Good Day Readers:
As special thank you to "Mr. Self-Rep" Vancouver-base Chris Budgell (email@example.com
) for sending the following link.
Clare L. Pieuk
Christie Blatchford: In appointment of judges, departing Dalton McGuinty made one final cynical move
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Dalton McGuinty says his farewells to Ontario Liberals on Friday, January 25, 2013.
(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
Imagine the hue and cry if Stephen Harper, on the eve of either an election
in which his party’s prospects didn’t look rosy or his own well-planned
departure from politics, filled a couple of vacancies on the Supreme Court of
Canada — months before there even were
Lawyers and lawyers’ groups would be crying foul. Political opponents would
be howling. At the Toronto Star
, columnists and editorial writers
surely would be fainting in horror. Everywhere, obituaries would be written
mourning the incursion into judicial independence.
Yet that’s what it looks like Premier Dad, as former Ontario premier Dalton
McGuinty was known, did — and, of course, being widely seen as a benevolent
embodiment of conventional Canadian values, Mr. McGuinty got away with it
On Friday, January 25 from the provincial attorney-general’s office came the
announcement that two new associate chief justices of the Ontario Court, the
busiest court in the country, had just been named.
Fridays have long been considered useful days for governments to make
potentially tricky announcements, as they tend not to garner much attention.
That was particularly true on this Friday.
That very evening, Mr. McGuinty went to a stage at Maple Leaf Gardens, on the
opening night of the Liberal convention that would choose Kathleen Wynne as his
successor, and gave his farewell speech.
Now, there is no controversy about the qualifications of the two women Mr.
Both Judges Lise Maisonneuve and Faith Finnestad are veterans of the Ontario
Court, and well-qualified to make the leap to ACJ, as the position is known.
(In 2011, the ACJs made about $22,000 a year more than a regular judge, or
about $284,675 compared with $262,457.)
But ACJ Peter Griffiths, the man Judge Maisonneuve will replace, doesn’t
finish his term until July 24.
And ACJ John Andrew Payne, the fellow Judge Finnestad will replace, doesn’t
end his term until September 1.
Thus, six and nine months before the current occupants will be packing it in,
their successors were named.
It’s not the way things are ordinarily done.
"The likely benign explanation, that the government was merely “forward
planning,” doesn’t wash. The cynical one does"
When ACJs Griffiths and Payne were appointed on July 25, 2007, for instance,
Judge Griffiths began his new job the same day, Judge Payne his less than six
weeks later, on September 2.
And it’s not as though Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo is about to retire:
She was appointed in March of 2007, and the appointment is good for eight years,
or until 2015.
The likely benign explanation, that the government was merely “forward
planning,” doesn’t wash.
The cynical one does — that Mr. McGuinty couldn’t bear the spectre, perhaps
not far down the road, of Conservative leader Tim Hudak or the NDP’s Andrea
Horwath as potential premier and so took care of things himself.
In the ordinary course, the province’s system for naming judges to the
Ontario Court is far superior — both more democratic and more transparent — to
Ottawa’s for choosing Superior Court judges.
The key difference is found in how the respective judicial appointments
committees, which forward lists of approved candidates to government,
Unlike the federal committees, the provincial committees actually advertise
vacancies on the bench, which means that the traditional old boys’ network of
whispered recommendations is broadened, and after whittling down their lists,
the committees actually interview prospective candidates.
The provincial committees then forward to the attorney-general a short-ranked
list of approved names, and from there, the government picks.
But the committees have no say in appointments or promotions made within the
As the chair of the Ontario Judicial Advisory Appointments Committee, Hanny
Hassan, confirmed in a telephone interview this week, such internal appointments
are not in the JAAC’s bailiwick.
These are made by the government.
In the case of federally appointed judges, it means that the prime minister
gets to pick the chief justices of each province’s Superior Court and the ACJs,
as indeed he or she chooses the members of the Supreme Court of Canada.
In the case of provincial chief justices and ACJs, it means, though the
announcement comes out of the attorney-general’s office, the appointments are
approved by the premier of the day and his cabinet.
You will remember the circumstances under which Mr. McGuinty announced his
surprise resignation last October 15 — oh yes, and prorogued the legislature.
It was just a year after the Liberals were re-elected, though they were now a
At Queen’s Park, the finance committee was about to start hearings into the
brewing scandal over two gas-fired power plants in Mississauga and Oakville. The
plants had been cancelled at enormous cost in a nakedly partisan effort to save
Liberal seats in the 2011 election, and the then-energy minister had been
ordered by the Speaker to turn over secret documents detailing the
cancellations. About 36,000 documents were duly delivered — all that there was,
the government claimed.
Two weeks later, another 20,000 documents surfaced.
Mr. McGuinty also had alienated a long-time powerful ally, the province’s
teachers, by forcing a pay freeze upon them.
All in all, the future looked rocky for the Liberals and Mr. McGuinty.
It was a fine time for Premier Dad to take his leave, and he did so formally
that Friday night in January.
As one newspaper fondly noted, “the evening was vintage Mr. McGuinty,” and so
it was, and not only because he was surrounded by members of his large
It was also vintage Mr. McGuinty because, once again, he and his government
got away with something that would have been rightly decried if Mr. Harper had