Editorial: Can PM quit picking fights?

There are some fights that Prime Minister Stephen Harper should get into. Fights with the opposition, either the NDP or the Liberals? Sure, definitely. Scrapping with your political opponents is part of the democratic process. Diplomatic spats with Russia, Iran, North Korea? Yes, we expect harsh words used against corrupt and dictatorial regimes.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada?

Maybe not.

The Prime Minister’s Office has thrown out the claim against Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, accusing her of acting improperly. The case in question was the nomination of Marc Nadon, a federal appeal court judge who was appointed to the court, then bounced due to a legal challenge. Nadon didn’t have the proper background needed to take a seat on the court.

If this was a simple legal spat, that would be one thing. There is nothing wrong with the Conservatives, or anyone, from arguing their interpretation of the law. When they try to drag the reputation of the chief justice into disrepute, however, they had better have a good reason.

If there is a reason for this spat, the PMO has yet to reveal it. In fact, it seems that the most likely reason is the string of defeats the country’s top court has handed the Conservatives in recent months. 

The Conservatives are not getting much backing from the legal profession. The Canadian Bar Association has said it is deeply concerned about the spat, and wants Harper to clarify that McLachlin acted appropriately. 

It seems to follow a pattern of the PMO deciding that some group or individual is an enemy and targeting them. This is odious enough when it’s a public servant or person outside of government. It’s far worse when it’s a direct attack on the top court. The Tories need to rein in their leadership.

– M.C.

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