulcair’s comments is either that the Supreme Court is lazy and incompetent or that it is hiding something. Coming from the leader of the Official Opposition, and an aspiring prime minister, these comments have more potential to harm the Court than Bastien’s book. They are irresponsible, not only for the attempt to sully the Court’s integrity, but also for feeding the notion that the patriation process itself was illegitimate.
It is deeply troubling that a federalist leader would pour salt in this old wound. The comments serve nothing except raising doubts about the 1982 Constitution itself (which public opinion polls routinely show to be as popular, or even more popular, in Quebec than the rest of Canada—even if many in Quebec were angered by the process leading to it). And it feeds a pattern by the NDP under Mulcair of questionable judgment as it pertains to the Constitution and Quebec.
The Court’s response to the book’s allegations was unhelpful, to say the least. It should probably have avoided addressing the story at all. Further, by releasing its statement about the end of the investigation late on a Friday—a tactic of timing that modern governments the world over use to minimize the impact of bad or controversial news—the Court reveals itself to be all too strategic and sensitive to public relations. This does not excuse Mulcair for his comments, but the Court compounded this “controversy” by responding to it the way elected politicians would.
Emmett Macfarlane is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo. His new book, Governing from the Bench: The Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Role is published by UBC Press.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 15, 2013 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
Meanwhile, the Canadian Liver Foundation tweets.
And releases a statement.
The Canadian Liver Foundation is grateful for Mr. Trudeau’s past support of our fundraising efforts. Liver disease is a serious national health issue which does not receive enough attention.
The footage used in the recent political ad was filmed at the Canadian Liver Foundation’s What a Girl Wants fundraiser held November 17, 2011 in Ottawa. Mr. Trudeau was willing to not only attend our event but also generously donate a lunch to be auctioned off to raise funds for liver disease research and education. This auction item raised $1,900 and the event raised $128,000.
The Foundation believes Mr. Trudeau should be applauded for his commitment to an important health issue that affects an estimated 3.4 million Canadians.
Paul Wells considers the political strategy at play.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
The backbench revolt gets the Economist treatment.
The appearance of a handful of dissident government MPs is much more unusual in Canada than in other countries with the Westminster system of parliament, such as Britain and Australia. Mr Trudeau, the former prime minister, is often accused of hastening the slide of MPs into irrelevance by consolidating control in the prime minister’s office. But the slide really began in 1919 when the governing Liberals decided that instead of allowing their MPs to select a party leader, he (and in Canada the leader nearly always is a he) would be chosen at a convention of party members. MPs eventually lost the ability to turf out an underperforming leader.
While the new system is deemed to be more democratic, it has had the opposite effect because it makes MPs accountable to their leader, rather than the reverse. The leader can eject MPs from the parliamentary party or refuse to sign their nomination papers for the next election if they don’t follow instructions. This keeps a tight lid on dissent. In Britain and Australia, where MPs can quite easily get rid of the prime minister, leaders have to keep their MPs happy or face sudden demotion, as Margaret Thatcher and Kevin Rudd both discovered.
Meanwhile, the Guardian of Charlottetown weighs in.
What’s worth highlighting here is that MPs or MLAs have the power to shed this stranglehold, and demand that things be done differently.
The notion of party discipline has merit in that it allows a party to organize itself and execute its agenda. But when the interests of the parties effectively muzzle our MPs and MLAs, democracy suffers. If all representatives were convinced of this, they could act collectively to force changes that would let them do the job they were elected to do: speak out on behalf of their constituents. The end result would be a better balance of the rules; it would lessen the constraints of party discipline while empowering elected representatives.
The only beneficiaries of the status quo are the political parties, not Canadian voters. It’s time for some change.
I taped an episode of The Agenda yesterday with Samara’s Alison Loat, Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber, NDP House leader Nathan Cullen and Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett. That will air on Wednesday night on TVO.
I’ll also have a piece in this week’s print edition, explaining and taking stock of what’s going on.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 8, 2013 at 10:47 AM - 0 Comments
A week from now, barring something quite shocking, Justin Trudeau will stand in the House of Commons as the 13th leader of the Liberal party and ask the Prime Minister the sixth and seventh questions of the afternoon.
