Monday, April 09, 2007

They work hard for their money

Apparently the provincial PCs have been cashing their bonus cheques to the tune of one million dollars over the past year. I don't have a problem with MLAs getting paid more for doing extra work but when it's nearly doubling their salary and the "work" being done requires air quotes to describe it? I dunno...


In other News

-I know SES has become the new oracle for many bloggers but if we're going to toss aside Angus Reid for being ridiculously low, we need to concede that these numbers do seem a bit more favourable for the grits than the other polls out there right now. That's not to say they aren't encouraging or even that the true numbers lie outside of the margin of error, but I'd want to see a few more polls confirming this before concluding that we're back to a statistical tie.

-Adam Daifallah has an interesting take on the Quebec election results.

-I'm telling you, when I see stories like this, I'm more convinced than ever that Paul Hellyer and the Canadian Action Party are poised for a breakthrough next election.

-Two thirds of Canadians favour electing judges which is absolutely shocking considering what a dumb idea that is. I'm pretty sure that if they reflecting on it for a bit, most would change their opinion quickly.

-More doom and gloom environmental reports

-Finally, my first round picks: Sabers, Devils, Rangers, Sens, Flames, Ducks, Sharks, Canucks

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44 Comments:

  • I think the SES results were mostly accurate except for Western Canada. As much as I would love to see the Grits at 35% in the West, I highly doubt they are that high and likewise I suspect the Tories are higher than 41% in the West.

    The Atlantic results although meaningless due to a small sample don't seem unreasonable since unlike elsewhere, the budget has been received quite negatively there.

    The Quebec numbers seem a bit high for the Tories, while the Ontario numbers seem more or less in line with what other polls are saying.

    By Blogger Miles Lunn, at 8:42 PM  

  • I agree with you that electing judges is a monumentally absurd idea. However, we should never underestimate the ability of Conservatives to rally people around a stupid, yet popular idea. Part of the problem is that although, as you say, people who give it a moment's thought will realize that its a bad idea, unfortunately the vast majority of people will not give it any thought at all, and will instead repeat to their friends the Conservative propaganda that will be fed to them during the election campaign.

    By Blogger PolarDan, at 8:42 PM  

  • Actually, I've never personally heard of Stephen Harper calling for elected judges, P-Dan. Is it really a part of their platform???

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 10:04 PM  

  • Yupp!

    The outlook for western canada is not good. Global warming is a force to be feared, and it is already here.

    I hope that Ottawa dampens oil sands production. It's a non-renewable resource. It becomes more valuable the longer you leave it in the ground.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 10:08 PM  

  • I think the idea of electing judges is an incredibly stupid idea. While it may sound good on the surface, this is going too far. An elected senate I can at least some merit with even though my preference is to have it abolished.

    That being said if Harper does go ahead and do this, he should be careful what he hopes for. Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are very liberal cities and we just might elect judges that are will push policies that go far further than what we have now. I off course would love to see more socially liberal policies pushed, but unless they violate the Charter, this should come from parliament.

    Another interesting thing in this poll is a clear majority of Canadians think property rights should be in the Charter, which is something I know Harper is a strong supporter of. I wonder if he will push for this and I wonder what the Liberal position would be now (we supported it under Trudeau, opposed it under Martin), especially considering we now have Garth Turner who is one of the biggest proponents of adding it to the charter.

    By Blogger Miles Lunn, at 10:57 PM  

  • I'd support adding property rights to the Charter (as long as provisions are made for PEI's land use laws, although that would fall under the "reasonable restrictions" clause of the Charter); but the provinces absolutely hate that idea, so it won't happen.

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 11:08 PM  

  • I agree with the chorus, electing judges is not a very good idea. I'm not extremely shocked that people support it though. Even in "peace, order and good government" Canada, people like populist initiatives. An elected judiciary will make judges more like politicians having to run for office, which is really sad IMHO, but people seemingly want more control of their government and they feel that this would be a way to make that branch of it more accountable to them.

    By Blogger CanadianRyan, at 11:13 PM  

  • Adding property rights to the Charter is in the Conservatives' Election Platform in 2006. Page 43.

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 11:16 PM  

  • good for you Dan, picking the Flames, I know how difficult that is for you

    By Blogger iloveLaP, at 12:33 AM  

  • Cerberus - It is in their platform, but considering there are many things in their platform, I suspect they will only for now push items they think will help them get a majority. Although the idea maybe popular, I doubt it will gain them many votes, since few rank it as a top priority.

