Celebrate Dominion Day With The Latest Issue of The Dorchester Review

The latest issue of The Dorchester Review is now available online here once you subscribe here to receive physical copies of the magazine in the mail as well.

I contributed an article to this issue on a lesser known aspect of the career of the great 19th-century engineer Sir Sandford Fleming, who forged the steel links which bound the Dominion of Canada together through the Intercolonial Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway, and who invented Time Zones and Standard Time. In 1892, Fleming advocated for parliamentary and electoral reform, and reformers have followed his blueprints unwittingly ever since, both in terms of the content of their reforms and the hectoring, moralistic tone with which they have advocated for abolishing majoritarian electoral systems.

Posted in Dorchester Review, Electoral Reform, History of British North America, Reform | 1 Comment

Canada: A Refuge & Shining City on a Hill for American Losers

During the lead up to the presidential election in November 2004, some of my Democratic peers in Anchorage claimed that they would emigrate to Canada if George W. Bush won re-election. Of course, since we were only high school students at the time, none of them made good on these musings after Bush did indeed win a second. In November 2004, CBC News corroborated the idle talk that I heard and distinctly recall from that era and reported that the Government of Canada’s immigration website received its most dense traffic up to that point, with most of the hits coming from the United States.[1] Democrats similarly began rumbling about emigrating to Canada in 2016 after Donald J. Trump became the Republican nominee, and the threats reached a fever pitch after his unexpected victory in November 2016.

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Posted in History of British North America | 2 Comments

An Outbreak of Snap Election Fever During a Pandemic

Whenever Canadian journalists get bored or run out of other things on which to write, they often engage in idle speculation about snap elections. This time John Ivison of The National Post became Patient Zero in this latest strain of Snap Election Fever on 6 May, followed the next day by Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star. Philippe Fournier of Maclean’s (who, I’m told, is an astrophysicist and not a journalist per se) joined in with another forceful intervention on 24 May.  

All this culminated in a fit of circular logic on 27 May when reporters asked Prime Minister Trudeau about a snap election based on the speculation that their colleagues had created in the first place earlier this month. CTV News quote the Prime Minister:

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Posted in Dissolution, Fixed-Date Elections | 2 Comments

The Division of Powers Does Not Apply During a Pandemic

Quebec imposed this unconstitutional bordercheckpoint on its side of the Portage Bridge, screening motorists entering from Ontario and turning some back. I took this photo myself on the late afternoon of 2 April 2020.

On 1 April, Quebec announced what I presumed at the time must have been an April Fool’s Joke: that it would use its provincial police, La Sûreté du Québec, and municipal police forces to set up border checkpoints with Ontario, New Brunswick, and Labrador. New Brunswick as of 25 March and Nova Scotia as of 23 March had imposed similar measures using provincial peace officers to man border checkpoints. (They wouldn’t dare try to use the RCMP contracted to conduct provincial policing in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). However, section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 does not provide the provinces the authority to impose controls and checkpoints against other provinces, irrespective of whatever declarations of emergency they have made at the provincial level. Their legislatures lack the head of power to enact statutes which touch upon this competency, and their executives therefore lack the authority to enforce such a thing.

Since the provinces can only act within their strictly enumerated competencies and areas of jurisdiction under section 92, this particular authority goes to the federal order of government by default under section 91 – triply so, in this case. The authority to set up internal border checkpoints would fall to Ottawa under the Peace, Order, and Good Government (POGG) Clause, whereby non-enumerated authorities fall to the federal order of government, as well as, more precisely, under both sections 91(10), “Navigation and Shipping”, and 91(11), “Quarantine and the Establishment and Maintenance of Marine Hospitals” — with the emphasis on “Navigation” and “Quarantine” in this case. The fact that the Government of Canada has chosen not to exercise this authority does not somehow transfer it to the provinces, nor can the provinces invoke the Doctrine of Necessity to impose it. The division of powers cannot be loaned out or delegated without a constitutional amendment, such as the Constitution Act, 1940 that added “Unemployment Insurance” as item “2A” to Ottawa’s jurisdiction under section 91. Yet this pandemic has defenestrated the Constitution of Canada, and very few seem to notice or care.

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Posted in Constitution (Written), Division of Powers | 6 Comments

The Fixed-Date Election Law Forced Saskatchewan’s Upcoming Pandemic Election


Brian Pallister’s unnecessary early election last year – done ostensibly to prevent an election from occurring during the celebrations of Manitoba’s sesquicentennial in 2020 and to avoid accusations that his government would short-circuit rules against advertising to benefit the Progressive Conservative Party during the pre-writ and writ – now looks remarkably but unintentionally prescient. Even though Manitoba might have to cancel some of these celebrations this summer, Pallister’s decision has at least spared Manitobans the prospect of a mandatory dissolution or a dissolution by efflux of time (i.e., a dissolution which occurs automatically pursuant to statute or the constitution instead of by a premier’s advice to the governor) during a pandemic and the resulting Pandemic Election in the fall of 2020. But neighbouring Saskatchewan remained on course to suffer this fate. As of 13 May 2020, Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan and Leader of the Saskatchewan Party, has confirmed that the province will go through with its general election scheduled for October 2020. And the fixed-date election law is to blame.

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Posted in Crown (Powers and Office), Dissolution, Fixed-Date Elections | 3 Comments