On that note, here again is the op-ed Stephen Harper wrote about Pierre Trudeau in October 2000, as published by the National Post a week after the elder Trudeau’s death.
(Also: Please note the prediction I made in the preamble.)
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 3:31 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Pierre Trudeau’s guiding motto in politics was “reason over passion.” In the…
OTTAWA – Pierre Trudeau’s guiding motto in politics was “reason over passion.” In the end, it seems, he chose reason over life.
A newly released e-book from the Ottawa bureau chief for the Huffington Post reveals Trudeau refused treatment for advanced prostate cancer rather than face losing his famously sharp mind to dementia.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 4:52 PM - 0 Comments
Martin Patriquin explains why the status quo is here to stay
In a column that could have been written yesterday afternoon, L Ian MacDonald said the following about Senate reform in 1985:
When Canadians think of the Senate at all, they clearly don’t think much of it, which is why the New Democrats in the Commons think they’re on to a good thing in calling for the abolition of the upper chamber.
The truly cynical would say the column was an attempt by MacDonald, who would become speechwriter for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney later that year, to tamp down the expectations of the voting public. After all, the same voting public elected Mulroney in part because he would put an end to what Peter C. Newman called “the orgy of patronage appointments” of previous Liberal governments. I was a tyke at the time, but I still remember my old man watching the debate when Mulroney made John Turner’s campaign go poof! by delivering that famous “You had an option, sir” line in that indignant, fuck-off baritone of his. Turner’s crime, in large part, was appointing three senators during his three months as Prime Minister. Mulroney was disgusted and promised change. I think the old man even voted for Mulroney—though I doubt he’d admit as much in polite company.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 2:45 PM - 0 Comments
Unlike Justin Trudeau, Wagner’s role in shaping Canada’s future is assured
On Oct. 2 two sons of Quebec politicians stepped into the centre of our national life. You have heard so much about one of them. You may know nothing about the other. Justin Trudeau has been famous since the day he was born. Richard Wagner has been a civil litigator and a judge, essentially anonymous outside legal circles. Stephen Harper nominated Wagner to the Supreme Court on the same day Trudeau threw his boxing glove into the ring for the federal Liberal leadership.
Their fathers might have shared a chuckle over the curious timing. Pierre Trudeau changed the course of Canadian history three or four times. Claude Wagner had a shot at changing Canadian history three or four times, and fell short every time. The life of the elder Wagner, who died in 1979, hints at a different path Canada could have taken. Richard Wagner’s qualiﬁcations are easily enough to qualify him for nomination to the Supreme Court, but the Prime Minister surely knows his father’s story, surely savoured the echoes of history when he nudged the younger Wagner into the headlines next to the younger Trudeau.
At the Progressive Conservative party convention in 1976, Claude Wagner led on every ballot except the last. In the end Joe Clark rose from the middle of the pack to beat him by 65 votes out of 2,309 cast. Wagner was a small-town populist, hard-working, no great intellectual, unapologetically right-wing on law and order. Clark had aspirations. He yearned for the approval of big-city progressives. Wagner would have led the party in a very different direction. Clark won the next federal election. A year after that happened, Wagner died of cancer.
By John Geddes - Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 9:33 AM - 0 Comments
When Justin Trudeau holds a rally in Mississauga, Ont. this evening—his Liberal leadership campaign’s first stop in the Toronto suburbs so coveted by strategists of all parties—he’ll be introduced by Zaib Shaikh, the actor best known as a star of CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie. Shaikh also has a role in the new movie Midnight’s Children, Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s celebrated novel.
But he will bring more than a touch showbiz to Trudeau’s event. In keeping with Little Mosque’s themes, and his own background as the son of immigrants, Shaikh is active in groups that encourage diversity. As well, after his marriage last year to CBC English services executive vice-president Kirstine Stewart, he is half of a notable Toronto power couple.
Shaikh spoke to Maclean’s about Trudeau, the new Canadian vote, and political charisma.
