Set out below is a letter to the editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in the October 18, 2010 issue of the Hill Times.
Two of your opinion articles were premature in their assessment of the legal effect of the fixed election date measures in the Canada Elections Act.
Errol Mendes and Adam Dodek claimed in their opinion piece that Democracy Watch's court case challenging Prime Minister Harper's snap election call in September 2008 as a violation of the measures "was rejected" (Challenges ahead for new Governor General - Oct. 12).
In fact, the case continues with an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada awaiting a ruling (which should be issued in three to six months). If the Court allows the appeal, the final ruling on the fixed election date measures will likely come sometime in late 2011.
Meanwhile, Gary Levy claimed in his opinion piece that if we want fixed date elections, "we must find a way to stop a Prime Minister from unilaterally calling an election whenever he or she wants . . ." (Canada's fixed election date law is a serious problem - Oct. 11).
Again, the Supreme Court of Canada may still rule that the Prime Minister is already effectively restricted by the current fixed election date measures.
True, as Mr. Levy points out, if Parliament also passed measures defining confidence votes it would help ensure clarity in the future should a Prime Minister again try to advise the calling of a snap election before the fixed election date (or after a questionable vote of non-confidence). Mr. Levy points to Quebec's measures as a model, but because they allow the Premier to declare any vote in the legislature a question of confidence, they don't really define confidence votes in any restrictive way.
As Mr. Levy also notes, fixed election date measures and measures aimed at restricting a Prime Minister's prorogation of Parliament are directly related. As a result, the Supreme Court's ruling on Democracy Watch's fixed election date case will set a precedent that will inform Parliament's current exploration of prorogation-restricting measures.
Democracy Watch has also set up a Facebook page, Canadians Against Snap Elections, as part of its campaign in favour of fixed election date laws across Canada.
Duff Conacher, Coordinator