I often find myself feeling a little bad for Andrew Coyne. He’s intelligent and his politics are more nuanced than the average hack, but rules of the game often force him to ignore both of those advantages.
His latest offers examples of both. He speculates that the recent raft of spectacularly crappy legislation coming from Ottawa is intentionally unconstitutional– and so far so good. No one could look at the new terrorism bill and think: “Yup, arresting and detaining people for crimes that they haven’t committed, but that you think they might some day, is totally OK in our legal system,” but he has to ignore things that he knows to be true in order to sketch out his ultimate conclusion: that the Harper government wants to bait the court into making a really unpopular ruling so that they can revive the notwithstanding clause.*
The first time he has to overlook what he knows is when he sets out to construct a laundry list of recent Supreme Court rulings that were unpopular and patently incorrect. He finds two suitable candidates in the Marc Nadon affair and the assisted suicide decision.** But his third example (law of threes and all that) is the decision (Saskatchewan Federation of Labour) that workers have a right to strike. Why is it unlike the others? Because it was self-evidently correct, so far as I can tell. If anyone can see how guarantees of freedom of association, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression don’t add up to right to join a picket line, I (and several university presidents) would be interested in hearing it.
The second instance is perhaps more glaring. Coyne reasons that the end goal of the conservatives must be to revive the Notwithstanding clause because no other explanation for their stupid legislation makes sense. Canadians like the Supreme Court too much for this to be an attempt to gain popularity, so it must be a trap. Well, that ignores the very thing Coyne complained about in his last column, that the Conservative Party of Canada had no interest in governing or contributing to Canadian society, but rather was a “perpetual fundraising machine.” So the obvious explanation is that the Harper government is happy to waste time, political capital and PUBLIC money on laws with no hope of surviving, so long as it pleases the small subsection of cranks, bigots and olds who donate to the party.
Ah Canadian politics. So, so stupid.
*For our American readers, who seem to be strangely numerous, Canadian politics is often deeply, deeply, stupid. So very stupid, in fact, that it was difficult to get everyone to agree on our current constitution, because many politicians were worried that it imposed some limits on their ability to be stupid in novel ways. To allay this fear, we found a uniquely stupid solution: You can still pass a flagrantly stupid law that violates the constitution, you just have to announce in advance that this law is *intentionally* stupid (and unconstitutional). This is allowed under a (stupid) clause inserted into the constitution itself, called the Notwithstanding Clause. So stupid. Like Kevin Gregg levels of stupid.
** Even Canadians don’t care about Marc Nadon.