By Martin Patriquin - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 6:28 PM - 0 Comments
Being in the Liberal party on the other hand…
Justin Trudeau was his usual schmaltzy, painfully earnest, bilingual self last night, and good lord did the crowd eat it up. Outside of church or your average Justin Bieber concert, you rarely see so many enraptured faces and hands clasped over hearts. And you know what? Good for him. Even though there is a certain Gouda quality to his delivery, and even if his frequent cozy bromides to Canada may set one’s teeth on edge, this much is true: Trudeau believes every word that flows out of his mouth. When he says he loves Canada, over and over, it’s not because he’s trying to convince you of as much. It’s because he really means it, perhaps more and more every time he says it.
In Quebec, that is part of the problem. At least, so goes the prevailing wisdom in the province. The thinking is this: much like his father before him, Trudeau is an Ottawa-first centralisateur who sees Quebec as just another province. Not only did he stifle Quebec’s collective will by running a campaign of fear during the 1980 referendum, he had the gall to jam the Charter of Rights and Freedoms down the province’s gullet in its aftermath. Pierre Trudeau, said red-headed separatist firebrand Pierre Bourgault in 1990, “never ceased to violently attack Quebecers.” And like his father, Trudeau fils will only embarrass himself and his party if he tries his hammy I-Love-Canada schtick outside a few cloistered ridings on the island of Montreal.
Nationalists like Bourgault birthed the theory that thanks to their long memories and freakish sense of betrayal, Quebecers despised Trudeau (and by extension the Liberal brand) en masse. Alas, it doesn’t really square with the facts. Trudeau won a majority of Quebec seats (if not always the popular vote) in each of his elections, despite his well-known reputation as a separatist-baiting so-and-so. Sure, his party took a bath in the province in the wake of the repatriation of the constitution, but that had arguably as much to do with high debt and a morose economy as it did bruised feelings in Trudeau’s province of birth. And anyway, if there was a hate-on for Trudeau, it was pan-Canadian in nature: in 1984,
two yearsseven months after Trudeau took his walk in the snow, Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives trounced the Liberals across the country.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 23, 2012 at 10:51 AM - 0 Comments
Rachel Giese considers a possible connection between increased immigration and decreased crime.
In Canada, an overall drop in crime has paralleled the upsurge in non-European immigration since Pierre Trudeau championed multiculturalism in the 1970s. Half of Toronto’s population now consists of those born outside Canada; notably, the city’s crime rate has dropped by 50 percent since 1991, and is significantly lower than that of the country as a whole. Could it be that immigrants are making us all safer?
… Statistics Canada has now released findings from a spatial analysis of crime data in Canadian cities that suggest the percentage of recent immigrants in various regions of Toronto and Montreal is inversely proportional to all types of violent crime; in the latter case, it concluded that while various socio-economic factors increase crime, “the proportion of recent immigrants lowers the violent crime rate; it acts as a protective factor.”
By John Geddes - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 12:44 PM - 0 Comments
Deborah Coyne, the Toronto-based lawyer and policy consultant, and mother of the late Pierre Trudeau’s only daughter, launched a surprise bid for the federal Liberal leadership today. True to her reputation for not holding back when it comes to discussing policy, Coyne’s website features her positions on everything from the environment to foreign policy.
She told Maclean’s that her connection with Trudeau is inevitably part of her personal story, but that as a political influence she sees his vision of federalism as part of a longer lineage of Canadian leaders going back to Sir John A. Macdonald. At 57, she hasn’t ever won an election, although she ran in 2006 in Toronto-Danforth, losing to the NDP’s Jack Layton.
Her most memorable foray onto the national political stage came in opposing the Meech Lake Accord, alongside Trudeau, and then leading one of the committees that campaigned successfully against the subsequent Charlotteown Accord, in the 1992 referendum on the constitutional reform package.
She is not close to Montréal MP Justin Trudeau, Pierre Trudeau’s eldest son, who is also contemplating a run for the party leadership. Her daughter Sarah, Justin’s half-sister, is entering her final year of undergraduate studies at a U.S. university, and reportedly won’t be part of her mother’s campaign.
We spoke by phone this morning.
Q: When did you decide to have a run?
A: I’ve been thinking about it since the election in May, when the party really bottomed out. But it’s been clear for a long time that the party has lost it’s raison d’etre. It came together in the last few months.
