Federal Court of Appeal Ruling Means Harper Conservatives Broke Their 2006 Election Promise to Fix Election Dates
Democracy Watch Will Apply For Leave
to Appeal to Supreme Court of Canada -- Group Calls on Prime Minister
Promise Not to Call Another Snap Election Until Supreme Court Rules --
Created a Facebook
Group To Protest Another Snap Federal Election
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
OTTAWA - Yesterday, in a unanimous ruling
the same day as the
court hearing, the Federal Court
of Appeal ruled that the Bill C-16 fixed-election-date
measures passed by Parliament in May 2007 were too vague and so did not
change the Canada
Elections Act to prohibit the Prime Minister in any way from
calling snap elections, and that therefore Conservative
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's September 2008 snap federal election
The ruling (on court file #A-427-09) means the Conservatives
broke their 2006 election promise to pass a law that fixes federal
election dates every four years.
Democracy Watch will apply for leave to appeal to the Supreme
Court of Canada, and 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 Federal Court of
Appeal's ruling effectively cancelled
similar fixed-election-date laws in British Columbia, Manitoba,
New Brunswick, Newfoundland and
Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and the Northwest
Democracy Watch has also created the Facebook page Canadians
Elections to help Canadians protest another
federal election call by any prime minister.
Democracy Watch's position is that the Federal Court of
If the Supreme Court of Canada 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 Supreme Court of Canada disagrees with Democracy
Watch's position and upholds the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling, it
will rule that the measures were not specific enough to change the Canada Elections Act to restrict
the Prime Minister from calling a snap election, and therefore that
Prime Minister Harper broke his
2006 election promise to enact measures that fix federal election dates.
"If Democracy Watch wins, the Supreme Court of Canada 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 the Federal Court of
same day as yesterday's 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 will apply to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to
appeal the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling, and 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