    As for PEI subdivisions, I guess a lot would depend on how section 1 of the charter is interpreted. In all likelihood they would stay as section 1 essentially ensures all rights stay within reasonable limits. In addition the Tories are in favour of maintaining section 33, the notwithstanding clause, which the province could always use and even under Paul Martin's promise, the provinces would still have the right use it as it cannot be removed without a constitutional amendment. I am no fan of section 33 and would be happy to see it gone, but that won't happen.

    By Blogger Miles Lunn, at 1:04 AM  

  • Remember that the SES polls that predicted the election were rolling polls, not one-shots.

    Anyhow, I think the obsession with SES is, in itself, bad statistics - a conclusion drawn from an N of 2.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 2:59 AM  

  • Devils advocate is a thankless task, but I feel compelled to ask the panel - especially the honourable CG - to perhaps clarify WHY electing judges is a bad idea? Would it make a difference? As someone pointed out, wouldn't we in Canada elect nice socially progressive judges or are we really afraid that we aren't really socially progressive? Who appoints judges now - and what qualifies them to do so? Anyone????

    By Blogger fair sailing, at 3:14 AM  

  • fair sailing said

    "to perhaps clarify WHY electing judges is a bad idea? Would it make a difference?"

    Yes!

    The notion of elected judges is attractive to those who feel that they are qualified to determine the guilt of the accused, and the appropriate sentence. Despite the fact that said persons knows nothing about a case except what they hear from the media and the rumour mill.

    Therefore, this POV would like to have the power to elect like-minded judges to do their will. The consequence? Extremists may tip the vote in favour of an extreme judge. Vengeful people will elect vengeful judges.

    In our constitution, it is the job of the legislature (who answer to voters) to create statutes. Parliament has the responsibility to define crimes, set a range of sentences etc. It is the task of the judicial system (under Common Law) to confirm the constitutional correctness of the laws, interpret the statures etc after careful examination of the issues.

    Therefore, judges have the potential to create laws that are as valid as the statutes passed by our elected representatives. Judges in the Napoleonic Code system don’t have the same power, and elections would not be important. Such societies tend to be authoritarian

    In a system like ours, judges are being chosen in a process that primarily depends on peer review. Though political interests may sponsor a suitable candidate, the system makes an effort to ensure that successful candidates are sufficiently qualified. And, that the standards applied are consistent over time and throughout the jurisdiction.

    Elected judges will not be of consistent qualification or quality. Usually, anyone with legal training may be eligible for office as long as they are members of the Bar. That says nothing about their experience or about the quality of their work.

    Our judicial system keeps its judges in line through a disciplinary board. Errant judges undergo ‘remedial’ courses. This maintains future consistency in a system of common law. Higher courts correct mistakes made by lower courts.

    However, a system of elected lower judges is likely to have a higher number of reversals. So, elected judges may throw the entire judicial system into disrepute.

    In summary, our judicial system has been built to counter the power of the legislature and executive branches. It has the autonomy to affect our lives in significant ways. That said, the system is conservative in a traditional sense that is a good thing for social stability.

    Any changes in the effect of the law must start with the legislature. Harper’s problem is that his minority government can’t change the statutes unilaterally. So, he’s been trying to sneak in the back way by changing the selection of judges.

    He may try the option of elected judges if that fails too. But, we must resist him because changing one lynchpin of the system destabilizes the entire system.

    I have no legal training. Please correct any errors in my post. Thanks.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 6:16 AM  

  • Re SES vs Angus Reid...what all the pollsters can agree on is that voter support and attitudes are about as stable as a crate of nitroglycerine on gravel road. Any party leader who wants to stake their future on the numbers that have been out since December is playing Russian roulette.

    Having said that, Angus Reid is relying on this online survey methodology to cook up its results. I don't know how any self-respecting pollster can publish online survey results with a clear conscience and without a truckload of caveats.

    By Blogger Raymaker, at 10:25 AM  

  • I'm still confused - has Harper actually called for electing judges???

    Fair Sailing, in my own personal view, judges should make decisions based not on re-election hopes, but with jurisprudence* alone. Politicians are all jerk-offs for trying desperately to get back in - imagine judges doing the same.

    That's just my view, though. Others may have different opinions - fair enough.


    *I'm probably mis-using the word in the sentence...

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 10:57 AM  

  • So Canadians are intelligent enough to be jurors, but too stupid to elect judges?
    Andrew Coyne has written about the relationship between donations to the Liberal party and being appointed as a judge. I have it on file but won't post the whole thing here.
    There is a former Supreme Court judge from the Maritmes who is known in his home province as a child molester.
    So a pedophile who makes political donations is assumed to be beyond criticism?