Q: Do you have a team to support your campaign?
A: I certainly have a lot of supporters and so forth. But that’s what I’ll be spending the next weeks doing—putting together a more formal team and a plan of action.
Q: You have a thorough policy dossier up on your website. Could you comment on just one aspect of it, your focus on the Occupy movement?
A: I’m the kind of person that sees connections everywhere. Last fall you could sense the mood out there, this sense that we’ve lost this social contract, even here [in Canada], although obviously the movement was more successful in the U.S.
But what I find difficult in a federation like ours is that so many people might be interested in pensions, or about employment, but there’s more than one level of government involved. It’s very hard to focus. They should have transparency. We don’t we have EI that isn’t at loggerhead with social assistance.
A lot of what I’ve written about is how you can get more coherence, and accept that the national government has a role to play in all these areas that people are concerned about.
Q: Doesn’t that bring us back to some old fed-prov jurisdictional and constitutional disputes?
A: What I’m talking about is not disputes and tiresome old debates. It’s about collaboration, putting some more structures—not constitutional at all—so we can have more collaboration, such as the do down in Australia.
Q: You environmental policy ideas will remind some Liberals of the disastrous Stéphane Dion campaign of 2008.
A: You’re talking about the so-called “Green Shift” and the fact that I’m putting forward a national carbon tax. The difficulty with Mr. Dion’s tax, and indeed the NDP’s position now, is the criticism that it’s a redistribution of wealth. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. The consensus is amazing, from environmental groups to the corporations, around a carbon tax that is across the country, levied on producers and consumers, in which the revenues go back to the provinces in which they are generated. I’m proposing a more effective way to bring to bear the cost of using fossil fuels.
Q: So you feel you’ve inoculated yourself against the criticism that a carbon tax is just a revenue grab against Alberta and the other oil and gas producing provinces?
A: Well, exactly. The whole idea is not to make money or redistributing money but to bring to bear the cost of using fossil fuels, and the damage of climate change, to all our daily lives.
Q: You seem to be broadly for a strong central government, as opposed to provincial autonomy.
A: The role of the national government is to ensure that all Canadians have access to essential services of comparable quality. We send billions and billions of dollars from the federal government to the provinces to try to achieve this. And yet we keep seeing greater and greater disparities. We need to get back to looking at that fundamental role of the federal government, how it can work with the provinces, but with clear direction to establishing acceptable national standards, whether in heath care or a wide range of services, in a collaborative way.
Q: Why try to revive the Liberal party, rather than urge a merger with the NDP to give voters who are interested in a plausible centre-left alternative to the Conservatives a clear choice?
A: I don’t see that as the obvious solution. I’m in this race because I’m hearing from so many Canadians that they don’t like being polarized, they don’t think it has to be big government and high taxes or small government and low taxes. There’s clearly room for a third party, and I would like to see it be a party of principle that really governs for all Canadians.
Q: You have a lot of ideas, but no track record of winning in electoral politics. Why shouldn’t Liberals look for someone who has won somewhere, at some level?
A: That’s true, I haven’t been elected to Parliament yet. I’ve been in various national debates, if you go back to Meech and Charlottetown. I don’t think that’s a negative. This is about rebuilding the great institution of the Liberal Party of Canada. Eventually I will get elected, the fact that I haven’t found the time or place to do it is also part of politics.
In this video from her website, Coyne explains her motivations:
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM - 0 Comments
Welcome to live coverage of tonight’s C-38 votes. It was expected that voting would begin around 5:30pm, but some procedural fussing about by the Liberals seems to have delayed those votes by a few hours. Stay tuned throughout the evening (and morning?) as we follow the parliamentary festivities.
4:43pm. If you’re only now tuning in, you just missed a fascinating series of points of order, during which Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux twice asked the Speaker to clarify the rules of the House (Speaker Devolin invited Mr. Lamoureux to read the standing orders) and Bob Rae objected to the Defence Minister’s earlier use of the word “mendaciousness” (Peter MacKay duly stood and withdrew the remark). The House is now at the time reserved each day for the presenting of petitions and will soon move to the final period of report stage debate on C-38.
