Thursday, April 9, 2015

TOOTHLESS LAWS: FIXED TERM FRAUD

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice decision to dissolve the legislature and call an election for May 5th despite the province's fixed-term election law is the focus of some discussion in Edmonton.

Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel & Sturgeon County Mayor Don Rigney are not convinced that the Premier is following the rule of law. They want a legal interpretation on the power of the premier to call an election outside of the fixed-date legislation.  

A Court of Queen’s Bench Justice rejected an attempt to stop a possible early election by striking down an interim election injunction application. However, the judge ruled there could still be a full hearing on the merits of the case.

In a written decision released today, the Justice felt that both sides are still entitled to have a full hearing on the case because she was not satisfied that all parties had a full opportunity to argue this matter

What is the sense of fixed-term legislation if a Premier can choose to ignore it  and call an election anytime he or she wants? Such moves just underscore the cynicism being experienced by voters.

Under the Canadian Constitution, general elections are to be held at least once every five years. Premiers and Prime Ministers called elections when the conditions were most advantageous for re-election. There was no regular cycle with predictable dates. 

To try and level the playing field, many legislatures adopted fixed-term legislation to bring some predictability to the election cycle process.  Eight provinces and the federal government passed legislation in the spirit of democratic reform.  

The fixed term legislation was supposed to enhance democracy but we are not the United States a fixed election date on our existing parliamentary system is more complicated. For example, minority governments can fall at any time - necessitating an election.

Prentice's old boss Prime Minister Harper flaunted his own fixed dated legislation in 2008, when he request the House of Commons be dissolved in advance of the 2009 fixed date.

Technically, only the lieutenant-governor can dissolve a legislature but it is only done on the premier/prime minister's advice.



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