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 11:39 AM  

  • I'm still confused - has Harper actually called for electing judges???

    No.

    By Blogger The Invisible Hand, at 11:49 AM  

  • nuna said

    "There is a former Supreme Court judge from the Maritmes who is known in his home province as a child molester.
    So a pedophile who makes political donations is assumed to be beyond criticism?"

    Would you like to name the person? So that the person can defend himself. Of course, said person could sue you for deframation.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 11:59 AM  

  • Nuna said,

    “So Canadians are intelligent enough to be jurors, but too stupid to elect judges?”

    Jurors make their verdict after sitting through a trial. They are bound by the rules of evidence and guided by the judge. In contrast, electors may vote on any basis. There are some that will be swayed by a glib sound bite without any substance. Would you entrust your future to a judge elected by a mob?

    “Andrew Coyne has written about the relationship between donations to the Liberal party and being appointed as a judge.”

    There are two issues here. Do you have evidence that the candidates you say made political contributions are less qualified than non-contributors? Second, are you saying that a known pedophile was allowed to be a judge?

    Your misleading and libelous statements are the very reason why elections should not be held for judges.

    The grits lost the last election because of the innuendoes from the income trust investigation. One civil servant has been charged. No politician has been found to be associated with an inside trader. Probably, there were slips of the tongue. But, no Liberal politician was found to be corrupt.

    What we need are incentives to draw better-qualified candidates! We get poor judges when we don’t have enough candidates to chose from. Indeed, elections may deter many qualified lawyers from trying while boosting the chances of the less qualified.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:47 PM  

  • As one letter-to-the-editor commented in the Globe today, it's ironic that people trust judges more than politicians but favour electing judges, since electing judges would turn them into politicians.

    There is obviously a certain amount of political involvement in the appointments process (since the nominees are made by politicians); but that is very different from elections, and our judicial appointments system still vets people for qualifications.

    Electing judges, as stated, turns judges into political officials, which they are absolutely not supposed to be. Moreover, it politicizes the work they do, because they will campaign on their record in office (or have it used against them; it's a disincentive to make unpopular but correct rulings).

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 2:03 PM  

  • islandlib; I saw that letter to the ed this morning and loved it!

    Without going into it in too much depth, the problems with electing judges are:

    -more partisanship (although, I guess that's debatable since they might already be partisan)

    -less qualified judges (since the ability to get elected does not a great judge make)

    -more populist judicial decisions (wanting to get re-elected)

    -more extreme judges (just speculation on my part, but I could see a propensity for very Liberal judges in, say, Toronto, and very conservative ones in Alberta).


    Even the Tories wouldn't consider going down this road.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:47 PM  

  • I'm curious as to whether or not ambitious legal types are going to have an easier time selling themselves to a small elitist clique (I guess that means their peers) than a larger electorate? For instance, if we subjected potential justices to a wider scrutiny (and let's face it that means the press as well) might we actually know more about the men and women that adjudicate so many aspects of our lives? I happen to be jaded enough to recognise that lawyers become judges - and I wouldn't trust a lawyer for sh.... well, you know what I mean. After all, Ottawa is full of them.

    By Blogger fair sailing, at 3:45 PM  

  • Section 11(d) of the Charter:

    Anyone charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an INDEPENDENT and IMPARTIAL tribunal.

    In 2003, the SCC found that to be independent the court must have:

    financial security
    security of tenure
    administrative independence

    In 2002 the SCC held "a core principle of judicial independence is the liberty of a judge to hear and decide cases without fear of external reproach".

    Not to mention the fact that people in Canada are entitled to have trials in both official languages - how does the government ensure that a French speaking judge is elected in Alberta, and an English speaking judge is elected in Quebec?

    In my respectful opinion, this is a non-starter.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 4:28 PM  

  • I respect the ideal of judicial impartiality - what I'm asking, is can you be sure it exists? I'm not sure I understand the present process of selecting the judiciary sufficiently enough to be able to wax eloquent on its merits or otherwise. However, I am a bit skeptical of any situation where my "betters" try to baffle me with bullsh*t - no one has yet to explain the present process of judicial nomination and its merits. Does anyone really believe that the judiciary isn't subjected to "external reproach" even if it's from their peers? If not, I wonder if there shouldn't be a process of judicial review - or does that already exist? As for trials in two official languages... well, is bilingualism supplanting some aspects of impartiality?

