Four former Supreme Court justices were, in one way or another, caught up in the high-profile SNC-Lavalin affair — a surprising revelation stemming from Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion’s report.
Frank Iacobucci, in his role as SNC-Lavalin’s legal counsel, prepared a legal opinion for the government outlining why it was legitimate for then-justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in criminal matters handled by the Public Prosecution Service. He sat on the high court from 1991 to 2004.
Dion’s report revealed that Iacobucci also requested an opinion from John Major, who served on the bench from 1992 to 2005, on the legality of the Director of Public Prosecutions refusing to give SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement — and not providing reasons for that decision.
Iacobucci had also reached out to former chief justice Beverley McLachlin, who served on the Supreme Court from 2000 to 2017, and she reviewed the SNC-Lavalin file. McLachlin was also approached by Prime Minister’s Office officials about giving advice to Wilson-Raybould, but she declined the offer.
Thomas Cromwell, a Supreme Court justice from 2008 to 2016 who was not named in Dion’s report, had been tapped by Wilson-Raybould to advise her on the limits of solicitor-client privilege after she resigned from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet.
Wayne MacKay, professor emeritus of law at Dalhousie University, said one of the key principles when you’re a judge is that you are removed from politics, and objective about the political world.
Situation is ‘a bit jarring’
“That doesn’t really apply when you cease to be a judge, but it’s a bit jarring to hear about judges giving opinions on highly charged political events like this,” he told CBC News.
MacKay said it’s an emerging issue because judges used to be appointed at an older age, and disappeared from the public scene after they retired. Increasingly, judges are carrying on with significant careers after they leave the bench.
“While at one level they are retired and they should be free to do as they wish, to some extent they are still going to be viewed in the general public with the court. It’s part of their attraction as advisers, their impressive careers with the court,” he said.
MacKay said it would be a good idea to examine the issue to determine whether the trend should simply be accepted as part of the modern world, or whether ethical guidelines that apply to sitting judges should extend to retired judges.
Ethical principles for judges under review
Renée Thériault, executive legal officer for the Supreme Court of Canada, said like all Canadians, many former judges are living longer, healthier lives and choose to continue to work after retiring as justices. The question of post-judicial employment is “complex and involves many considerations,” she said.
When a former judge intends to pursue a legal career, he or she must abide by rules governed by the law society in their jurisdiction. Individual courts also have rules which may bar a former judge from appearing in court or impose a cooling-off period.
“The Canadian Judicial Council and the Federation of Law Societies have been discussing ethical principles that would complement the rules. We expect that the revised Ethical Principles for Judges will put forward additional considerations in this regard,” she said. “These considerations would apply to all former federally appointed judges whether they be from the Supreme Court or otherwise.”
Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner, who is also chair of the Canadian Judicial Council, is leading the modernization of ethical principles for judges.
“As society evolves, so do the ethical issues that judges sometimes face,” he noted when public consultations for the review process were launched in March.
A background paper says judges’ activities after retirement is among the themes under consideration.
“This issue considers ethical issues regarding pre-retirement discussions and limits on post-retirement professional activities,” it reads.
Incumbents hold onto Vancouver seats
The Liberals and NDP held onto some key seats in Metro Vancouver on election night, while the Conservatives swept the Fraser Valley, taking back some seats lost four years ago.
The political map for the Lower Mainland turned out to be a colourful one, with blobs of orange, red and blue, plus just a hint of grey in Vancouver Granville, where former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould held onto her seat as an independent.
Overall, there were fewer changes on election night in the Lower Mainland than many other places in Canada: In 20 of 26 electoral districts, the incumbent party — or candidate, in the case of Wilson-Raybould — were leading or elected, with a few close races going late into the night.
There were, however, a few suburban areas where voters decided to switch back to the Conservative Party, following a 2015 election where the Liberals won ridings in which they historically weren’t competitive.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh kept his seat in Burnaby South, while incumbent New Democrats Jenny Kwan, Don Davies and Peter Julian held onto theirs in the party’s strongholds of Vancouver East, Vancouver Kingsway and New Westminster-Burnaby.
