Saturday, December 24, 2011

CAITI's Outstanding Canadian of 2011 Award: Bill Vander Zalm

Bill Vander Zalm's successful fight against the Harper government's regressive HST is a MOST RARE example of democracy in action in Canada:

How it felt: To lead a revolt that killed a sales tax and helped drive a premier from office

Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Dec. 23, 2011 8:43PM EST

Former Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm was at the forefront of a fight to kill the province’s HST tax. About 700,000 signatures were gathered to spark a referendum

When we announced the initiative campaign, many in the media said it could never be done. We started up north, thinking this would be the most difficult area. When Fort St. John, a normally Conservative/Liberal area, gave us a rousing welcome with prominent party members offering to lead the campaign in their area, we knew the people were definitely on side.

The signature collecting started in 2010. Our fearless signature collectors worked outside in rain, sleet and snow. People were wonderful, wished us well and brought us hot drinks.

When big business saw they might lose it, they brought on a court case, claiming our petition was unconstitutional. With little resources against megabucks, we fought and won.

The most memorable days came when the petition sheets began rolling back from all over the province. They came hand-delivered, by Greyhound, by FedEx or by Purolator to our house. When the media asked where these went, we responded “the vault” – a large room in our house with double-lock doors. We refused to tell them where and what “the vault” was. If one box, from any one constituency was damaged, we would lose the fight.

For many weeks, our normally tidy house was a disaster. My wife Lillian checked every one of 100,000-plus petition sheets, which were spread out everywhere. We even refused visitors to come to the house, no one was to know.

Two weeks before the due date, we loaded up a rental truck for delivery to Elections BC in Victoria. What a celebration.

— Written by Bill Vander Zalm

Thursday, December 22, 2011

You Go Girl!

Helena Guergis suing Prime Minister Stephen Harper
CBC News
Posted: Dec 22, 2011 4:19 PM

Former MP Helena Guergis has launched a lawsuit against Prime Minister Stephen Harper and her former party for defamation and other claims. Former MP Helena Guergis has launched a lawsuit against Prime Minister Stephen Harper and her former party for defamation and other claims. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Former MP Helena Guergis is suing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Conservative MPs Shelly Glover and Lisa Raitt, the Conservative Party of Canada and a number of other individuals for defamation and other claims.

The former member of Harper's cabinet, who had to leave the Conservative caucus following allegations against her and her husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer, launched the court action in Ontario's Superior Court of Justice and the statement of claim was obtained by CBC.

Guergis is not only suing her former boss and colleagues, but also Ray Novak, Harper's principal secretary, Arthur Hamilton and the law firm he works for, Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff, Axelle Pellerin, and Derrick Snowdy. Snowdy is the private investigator from Toronto whose allegations helped spark the controversy around Guergis and her husband.

She is suing Harper and most of the others named in the lawsuit for defamation, conspiracy, intentional infliction of mental suffering and negligence.

Guergis is suing for general damages of $800,000 plus punitive damages of $250,000 and aggravated damages of $250,000.

Flaherty's smack down

Supreme Court rejects national securities regulator plan

By Drew Hasselback, Financial Post December 22, 2011 10:06 AM

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on the constitutionality of a national securities regulator, as proposed by the federal government.

OTTAWA — The federal government's ambitious plan to set up a single national securities regulator has been dealt a severe blow by the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled Thursday that Ottawa's proposed legislation is unconstitutional.

In a ruling that is bound to disappoint Ottawa, Ontario, and several business groups, the Supreme Court held that oversight for the investment industry fits squarely within the "property and civil rights" powers that are assigned to the provinces by the Constitution Act of 1867.

Ottawa had tried to claim control over the securities business by invoking its regulatory power over trade and commerce, but the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government's plan overstepped the constitutional boundaries that case law has erected over time to prevent Ottawa from overusing that power.

In the unanimous decision, which was released by the court and is therefore not attributed to any specific judge as author, the court says Ottawa's planned approach would dive too deeply into the day-to-day operations of the securities industry, which are contractual in nature and therefore fit squarely within the provincial power over property and civil rights.

Yet the ruling does suggest that it would be possible for both levels of government to seek "common ground" and share oversight of securities, with the provinces able to look after the day-to-day aspects of the industry and the federal government able to keep an eye on systemic risk.

"While the proposed act must be found ultra vires (beyond) Parliament's general trade and commerce power, a co-operative approach that permits a scheme that recognizes the essentially provincial nature of securities regulation while allowing Parliament to deal with genuinely national concerns remains available," the court's written 64-page written ruling states.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced the Proposed Canada Securities Act in May 2010. The federal government's plan called for the provinces to voluntarily join a scheme that would gradually transfer regulation of securities to a single national regulator from the current patchwork of 13 provincial and territorial securities commissions.

The federal proposal is too heavy handed and upsets the existing constitutional balance that exists in the division of powers, the court said.

"Co-operation is the animating force. The federalism principle upon which Canada's constitutional framework rests demands nothing less."

The court's reasoning strictly adheres to previous court rulings and treats the question before the court as a legal problem, not a policy one. It applied a five-step test from a 1989 decision called General Motors that sets out the boundaries for the federal government's trade and commerce power. The essence of the test is to determine whether the federal government seeks to oversee something that would be beyond the ability of the provinces to regulate on their own.

For generations, previous court rulings have confirmed that securities oversight was a provincial competence under the "property and civil rights" provisions of the Constitution.

Indeed, provincial courts of appeal in Alberta and Quebec have previously concluded that Ottawa's planned legislation is constitutionally out of bounds. Alberta's Court of Appeal last March ruled 5-0 that Ottawa lacked the power to regulate securities, while Quebec's court in early April rejected Ottawa's plan in a 4-1 ruling.

In a decision that reiterates long-held constitutional boundaries, the nine Supreme Court judges unanimously confirmed that Ottawa's legislations fails the constitutional test.

Financial Post
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

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Monday, December 12, 2011

David Johnston's defining moment: Will he uphold the rule of law or not?

Liberals Ask Governor General to Withhold Royal Assent from Illegal Conservative Wheat Board Bill

OTTAWA– In a letter delivered today to Rideau Hall, Liberal Leader Bob Rae asked the Governor General to consider withholding royal assent from Bill C-18, in light of last week’s Federal Court decision that found the government to be in breach of the law.

“This Conservative government is using their majority to force through their legislation to kill the Canadian Wheat Board, despite the Federal Court’s ruling that the Agriculture Minister's conduct is an affront to the rule of law,” said Mr. Rae. “Given this condemnation of the government’s attempt to unilaterally dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board, and given their decision to appeal, it would be inappropriate to proceed with the legislation until these matters have been exhausted before the courts.”

On December 7, 2011, the Federal Court issued a ruling finding the Government of Canada’s refusal to respect the statutory mandate to convene a plebiscite for farmers prior to dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board contravened s. 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Judge Campbell characterized “the most important effect” of granting the Breach Declaration as holding the responsible Minister “accountable for is disregard of the rule of law”.

“As the intent of Bill C-18 is inextricably linked to the question of whether the Government fulfilled its obligations to consult with affected farmers, it would be entirely within the Governor General’s prerogative to withhold royal assent until the outstanding questions of law and any on-going court processes were sorted,” said Mr. Rae. “As Canadians clearly cannot count on this Conservative government to do the fair and lawful thing and not proceed with this legislation, we hope that the Governor General will use his discretion and prevent this illegal bill from becoming law.”