    By Blogger fair sailing, at 4:57 PM  

  • ME: I'm still confused - has Harper actually called for electing judges???

    TIH: No.


    Okay, so comments about Harper "going down this road" are just bullshit - just wanted to check.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 5:15 PM  

  • So Canadians are intelligent enough to be jurors, but too stupid to elect judges?

    They're not really related (and I'd personally question how fit most people really are to be jurors).

    Andrew Coyne has written about the relationship between donations to the Liberal party and being appointed as a judge.

    Then those people should be thrown in jail for bribery and abuse of our system. A situation like that is wrong. Making judges into politicians isn't going to improve things, in my mind.

    So a pedophile who makes political donations is assumed to be beyond criticism?

    Whoa - beyond criticism how? Who suggested such a thing?

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 5:19 PM  

  • "Not to mention the fact that people in Canada are entitled to have trials in both official languages - how does the government ensure that a French speaking judge is elected in Alberta, and an English speaking judge is elected in Quebec?"

    The judge does not have to be bilingual. The court has to provide translation.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 5:25 PM  

  • "Whoa - beyond criticism how? Who suggested such a thing?"

    Unelected judges or senators of course can be critisized, but cannot he held accountable.
    The judge in western Canada who was caught with underage aboriginal girls and who received a slap on the wrist that outraged aboriginal groups is an example of someone who wound up "above the law" because he wasn't held accoutable to the public.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 5:35 PM  

  • fair sailing - I am far from an expert, but I will try to answer your questions.

    First, I should disclose that I have close friends who are lawyers, and my neighbour (and friend) is a judge.

    My friend who is a judge has not contributed to a political party, nor has he been a member of a political party. It is commonly accepted amongst legal professionals that his appointment was based on merit alone. That makes him somewhat unique, as there is no doubt patronage plays a role in judicial appointments.

    From what I understand of the appointment system, an individual who wishes to become a judge must apply. That person is then vetted by a committee. Up until Harper got a hold of it, that committee was made up of lawyers (from both sides of the fence), representatives of the provincial and federal governments and judges. Essentially, all applicants go through this vetting process and the names that come out on the other side are the ones from which the PM (or Premier) chooses his appointment.

    A friend who is a lawyer has been through this committee twice, and both times made the short list of potential appointments, and both times was overlooked in favour of a member of the conservative party faithful.

    I have no issue with the patronage appointments because all the people who are vetted by the committee have made it past the "peer review" and should be qualified (I say "should be" because there is no doubt some of the appointments turn out to be far from ideal).

    So, there is judicial review at the front end in the vetting process (though Harper has removed that by adding a new member to the committee and removing the judicial vote). The other place there is judicial review is through appellate review of lower court decicisions. There is also a judicial complaints committee (I an not sure of the exact title), which has forced some judges to step down.

    Finally, there is the law, which reigns supreme, and the Constitution which reigns supremer :).

    The danger of an elected judiciary, as many have pointed out, is that some judges may ignore the law in order to curry favour with the voters. Judges must feel free to make unpopular decisions if those decisions are correct. If they are incorrect ...well there are up to 13 other judges to whom appeals may be made and who will be prepared to correct those decisions.

    jason - we all know Harper is not supporting elected judges, but the question was asked in the survey and that survey is making news. I think that is because Harper has openly stated that he wants to appoint judges who will impose his agenda. That, along with the new composition of the committees is policizing this whole issue, and certainly opens the doors to the notion of elected judges. The idea to ask this question did not come out of thin air.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 6:06 PM  

  • Yikes, I've never heard of that judge.

    I've always assumed that judges are disbarred for things like - well, like sleeping with underage girls, for example.

    Is that guy still a judge???

    Does being a judge keep you from serving time, like a diplomat??

    What about a system whereby a petition of X amount of signatures forced a government review of judges, perhaps?

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 6:07 PM  

  • the question was asked in the survey and that survey is making news

    Oh, horseshit. If a poll comes out tomorrow asking if Dion should support a law allowing people to fuck underage housepets, that doesn't make it legitimate fear-mongering for Conservatives to start "cautioning" us about Dion "going down that road".

    Please.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 6:10 PM  

  • Jason - read my post again. I am NOT saying Harper is supporting this - in fact I specifically said otherwise. I am just giving possible reasons why the question was asked

    By Blogger Gayle, at 6:23 PM  

  • Nuna said

    “The judge in western Canada who was caught with underage aboriginal girls and who received a slap on the wrist that outraged aboriginal groups is an example of someone who wound up "above the law" because he wasn't held accoutable to the public.”