4:51pm. The New Democrats held a photo op this afternoon to demonstrate how they were preparing for tonight’s votes. Mostly this seems to have involved Nathan Cullen removing his jacket and writing “C-38″ on a giant white pad of paper.
5:04pm. The Liberals have chosen now to discuss Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege. And now there is some discussion between the Speaker, Elizabeth May and Denis Coderre about how long one can speak when responding to a question of privilege.
5:15pm. With Mr. Lamoureux still responding to Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege, Conservative MP Bob Zimmer rises on a point of order to question Mr. Lamoureux’s point of privilege. The Speaker stands and reads the rules pertaining to questions of privilege, specifically that such interventions should be “brief and concise” and that the Speaker has the right to “terminate” the discussion. Liberal MP Massimo Pacetti rises on a point of order to object to Mr. Zimmer’s point of order. Mr. Lamoureux attempts a point of order to respond to Mr. Zimmer, but the Speaker suggests he carry on with his point of privilege, but then Mr. Coderre rises on a point of order to complain about the Speaker’s desire to move things along. The Speaker asserts his impartiality and attempts to straighten this all out, but Mr. Coderre rises on another point of order to clarify his respect for the Speaker, but also to express his desire that Mr. Lamoureux be allowed to give a full response to Mr. Cullen’s point of privilege. Mr. Pacetti rises on a point of order to add his concern that Mr. Lamoureux be allowed to speak fully. The Speaker says he was merely reminding everyone of the rules and gives Mr. Lamoureux five minutes to finish and, finally, we’re now back to Mr. Lamoruex’s point of privilege.
5:30pm. The Speaker stands and calls an end to Mr. Lamoureux’s remarks and attempts to move to the last hour of report stage debate on C-38, but now Mauril Belanger is up on a separate point of privilege.
5:32pm. The Speaker cuts off Mr. Belanger to move to deferred votes on two opposition motions and one private member’s bill. MPs have 30 minutes to report to the chamber.
By Paul Wells - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 11:08 AM - 0 Comments
If this guy’s name was Joe Smith, the notion that Liberals might turn to him would be a no-brainer
The only time Justin Trudeau had for an interview on a recent Thursday was over breakfast at his Ottawa hotel. Under his suit jacket, the sleeve buttons on his dress shirt were undone. His necktie was knotted, but left loose over an open top button. His mane of black hair was tousled. Even in genteel disarray, even dressed more or less like a couple hundred of his parliamentary colleagues, the 40-year-old Liberal MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau looked like a million bucks.
I showed up late, slumped into a seat, ordered an omelette. I’ve known Trudeau for nine years, never well. Trudeau wondered why I’d convened this little meeting. “Your ﬁrst note to me said you’d need three minutes to chat. Now it’s breakfast and your photo department is calling my ofﬁce looking to take pictures. What’s up?”
There was no point beating around the bush. It’s not as though he hadn’t heard the question before.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 5:43 PM - 0 Comments
Stephen Harper hasn’t offered up any very detailed comment on his view of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms since he became Prime Minister. But Paul Wells guides us through how we might interpret Harper’s ambivalent remarks on today’s 30th anniversary of Pierre Trudeau’s landmark contribution to Canada’s constitutional evolution.
For those curious about Harper’s earlier, perhaps less guarded days, and how he might have seen the Charter back then, I can think of two glancing remarks that shed a bit of light on his view of it—neither of them, unfortunately, very definitive. In both cases, he seemed mainly worried about “arbitrary” interpretation of Charter rights by the courts.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 5:08 PM - 0 Comments
A footnote to Mr. Mulcair’s official statement on the 30th anniversary of the Charter: Paper Dynamite digs up a speech Mr. Mulcair gave two years ago in the House during debate on representation in the House of Commons.
The biggest problem is the attitude the Liberal Party has had for the past 40 years. That has been the main problem with the Canadian federation since the time of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The Liberals pay lip service to the idea of recognizing Quebec, but when push comes to shove, they always vote against such recognition.
The sad fact is that the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, which were negotiated in good faith, were necessary because the Canadian Constitution that Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien repatriated includes the law passed in English only in England, with a bilingual schedule. The law begins with the words “Whereas Canada has requested”.