The Liberals kept their seats in Vancouver Centre, Vancouver Quadra, Vancouver South, North Vancouver, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, Burnaby North-Seymour, Delta, Surrey Centre, Surrey-Newton, Fleetwood-Port Kells and Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam.
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Conservative incumbent Alice Wong won the riding of Richmond Centre, while the Tories stole seats from the Liberals in South Surrey-White Rock, Cloverdale-Langley City and Steveston-Richmond East, and from the NDP in Port Moody-Coquitlam.
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South Surrey-White Rock’s Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who will be returning to Ottawa as a Conservative MP after a four-year absence, told CBC she’s optimistic despite being in opposition for the first time.
“I know how to navigate in Ottawa. I know how to speak up for B.C. and the Lower Mainland,” she said. “It’s important that the people who go to Ottawa from as far away as we live, that they go with passion and energy.”
Wilson-Raybould, at one time the Liberal justice minister, won Vancouver Granville after a tight three-way race with her opponents in the Liberal and Conservative parties.
Conservatives sweep through Fraser Valley
Further east in the Fraser Valley, incumbent Conservatives were returned in Abbotsford, Langley-Aldergrove and Chilliwack-Hope.
The party also picked up seats from the Liberals in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon and Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge.
Nationwide, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau held on to just enough seats in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario to secure a minority government after a tight campaign that saw the two leading parties struggle to break out of the pack.
While final ballots are still being counted in several ridings, the Liberals are expected to win 156 seats and form a minority government.
With no single party holding a majority of votes in the House of Commons, longtime Vancouver Centre Liberal Hedy Fry said co-operation will be key for her party.
“We as Liberals have to be able to work with others who share our values and, of course, those values could be things like health care, mental health, addictions as a public health issue, housing, helping the middle class and helping get children out of poverty,” she told CBC.
“If we can find people who share those values, we’re prepared to work with anyone.”
Doug Ford congratulates Trudeau on election win
Ford issued a statement Tuesday morning congratulating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his victory and applauding all federal leaders for a “hard fought campaign.”
He says he looks forward to working with Ottawa to address “shared priorities,” including infrastructure, internal trade and mental health.
He also praised Trudeau’s commitment to helping fund the provincial government’s planned “Ontario Line” subway project that would ease congestion in Toronto’s transit system.
Ford’s statement stands out for its conciliatory tone, particularly in light of how much the Ontario premier was a target of Liberal criticism throughout the campaign.
Trudeau had repeatedly invoked Ford’s name and policy decisions when warning of the potential consequences of a Conservative election win.
Liberals look to hold N.S. seats as other parties seek electoral breakthroughs
Four years ago, Sean Fraser was part of a Liberal team that surfed a red wave to a majority government.
There was no wave on Monday night as Fraser faced a star challenger in the form of country musician and Conservative candidate George Canyon. But in the end it didn’t matter — Fraser is headed back to Ottawa to represent the riding of Central Nova after pulling in more than 46 per cent of the vote.
“I used to play a lot of basketball growing up and I remember the games where we beat a good team by two a lot more than I remember the ones where we beat up on a small school by 40,” he said in a telephone interview.
“And this feels like we beat a good team by a healthy margin. It wasn’t just a star candidate. It was tens of thousands of dollars that they poured into Facebook ads, radio ads, TV ads, a visit from the leader. And we pulled it off in any event.”
Fraser wasn’t the only Nova Scotia Liberal re-elected Monday night, part of an effort that saw the party earn a minority government in the House of Commons.
Andy Fillmore was re-elected as MP for Halifax, Darren Fisher was re-elected in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour and Darrell Samson will return as MP for Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook.
Bernadette Jordan — a cabinet minister in the Trudeau government — will return as MP in South Shore-St. Margarets and Geoff Regan, perhaps the surest electoral bet in Nova Scotia, returns as MP for Halifax West.
