A one-way controversy between the Prime Minister and Chief Justice

LSPIRG Volunteer, Moyo Arewa is working on a campaign to engage students on national politics. This will include bi-weekly blogs, analysis of national headlines and surveys to gauge students' engagement on the issue. The following is the first-in-series blog.

It all started with a phone call placed by the Chief Justice of Canada, Beverley Mclachlin, to the Minister of Justice, Peter Mackay. Allegedly, during this call, Mclachlin suggested there was a constitutional problem with the appointment to the court of Judge Marc Nadon.

Subsequently, nine months after the tendentious phone call was made, Mackay and the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, voiced their disgust in Mclachlin’s actions. They claimed that in placing the phone call, Mclachlin acted unethically and inappropriately; in doing so, they disputed the integrity of the chief justice.

There are several dimensions to this one-way squabble. On one hand, it may be that Mackay and Harper sincerely believe that the chief justice acted inappropriately; moreover, Mclachlin’s office did, in fact, release a statement, prior to Harper and Mackay’s public outburst, denying rumours that Mclachlin had sought to influence the appointment of Nadon.

On another hand, it may be that the Prime Minister’s reckless accusations were made in retaliation – or as a response – to the government’s current five-case losing streak at the Supreme Court, which includes the striking down of prostitution laws. Hence, the accusations made against Mclachlin are very possibly a sign of a disguised malaise towards the SCC and Mclachlin herself.

Contrastingly, it is the opinion of many that such professional conversations should never be made public, especially those such as this that are likely to lead to even more awkward relations between the executive and the Judicial arms of government.     

The only certainty in this very unpleasant and public spat is that in making the phone call to Mackay suggesting a constitutional problem with the appointment of Judge Nadon, Mclachlin acted perfectly within her power as Chief Justice of the nation.

With that said, the aim of this survey is simply to gather public opinion on this issue, with specific focus on the four dimensions mentioned above. We hope that, from the results of the survey, we can logically analyze public sentiment on not only the squabble between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice, but also on the broader tension between the executive and the legislative.

Check out coverage of the issue here.

We'd love to know what you think about the issue. Fill out our five-question survey here.