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The Globe and Mail

Trust parliamentarians to ask tough questions of Supreme Court appointees

Parliamentarians do not, or at least should not, need their hands held when they question Stephen Harper's next two appointees to the Supreme Court in televised public hearings. No offence to Peter Hogg, a superb legal scholar, but he should watch the proceedings like anyone else. During the first and only such hearing in Canada's history five years ago, Mr. Hogg lectured the members of the ad hoc parliamentary committee on dos and don'ts before they were permitted to ask questions. The same Mr. Hogg also prepared the appointee, Marshall Rothstein, to field the questions. He did everything but draw the curtains and dim the lights. Canada's parliamentarians are a bunch of big boys and girls and can figure it out for themselves. If they ask something they shouldn't, the appointee will not break like a pane of glass.

The fear, evidently, is that if parliamentarians are left to their own devices they will become like members of Congress in the United States. They will be impertinent, inappropriate and political. But wouldn't that be constructive - when the fetters come off, well-briefed parliamentarians could dare to ask tough, illuminating questions of an appointee to the Supreme Court. A prime minister's power to shape the leading constitutional court and thus the country is enormous, and let's stop pretending none of this is political. No more handholding, no more deference, no more daintiness.

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