It is a bald-faced lie to say that Canada requested this, because Quebec was not included, unless the point was to show that to Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada, Canada did not include Quebec. That has been the problem since 1982. The Canadian Constitution, which was adopted despite both sovereignist and federalist opposition in Quebec City, still exists. In spite of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, which were negotiated in good faith, the government has never managed to accommodate Quebec to this day.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 11:07 AM - 0 Comments
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae’s statement on the 30th anniversary of the Charter.
“On the steps of Parliament Hill, 30 years ago today, Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Liberal government signed the historic Canada Act, 1982, patriating our Constitution and making the Charter of Rights and Freedoms the supreme law of the land.
The Charter enshrines our most cherished Canadian values. It reflects our belief that Canadians have a fundamental right to live free from discrimination, to assemble peacefully and express our opinions, to vote in elections unimpeded, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and fundamentally, that our individual rights take precedence over the rights of government.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:38 PM - 0 Comments
The Cuban dictator has a few things he would like to say in reference to Canada.
The guayabera shirts to be worn by Obama in Cartagena has become one of the main issues covered by the news agencies: “Edgar Gomez [...] has designed one for the U.S. President, Barack Obama, who will be wearing it during the Summit of the Americas,” said the daughter of the designer, who added: “It is a white, sober guayabera, with a handiwork that is more striking that usual…”
Immediately after that, the news agency added that the Caribbean shirt was first made by the banks of the Yayabo River in Cuba; that is why they were originally called yayaberas. The curious thing about this, dear readers, is that Cuba has been forbidden to attend that meeting, but not the guayaberas. Who could hold back from laughing? We must hurry up and tell Harper.
By Paul Wells - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:50 AM - 0 Comments
The prime minister’s trip wasn’t about trade, goodwill or pandas. It was about crushing his opposition at home.
Foreign ships have been putting into the Cuntan port in Chongqing, on the Yangtze River 1,700 km west of Shanghai, since 1891. But these days the whole region has a new vocation. All of a sudden Chongqing has become a major assembly and export centre for cheap laptop computers designed in Taiwan. Very soon, 50 million laptops a year will be leaving the port, bound for the world.
Sometimes ships come into port too.
On Feb. 11, Stephen and Laureen Harper strolled along the Cuntan dockside, chatting with International Trade Minister Ed Fast while a Canadian television news camera crew recorded the moment for posterity. The Harpers paused next to a dirty white steel shipping container draped with a Canadian flag. Work crews opened the container’s steel doors. The Harpers watched as somebody opened one of the cardboard boxes inside the container.
“It’s pork,” somebody said. “From Canada!”
“All the way from Winnipeg,” the Prime Minister chimed in.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 10:28 AM - 0 Comments
I’m not much of a monarchist, so I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere for coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. On the other hand, I am struck lately by new legal and economic research that strongly suggests paying close heed to old Commonwealth ties would be a shrewd foreign-affairs strategy, not a nostalgic distraction, for Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 6, 2012 at 1:41 PM - 0 Comments
Given the Harper government’s eagerness to celebrate international recognition, there will no doubt be congratulations offered in the House this week for Pierre Trudeau on the occasion of a new study heralding the global influence of the Charter.
Mr. Barak, for his part, identified a new constitutional superpower: “Canadian law,” he wrote, “serves as a source of inspiration for many countries around the world.” The new study also suggests that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, may now be more influential than its American counterpart.
The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people, allows affirmative action and requires that those arrested be informed of their rights. On the other hand, it balances those rights against “such reasonable limits” as “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
(Headline taken from the Prime Minister’s speech to last year’s Conservative convention.)
By John Geddes - Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 1:41 PM - 0 Comments
Over at the Globe and Mail, Lawrence Martin writes today that Stephen Harper is the first prime minister to use his passion for hockey to political advantage. Certainly Harper’s plan to finally publish his much-discussed book on early professional hockey history should allow him to stake a claim to being our most hockey-wonkish PM.
But I think Martin went off side in dismissing Pierre Trudeau’s shinny credentials, asserting that Trudeau preferred individual to team sports, and “could barely tell a hockey stick from a tennis racket.”
