As our colleague Ran Hirschl reported earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently filled two vacancies on the Supreme Court of Canada. With those two appointments, four is now the total number of Prime Minister Harper’s Supreme Court nominations since he ascended to power in 2006.
A few observations occur to me in light of the changing Canadian political terrain.
First, the Supreme Court now counts a majority of five justices who were chosen by conservative prime ministers. This is new ground for modern Canadian Supreme Court. The Court’s last conservative-nominated judicial majority exited until August 2002, when then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien, leader of the Liberal Party, made Marie Deschamps his fifth successful nominee for the Supreme Court.
Second, by 2014, Prime Minister Harper will have named a total of six Supreme Court justices, bringing to seven the total number of justices nominated by conservative prime ministers, assuming the balance of the court’s membership remains the same. (Under Canada’s mandatory judicial retirement law, justices must retire by the age of 75. Two sitting justices will soon reach that limit. Justices Morris Fish and Louis LeBel will turn 75 in 2013 and 2014, respectively.)
More broadly, this new judicial majority elevates the Canadian conservative movement one step closer to completing the Conservative superfecta
in Canada. Conservatives currently control a majority in the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. Once the senior bureaucracy is filled with a majority of conservative officeholders and adherents–this may have already occurred, by the way–conservatives will have consolidated all public power in Canada.
This new zero in Canadian politics is not necessarily something that Canadians should either fear or invite. It is rather something that comparativists should note as they study the changing institutional interrelationships in Canada among the Government, the Parliament, the judiciary, and the people themselves.