Fisher said he was humbled by his second victory, as well as by the 100 volunteers who greeted him as he arrived at a victory party.
“It’s an overwhelming feeling when you run for election and you see the effort and the work that’s put in by people that care about you, but also people that care about their community,” he said.
Jordan said she was thrilled by her win.
“We’re going to have a good night tonight and then tomorrow we’ll start all over again,” she said.
Fillmore said he took nothing for granted during the campaign.
“I’m just ecstatically grateful for the people of Halifax to send me to Ottawa to represent them for another term.”
Conservatives take West Nova
While the Liberals won all 11 Nova Scotia ridings in 2015, they didn’t run the table this year.
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Chris d’Entremont flipped the traditional swing riding of West Nova back to the Conservatives.
Provincially, d’Entremont has been used to easy wins. Monday was much more hard-fought, with just a few percentage points separating him from Liberal challenger Jason Deveau.
“There’s a lot more work that goes into this, but I can tell you over the last few hours I think I’ve never been more stressed,” d’Entremont said in a phone interview.
As the dust settles on the election, d’Entremont said he’s hoping everyone takes stock of the campaign and tries to dial back the rhetoric that, at times, was nasty all across the country.
“I’m going to try my best to work around, I would say, that mean-spiritedness that goes amongst all the parties,” he said.
“I’ve shown as an MLA that I’ve been able to work across party lines, that I’ve gotten things done for my area, and, you know, I really think that we just need to all take a step back and consider what happened during this election.”
Historic first win
Jaime Battiste overcame controversy during the campaign related to racist and sexist social media posts from a few years ago to become Nova Scotia’s first Indigenous MP and hold Sydney-Victoria for the Liberals, defeating a slate of candidates that included former Tory MLA Eddie Orrell.
The resident of Eskasoni First Nation holds a seat made vacant following the retirement of longtime Liberal MP Mark Eyking. He is also now the first Mi’kmaw MP in the House of Commons.
Battiste said he believes his was the most diverse campaign in the province, focusing on people from all backgrounds.
“I am really happy to be the winner today and I am going to work hard every day to show Canadians, not only Cape Breton, that I won this for a reason,” he said.
“I believe in Canada, I believe in reconciliation, I believe in diversity and these are the things I ran on,” Battiste said.
Addressing his controversial social media posts, Battiste said all he can do is apologize and move forward.
“I’ve always been a person who believes in diversity and who believes in equal rights.”
Long night for Zann
The last race of the night to be called was also the closest, with Liberal candidate Lenore Zann holding Cumberland-Colchester for the Grits.
Zann topped Conservative candidate Scott Armstrong, himself a former MP for the riding, for a seat that was up for grabs following the retirement of Nova Scotia political legend Bill Casey.
“Wow, what a roller-coaster ride,” said Zann, calling it the most fun campaign she’s run.
Zann was previously an NDP MLA who resigned to run federally.
Zann said she believes a minority government where the Liberals govern with the support of the NDP and Greens will be healthy for the country.
“In many countries, what we call hung parliaments, or minorities, work very well.”
Fresh faces in Ottawa
First-time winner Kody Blois didn’t have to wait nearly as long in holding the riding of Kings-Hants for the Liberals.
The young lawyer, running in his first federal election, won the seat that essentially belonged to longtime MP Scott Brison, who announced his retirement from politics earlier this year.
Moments after arriving at what amounted to a victory party, Blois said it was a “surreal” and “incredible” feeling.
They’ll be joined in Ottawa by fellow first-time Liberal winner Mike Kelloway, who continues a Liberal hold on the Cape Breton-Canso seat following the retirement of veteran MP Rodger Cuzner. Kelloway bested a field of six other candidates that included former Tory MLA Alfie MacLeod.
Kelloway called for unity in his victory speech.
“No matter what sign you had on your lawn, right now we are all one community and that is the way we will need to move forward,” he said.
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