By John Geddes - Monday, November 28, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 1 Comment
Book by Max and Monique Nemni, translated by George Tombs
An enduring element of his myth has it that Pierre Trudeau was a dilettante well into adult life. The image of the future prime minister indulging in a motorcycle-riding, beard-growing, job-hopping arrested adolescence has been cultivated both by admirers—it makes him more fun—and detractors—it confirms his lack of seriousness. The Nemnis, a husband-and-wife writing team devoted to burnishing their subject’s memory, set out to demolish the image of an aimless Trudeau.
And they largely succeed. In a previous volume, 2006’s Young Trudeau, they revealed the narrowness of his early thinking, which shockingly featured pro-Fascist sympathies. Now they trace his 1944-47 postgraduate education from Harvard to Paris’s Sciences Po to the London School of Economics. Their painstaking study of his notes, letters and journals shows how Trudeau systematically acquired democratic ideas centred on individual rights and absorbed economic theory.
Previous biographers have viewed his celebrated travels through Asia after his university years as evidence of rootlessness. The Nemnis cite a letter to his mother in which Trudeau writes of setting out “to understand the world’s politics,” and argue that his itinerary shows he followed through. They pounce on evidence that Trudeau later sought out, rather than stumbled into, his key first experience in Ottawa as a junior bureaucrat.
In their telling, Trudeau’s rise in the 1950s as a public intellectual in Quebec—a blur of writing, editing, lecturing and organizing—flows naturally out of what came before. So does his 1965 jump into federal politics, which closes this instalment of their multi-volume project. Of course, the anti-Trudeau camp now ascendant in Canada needn’t buy this laudatory version. But to go on dismissing him as gifted but undisciplined, charismatic but shallow, has just gotten that much less plausible.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 12:01 PM - 2 Comments
On the occasion of his winning the prize for parliamentarian of the year, I sat down last Thursday with Bob Rae in his corner office on the fifth floor of Centre Block. Here’s a transcript of our conversation (only slightly abridged).
How do you now look back on the parliamentarian you were at that point when you first showed up?
I had a kind of a very lucky start because I was elected in a by-election and it was sort of the last six months of the Trudeau government and the NDP caucus was very small, it was like 15 or 16 people, and there were lots of opportunities for me to speak, to kind of get in and do stuff. I got to ask a question my first day and I did a late night debate.
The House was a much more congenial place. There were a number of Conservatives who were there who were very friendly—Ray Hnatyshyn, Lincoln Alexander and Steve Paproski. They all stayed for my maiden speech and they all heckled during the speech. You could tell it was a kind of very modest kind of hazing process—Well, we’ll see how this kid does.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 1:11 PM - 19 Comments
Here’s a stray bit of commentary from the distant past to mull over along with the news that the Harper government just might be willing to consider reforming Canada’s politically sacrosanct, economically dubious protection of poultry and dairy farmers:
“Price support is only a means; the end we seek should be a livable income for every citizen. And as a means, price support cannot be used systematically; for it naturally tends to prevent equilibrium of demand and supply.”
That’s from the six-page memo “On Price Support for Commodity Surpluses,” written by very junior civil servant named Pierre Trudeau in 1949, when he was briefly assistant to Gordon Robertson, the head of the Privy Council Office’s economics division. His sensible advice on the economics of agricultural and fisheries is quoted in the new biography Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman, 1944-1965 by Max and Monique Nemni.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 5:52 PM - 21 Comments
The Scene. Shortly before the start of Question Period this afternoon, Conservative backbencher Patrick Brown rose to repeat his side’s line that the NDP is too “disunited” to govern. A moment later, Conservative backbencher Greg Rickford rose to lament that the NDP, in punishing two MPs who defied the party’s decision to whip a vote on the gun registry, was also too committed to enforcing unity.
Presumably this was Mr. Rickford’s way of protesting his own government’s decision to whip this week’s vote on asbestos exports. Hopefully his caucus leadership won’t too severely punish him for so bravely asserting the independence of individual MPs.
Immediately thereafter, the Speaker then called for oral questions and the official opposition sent up Joe Comartin, Mr. Comartin having apparently discovered an example of irony that he was eager to share with everyone. Continue…