I’ve been trying to understand the thought process, because I want there to be a thought process, behind the squabble Stephen Harper has begun with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada, which overall cannot be said to have benefited the Prime Minister.
If Mr. Harper could go back in time, would he do something to prevent anonymous high-level Conservative sources from insinuating that she acted inappropriately, indeed “lobbied,” in the matter of his failed Supreme Court nominee, Marc Nadon – and I’m not above thinking that might entail a simple, “No, on second thought, don’t”?
If he could, would Mr. Harper now go back to last week and warn Justice Minister Peter MacKay to, under no circumstances, double down on questioning the Chief Justice’s integrity? Would he, perhaps, before turning his time machine back home, instruct the PMO not to imply that she had attempted to call the Prime Minster about a case currently before the courts because she, demonstrably, didn’t?
I’d like to believe, because he is the leader of my country, after all, that Mr. Harper perhaps knew he could not actually win this battle, and was merely pandering to a very specific and hitherto-unidentified demographic.
Maybe I’m out of touch. Maybe Conservative polling shows there are millions of Canadians who, more than anything else, want a semi-retired judge with a focus on maritime law whose first initial is an M and who once lectured at the Université de Sherbrooke on the nation’s highest bench, and this was Mr. Harper’s one shot. Maybe that odd maritime-law-loving demographic now feels it has been heard, and will remember Mr. Harper’s passion in this affair, come election day.
He does like to list things that “ordinary Canadians” don’t care about. I have tended to dismiss his assessment of our enthusiasms as mere talking points, but perhaps he does know something I don’t. Maybe “regular Canadians” caring so little about most things the Conservatives don’t want to talk about, as we’re told is the case, fill that hole in their lives by caring desperately about who is appointed to the Supreme Court.
Possibly, had the PMO not dragged this really rather dreary story back into the public eye by seriously disparaging the Chief Justice’s professionalism, it would not, as I imagined, have been all but forgotten a week later.
Maybe Canadians play Fantasy Supreme Court every weekend and they just don’t invite me, and now that he has found something that ordinary Canadians are passionate about, Mr. Harper is working it. Honestly, I’ll take it. At least, if that’s the case – while he may have been mercenary and willing to sacrifice Canadians’ faith in their justice system for petty political reasons, Mr. Harper was at least savvy. He was at least playing Settlers of Catan while everyone else was playing Checkers, even if he is sneaking extra sheep cards when no one is looking.
Barring that scenario, maybe the PMO attempted to kneecap the respected head of our Supreme Court because Mr. Harper imagined the public would be outraged by her once his party had all but alleged that she is a judge with an agenda.
I’m not saying that would be right, but it would be better than the only other reason I can come up with for Mr. Harper’s erratic and, frankly, crass behaviour in this matter – behaviour that is 1,000 miles beneath the dignity of his office – and that is that he is simply behaving like a spoiled child.
The Supreme Court has, of course, made several decisions that have gravely frustrated the Prime Minister of late. Anti-prostitution measures were struck down and Senate reform made functionally impossible, among others. Disappointing as this must be for him, metaphorically hurling Beanie Babies at a respected and, it should be mentioned, Tory-appointed judge isn’t the answer.
When this happens, Canadians lose faith in their institutions, the legal community loses its patience and you, sir, lose all your Beanie Babies.