The Over-Zealous Caretakers of the 2019 Election


The Caretaker Array in Star Trek: Voyager

Caretaker Convention

During the writ in 2015, Parks Canada infamously agonised over issuing a routine public advisory about the threat that bears and mountain lions posed to hikers in Rocky Mountain national parks that fall, falsely believing that the Caretaker Convention in general and the Privy Council Office’s Guidelines in particular prohibited such communication. Parks opted not to warn the public of the feline and ursine dangers prowling and lurking in the forests. I had hoped that the civil service had worked this sort of over-zealous hypercorrection (which invariably indicates something incorrect) out of its system in 2015, but the quadrennial madness has only worsened in 2019.

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This Election Has Not Been A Time to Discuss Serious Issues: The Very Unserious Issue of Dual Citizenship


Introduction

The media revealed earlier this week that Andrew Scheer is a natural-born citizen of both Canada and the United States. He inherited the American citizenship through his father. This piece of information has generated some considerable controversy, not least because in 2005 Scheer subtly criticised Governor General Michaelle Jean for holding French citizenship (which she later renounced), and because he stood silent while Prime Minister Harper attacked Stephane Dion and Thomas Mulcair for holding both Canadian and French citizenships. Scheer’s coy retort on why he had somehow forgotten to mention his US citizenship – “No one ever asked” – comes across as a failed attempt to channel a certain devil-may-care Trudeauian bravado that he cannot quite pull off.  The remainder of Scheer’s bumbling, Joe Clark-like response that he has not gotten around to renouncing his American citizenship because he “was focused on other things” will not serve him well either. Scheer now looks like he had something to hide. The national identity of English-speaking Canada, by definition, depends upon a repudiation of the United States of America, and this sort of October Surprise, as our American friends would call it, might just have secured the Liberals another parliamentary majority. Anti-Americanism remains an acceptable prejudice in Canada, and it’s practically encouraged when an unpopular president occupies the White House.

From a political standpoint, Scheer should have taken the Ted Cruz Approach and openly acknowledged his American citizenship when he won the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2017, and he should have announced his intentions clearly then, whether to renounce or retain it. But in principle and in general, I have found the furore surrounding dual citizenship utterly ridiculous and unfounded.

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Posted in History of British North America | 1 Comment

The Caretaker Convention and the Appointment of Supreme Court Justices During Elections: 2015 vs 2019


The Caretaker Array in Star Trek: Voyager

Prime Minister Appoints New Justice to the Supreme Court During the Election

On 24 April 2015, Marshall Rothstein announced that he would retire as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada on 31 August 2015.[1] On 27 July 2015, an Order-in-Council advised that Russell S. Brown be appointed as a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, effective 31 August 2015.[2] Since Prime Minister Harper opted for a long writ in 2015 of 78 days from 2 August to 19 October 2019, Russell Brown’s appointment ended up happening during the writ for the 42nd general election.[3] If Prime Minister Harper had opted for the minimum writ of 36 days, then Brown would have taken up his appointment before the writ. In any case, however, Prime Minister Harper must have known by 27 July that he would have advised the Governor General to dissolve parliament only a few days later. Nevertheless, the announcement did not become a big news story until a few days later, though Maclean’s mused that he might be conservative.[4]

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Posted in Caretaker Convention, Constitution (Conventional) | 5 Comments

The Caretaker Convention in 2019


Introduction

Prime Minister Trudeau has advised Her Excellency Julie Payette to dissolve the 42nd Parliament and issue the writs for the 43rd general election, which will occur on 21 October 2019. So endeth the longest session in Canadian history. The 1st session of the 42nd Parliament lasted from 3 December 2015 to 11 September 2019 – a record 1,378 days – because the Prime Minister opted not to prorogue parliament at all.[1] In so doing, Justin Trudeau has proven the opposite of Stephen Harper. And in so doing, Justin Trudeau has also surpassed his late father and former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau on at least one important metric: he had held the previous record for the longest parliamentary session and thus longest time without a prorogation with the 1st session of the 32nd Parliament, which lasted 1,325 days from 14 April 1980 to 30 November 1983.[2]

Under the Canada Elections Act, the polling day is scheduled for 21 October 2019. Since the writ must last a minimum of 36 days and now a maximum of 50 days, the 42nd Parliament had to be dissolved between 1 and 15 September 2019. The Prime Minister opted for a later date and thus shorter campaign, which started on 11 September. And so, too, did the Caretaker Convention.

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Posted in Caretaker Convention, Constitution (Conventional) | 2 Comments

The Prime Minister of Ontario Was Also a Member of Provincial Parliament


Introduction

Ontario has paradoxically always held itself as superior to the other provinces yet also as the quintessential representation of Canada itself: Ontarians are the most likely of all Canadians to refer to and think of themselves as Canadian only, as opposed to Canadian first and provincial demonym second, or in terms of their provincial identity alone. But for what Ontarians lack in provincial nationalism and identity, they make up for in pretentious, federal-sounding titles ironically shorn of secessionist sentiment. The pomp alone remains, signifying the arrogance that lies beneath.

Ontario has established the approach of layering fancy, national- or federal-sounding titles onto its provincial political institutions informally on top of the pedestrian formal names for these same institutions as set out in provincial legislation. And this informal layering of fancy titles designed to impart unearned prestige flow from informal means, like resolutions of the Legislative Assembly or simple executive decree. These informal practices have proven most enduring, and this is why Members elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario are called “Members of Provincial Parliament” (MPPs) instead of as Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) like in eight of the ten other provinces. Some Premiers of Ontario also insisted that they be addressed and referred to as the “Prime Minister of Ontario,” too, well after the two styles had stopped being regarded as interchangeable elsewhere in Canada.

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Posted in Crown (Powers and Office), Prime Minister's Powers | 1 Comment