Judicial changes require scrutiny

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Ops editor spreads Liberal rhetoric”
Feb. 22, 2007

To the Editor:
In their response to Georgia Tanner’s A+/F- about judicial selection, Lee Manchur and Christopher Hansebout make some salient points. However, they miss the important criticisms surrounding the issue.

Manchur and Hansebout are right to say the Liberal party may have appointed some judges who are either avid Liberal supporters or generally agree with Liberal policy. It shouldn’t surprise any political observer that the government of the day will make a few such appointments.

The problem they ignore is that Harper’s restructuring of nomination committees threatens to reverse the trend of limiting partisan and patronage appointments. Trudeau initiated this trend during the 1960s when, as justice minister, he reformed the selection process. In 1988, Brian Mulroney further built on Trudeau’s reforms. However, by changing the composition of the committees to include a majority of Conservative party supporters, Harper has made it easier for patronage appointments to occur.

Also, Manchur and Hansebout criticize Martin’s selection of two Supreme Court justices, saying he didn’t create a nomination committee for these appointments, but this is only a partial truth. Martin’s election platform included reforming the Supreme Court judicial selection process. However, the retirement of two justices shortly after Paul Martin became prime minister forced him to make new appointments before any such reforms could be instituted. Instead, he established ad hoc committees to screen potential nominees before making his final selections.

I agree with Manchur and Hansebout when they say Harper’s push for senate reform and passing the Federal Accountability Act should be praised. I don’t agree with their characterization of judicial selection as a “trivial” matter. The selection process should be scrutinized to ensure patronage is limited and the most qualified judges are appointed.
"Ben Rich
Hons. Political Science III

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