Lots of newspaper headlines and TV reports last night and today about how Stephen Harper's nominee for the Supreme Court will be facing a grilling from an ad hoc, all party committee of Parliamentarians on Monday. The reality though? Not so much.
Where does the nominee stand on abortion? Same-sex marriage? The right to privacy? Sorry, but there's another piece of the U.S. model we're adopting: no litmus tests. Said Harper's Justice Minister, the Hon. Vic "has a record" Toews, on CBC's Politics broadcast yesterday:
"It would be inappropriate for a committee member to ask about how a judge would rule in future cases, for example, because that would prejudice litigants, either before the courts or litigants who may want to bring matters before the courts."
Fair enough Vic, so what could the nominee be asked about then…
"There are background questions that the committee members could ask..."
So nothing on issues that might come before the court. As a public service to the committee here's a few questions acceptable within the Conservative guidelines:
Would you describe yourself as goal-driven?
What do you expect to be doing in five years?
Why did you decide to seek a position in this
company Supreme Court?
What kind of supervisor do you work best for? Provide examples.
Describe a situation where you found yourself dealing with someone who didn't like you. How did you handle it?
What is the biggest mistake you've made?
Valuable insight to be gained here for sure. I can see what Toews is saying to a point, but if blindingly relevant questions are out of bounds then why are we wasting our time?
The answer is this dog and pony show is a public relations exercise, nothing more. Combine the out of bounds questioning with the fact the committee has no veto, and won't even take a vote to make a recommendation, and this is even more obvious.
I don't know what the right system would be. I don't want an American-style politicization of the appointment system but this is an awful lot of power to be invested in the hands of the Prime Minister (you mean a Conservative one, don't you? -inner snark). But a toothless, meaningless committee hearing is just a waste of time.
It does, however, make people forget about David Emerson and Michael Fortier for a little while though so hey, nice work there.
Nice piece in Politics Watch on Toews' flip-floppery on the appointments process: Vic Toews then and now.