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


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


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


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

Prince Edward Island’s First Successful Minority Government

MacLauchlan’s Early Dissolution Gambit Fails

Premier Wade MacLauchlan on 26 March 2019 advised Lieutenant-Governor Antoinette Perry to dissolve the 65th General Assembly of Prince Edward Island and issue writs of election for polling day on 23 April 2019.[1] Prince Edward Island’s fixed-date election legislation had originally scheduled the next provincial election for October 2019, but since that would have coincided with the scheduled federal election, the law would have postponed the provincial election to April 2020 and thus pushed the 65th Assembly perilously close to its absolute maximum lifespan of five years (4 May 2015 to 4 May 2020), as prescribed in section 4(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. With a writ of 28 days, MacLauchlan would have had to advise the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the 65th General Assembly on Monday, 23 March 2020 so that the general election could have been held on Monday, 20 April 2020. This 65th General Assembly would certainly have become the longest-lived elected assembly under a fixed-date election law if MacLauchlan had allowed it to run out the clock for another year.

MacLauchlan dismissed criticism of his second early election, saying: “It’s been four years. We had a mandate and fulfilled it. This is an opportunity to ask Islanders for their confidence to build on that record.”[2] But MacLauchlan’s gambit failed. On 23 April 2019, Prince Edward Islanders elected the first minority legislature in their province’s long history of Responsible Government since 1851: in an assembly consisting of 27 MLAs, the Progressive Conservatives won 12 seats; the Greens, 8; the Liberals, 6 on polling day,[3] and the Progressive Conservatives won an additional seat in a by-election on 15 July for a total of 13.[4] The Greens became the Official Opposition for the first time anywhere in Canada[5]; the Liberals came in third, and Wade MacLauchlan even lost his own seat.[6] MacLauchlan confirmed the following morning, on 24 April, that he would resign as premier.[7]

Not since the 19th century have voters elected a minority legislature, and never before 2019 had a single-party minority government in Prince Edward Island succeeded in winning the confidence of the legislative assembly on an Address-in-Reply and budget.[8]

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Posted in Crown (Powers and Office), Fixed-Date Elections, Formation of Governments, Reform | 4 Comments