Democracy Watch Appeals Federal Court Ruling That Legalized Conservative Prime Minister Harper's September 2008 Snap Federal Election Call Despite Fixed-Election-Date Law
UPDATE: March 15, 2010 -- The case will be heard by the
Federal Court of Appeal on May 25, 2010 in Ottawa
Group Calls on Prime Minister to
Promise Not to Call Another Snap Election -- Will Seek Quick Hearing If
Prevent Another Snap Election Call, and Has
Created a Facebook
Group To Protest Another Snap Federal Election
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch released details about its
appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal of Federal Court Justice Michel
Shore's ruling in September that the Bill C-16 fixed-election-date
measures did not change the Canada
Elections Act to prohibit the Prime Minister in any way from
calling snap elections, and that therefore Conservative
Minister Stephen Harper's September 2008 snap federal election call was
a matter for voters, not the courts, to rule on.
Democracy Watch called on Prime Minister Harper to promise he
another snap election from the Governor General until the Supreme Court
of Canada has ruled on the effect of the fixed-election-date measures
(and called on the media to ask the PM to make this promise).
As the first such case in the world, the ruling in the case will also affect the enforceability of similar fixed-election-date laws in British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories and proposed laws in other provinces and parliamentary democracies around the world.
Democracy Watch's position is that Justice Shore erred in
ruling that the measures did not change the Act to fix federal election dates
and prohibit the Prime Minister from requesting that the Governor
General dissolve Parliament and call an election unless the government
loses a vote of confidence in Parliament or the fixed-election date is
approaching, and erred in ruling that the measures did not establish a
constitutional convention, and erred in ruling that Prime Minister
Harper's snap election call did not violate the Charter rights of
Canadians to fair elections, and overall erred in ruling that the
courts should not review such actions by prime ministers.
Democracy Watch will seek a quick hearing of the case if
prevent Prime Minister Harper from calling another snap election as
some are speculating he will do to pre-empt further
investigation into the treatment of detainees in the war in
Afghanistan, and to pre-empt rulings on the Conservative Party-labelled
spending cheques handed out by several Cabinet ministers and
Conservative MPs, and rulings on the ethics complaints filed about fundraising
events held by a Conservative Cabinet minister and parliamentary
secretary that involved lobbyists, and to pre-empt the release of
regular reports by
the federal Auditor General.
Democracy Watch has also created the Facebook page Canadians
Elections to help Canadians protest another
federal election call by any prime minister.
If the Federal Court of Appeal agrees with Democracy Watch's
position, it will rule that Prime Minister Harper violated the
fixed-election-date measures when he requested that the Governor
General dissolve Parliament and call a federal election in September
2008 before a vote of non-confidence had occurred in Parliament, and as
a result future snap election calls will be prohibited.
However, such a ruling will not affect the outcome of the October
2008 federal election.
If the Federal Court of Appeal disagrees with Democracy
Watch's position, it will rule that the measures did not change the Canada Elections Act to restrict
the Prime Minister, and therefore that Prime Minister Harper broke his
2006 election promise to enact measures that fix federal election dates.
"If Democracy Watch wins, the Federal Court of Appeal will rule that Prime Minister Harper is a dishonest lawbreaker because he gave false reasons for calling the snap federal election last September in violation of his own fixed-election-date law. If Democracy Watch loses, the court will rule that Prime Minister Harper is a dishonest promise-breaker because he failed to keep his 2006 election promise to pass a law fixing election dates, and the enforceability of similar laws across Canada will be undermined," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.
"Overwhelming evidence shows
that the intent and effect of the federal fixed election date measures
prohibits the Prime Minister from calling an election before his
governing party has lost a confidence vote in the House of Commons,
something that did not occur before Prime Minister Harper called the
snap federal election in September 2008," said Conacher. "As
well, the clear intent of the fixed election date measures was to make
elections fair for all political parties, interest groups and citizens
participate in the election by letting everyone know well in advance
when it will happen, something that also did not occur when Prime
Minister Harper suddenly called the federal election in September 2008."
Democracy Watch's position is that Justice Shore's September
17, 2009 ruling,
which was made just nine days after the court hearing, contained the
following errors of fact and law (To
see Democracy Watch's Notice of Appeal summarizing the appeal, click here (PDF
format) To see
Democracy Watch's appeal factum for its full legal arguments, click here (PDF
"For all these reasons, and
prevent future prime ministers from call unfair snap elections,
Democracy Watch has applied to the Federal Court for a ruling that
Prime Minister Harper's calling of the federal election in September
2008 was a violation of the fixed election date law and Canadians'
rights under the Charter," said Conacher.
Democracy Watch applied to Federal Court on September 22, 2008
order that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's advice to the Governor
General of Canada on September 7, 2008 to dissolve Parliament and call
an election violated the fixed election date measures that Bill C-16
added to the Canada Elections Act
because the Conservative government had not lost a vote of confidence
in the House of Commons.
Democracy Watch filed the case not only to challenge Prime Minister Harper's calling of the election in September 2008, but also to win a ruling that will prohibit future election calls by prime ministers before a vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons has occurred.
Bill C-16 was presented in the House of Commons and Senate by
then-Minister for Democratic Reform Rob Nicholson and other
representatives of the Conservative government.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Democracy Watch's Fixed
Election Date Case webpage
Democracy Watch homepage