    Once again, you got the facts wrong. You are merely voicing your prejudices, and libeling people and institutions. Here are the facts.

    “Former Canadian judge David Ramsay was sentenced last week to seven years' imprisonment for serious sex assaults against underage aboriginal prostitutes in Prince George, British Columbia.
    A former colleague of the disgraced judge, Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm of the British Columbia Supreme Court, said Ramsay had shamed the judiciary, his family, and himself with his criminal acts.
    Dohm imposed what is believed to be the longest sentence imposed on a former judge in Canadian history for what is also believed to be the most serious crime committed by a former judge.
    In handing down a longer sentence than asked for by the Crown prosecutors, Dohm stated that Ramsay had used his office to intimidate the girls and shield his actions over a nine-year period from 1992, just a year after he had been appointed to the bench.”

    Stop making a fool of yourself.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 6:40 PM  

  • gayle,

    Thanks for the write-up. The issues are clearer to me now.

    Jim

    By Blogger JimTan, at 6:43 PM  

  • Judge David Ramsay was sentenced to 7 years for the sexual abuse of nine girls. He is eligible for full parole after serving 3 years.Many racists find that an acceptable sentence for the abuse of aboriginal girls.
    Other charges were dropped and an aboriginal demand for investigation into other possible abuses were not met.
    Aboriginal leaders and victims rights groups called for a 25 year sentence.
    After continued concern about a cover-up involving Ramsay and the police, two RCMP officers are under investigation for sexual abuse as well.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 7:41 PM  

  • So some people disagree with the sentence. Seven years is hardly a "slap on the wrist."

    Furthermore, how would being elected change any of that?

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 8:00 PM  

  • Electing judges?

    Boring. There's no compelling reason to change it. And it won't light any electoral fire to propose changing it. Boring, boring, boring.

    I agree with comment no. 1 from Miles Lunn:

    SES results are mostly accurate. Especially the part where it says Stephane Dion would have a hard time filling a phone booth with his admirers.

    Let's talk about why that would be.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 9:49 PM  

  • SES results are mostly accurate. Especially the part where it says Stephane Dion would have a hard time filling a phone booth with his admirers.

    Let's talk about why that would be.

    Looking at it dispassionately, perhaps it's because too many people are telling him what he wants to hear instead of what he needs to hear.

    By Blogger Brian in Calgary, at 10:03 PM  

  • brianincalgary said

    "Looking at it dispassionately, perhaps it's because too many people are telling him what he wants to hear instead of what he needs to hear."

    I was a close observer during the leadership campaign. I can assure Brian that he is wrong.

    What's really interesting is that the diference between the red and blue is only 3% after harper's best efforts.

    Have a look at the blog of leftwingview. harper will be committing hari kiri if those numbers are true.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 11:19 PM  

  • Yea, the difference is only 3% if you ignore all other evidence that suggests the game is more like 9%.

    By Blogger Chris, at 1:13 AM  

  • Well this judge is in prison now (where he should be), that's good. I don't think it would make much difference if he'd been elected -- surely he will not be returning to the bench after getting out??

    I have a hard time believing that anyone who finds 7 years acceptable for child molestation (and I think it's a SERIOUS crime myself) is a racist who hates aboriginals. They more likely feel different about child molestors than you or I do, that's all.

    By Blogger Jason Bo Green, at 7:41 AM  

  • Methinks that some of the reasons that there is a discussion about elected judges is that there has been some preponderance of some existing judges to legislate from the bench; particularity "reading" into charter issues.

    I don't feel strongly one way or the other, but if you could show me a system that would ensure that appointed judges would NOT advance their own prejudices (and knowing some judges, yes, they do have perspectives on societal issues), then I would support that system.

    I do see issues with an system of elected judges, but there are problems with our existing system also.

    By Blogger Andy, at 2:24 PM  

  • Andy said

    “I don't feel strongly one way or the other, but if you could show me a system that would ensure that appointed judges would NOT advance their own prejudices (and knowing some judges, yes, they do have perspectives on societal issues), then I would support that system.”

    Surprise! Judges don’t pull a decision out of the thin air.

    They listen to the arguments of the lawyers on both sides. Then, they decide! And, decisions can be appealed to a higher court.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 6:56 PM  

  • This won't really have success, I consider like this.

    By Anonymous www.publicidad.org.es, at 2:26 PM  

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