Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein of the Federal Court of Appeal has been nominated to fill the vacant seat on Canada's highest court, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.
The Winnipeg-born jurist will also make Canadian history as the first appointee to face a public, all-party review before being formally named to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The final verdict on the appointment rests with Mr. Harper, who is expected to make his decision within days of Monday's hearing.
Judge Rothstein, 65, has long been rumoured a top contender for the job, with supporters citing his past experience with the Federal Court as excellent training for the demands of a Supreme Court posting.
Madam Justice Constance Hunt of the Alberta Court of Appeal and University of Saskatchewan president Peter MacKinnon were also said to be among those on the shortlist, which was drawn up by the previous Liberal government and vetted by an independent committee.
The new appointee will replace Mr. Justice John Major, who retired in December at age 75.
"Marshall Rothstein's candidacy was scrutinized by a comprehensive process initiated by the previous government that included members from all the political parties," Mr. Harper said. "I believe he has the qualifications necessary to serve Canadians well from the country's highest court."
Judge Rothstein was appointed to the Federal Court in 1992 under Brian Mulroney's Tory government and raised to the court's appeal division in 1999 while Jean Chrétien Liberals were in power.
He is widely considered a transportation expert, having chaired a committee in the 1990s which reviewed Canada's aviation policy.
His most famous decision, however, came in 1999 in a ruling that allowed a patent to be issued on a living animal - a cancer-prone mouse that had been genetically modified. That ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court in a split decision in 2002.
Thursday's announcement marks the start of a new process for Supreme Court appointees, which will see them answer questions from members of an all-party review committee during a three-hour televised session. Mr. Harper announced the new format on Monday, heralding it as an "unprecedented move forward" in how the judiciary is selected in this country.
The shift, however, has also drawn criticism from some corners - including members of the legal profession - who charge that such U.S.-style hearings threaten to politicize the process.
In the past, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin had said the process of appointing judges to the court was working and should be left alone. She has also warned that Parliament could undermine Canadians' confidence in the court if it decides to change the appointment process.
Unlike the U.S. system, Canada's 12-member all-party committee will not have the power to veto a nominee. Canada's Constitution gives the prime minister the ultimate power to appoint judges to this country's highest court.
"I am looking forward to watching the ad hoc committee's work and listening to Mr. Rothstein's answers," Mr. Harper said of the next step in the process.
"This hearing marks an unprecedented step towards the more open and accountable approach to nominations that Canadians deserve."
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister's Office said Mr. Harper will likely make his final decision on the appointment "a few days" after Monday's hearing.
The all-party committee will be presided over by Justice Minister Vic Toews and include his Liberal predecessor, Irwin Cotler.
They are joined by Diane Ablonczy, Daryl Kramp, Daniel Petit and Rob Moore of the Conservatives; Sue Barnes, Anita Neville and Stephen Owen of the Liberals; Real Ménard and Carole Freeman of the Bloc, and Joe Comartin of the NDP.
The committee is designed to reflect the makeup of the current minority Parliament, with no one party holding a majority position.
Mr. Cotler said Thursday he doesn't expect Monday's hearing to delve into Judge Rothstein's personal opinions on issues that may come before the court like abortion or same-sex marriage.
"We wouldn't be asking those questions because it would be inappropriate, and I think Canadians would not want a prospective nominee for the court to begin to share how he would decide on matters that have yet to come before the court," Mr. Cotler said during an appearance on CBC Newsworld.
"Judges do not share their personal beliefs. They rule in accordance with the application of the law of the land. It would be inappropriate to ask such a question. If Justice Rothstein has such a question put to him, I would expect that he would decline to answer it."
Born in Winnipeg on Dec. 25, 1940, Judge Rothstein received his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Manitoba. He was called to the bar in 1966. The same year, he and Sheila Dorfman married. They have four children and two grandchildren.
His private practice career began in 1966 as an associate with Thorvaldson, Eggerston, Saunders and Mauro. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1979.
Between 1981 and 1982, he chaired Manitoba's commission on compulsory retirement. In 1990, he was chairman of the of the national ministerial taskforce on international air policy and has served as a member on a number of other Manitoba and national transportation-related committees.
The Supreme Court's spring session begins April 10.