Constitution, Charter, Bill
Once you have participated in an election to send a representative to the seat of government – municipal, regional, provincial, or federal – whom do you expect that representative to represent? That is, must the representative be loyal to themselves, their constituents, their party, or their country? In my opinion, local elected representatives should be loyal to local constituents and federal MPs should be loyal to our country – their decisions should be in the best interest of the country. Local government for local issues. Federal government for national issues.
In my world, we would not have provincial governments. I see no purpose for them. Move property, education, and health to the federal level. Have one driver’s licence, one set of laws, one court system, one health card, one tax office, and one school curriculum to live under the federal roof with defence, security, trade, customs and immigration, natural resources, forestry, oceans, transportation, communication, and global affairs from coast to coast to coast and around the world.
In representative democracies, the primary vehicle for holding representatives in check is the constitution. The constitution is the primary law of the country and all other laws must conform. Hand in hand with a constitution is a bill of rights to protect individuals. As long as we have both – and we do – it is simply a matter of putting the most capable people into office. By the way, of the world’s democratic nations only the UK, Israel, and New Zealand do not have a written constitution.
The problem is that our bill of rights is just a federal law and therefore not directly applicable at the provincial level. The provincial governments selfishly fought our Bill of Rights to the detriment of good government and good sense. Hence, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms was created and embedded in our Constitution. But the Charter allows exceptions and the provinces continue to take advantage.
I quote, “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Therefore, we have a mechanism that allows limits to the guaranteed rights. And, it seems to me, but I could be wrong, that most of the Charter cases involve provincial laws that test this reasonable limit. Remove the provincial legislatures and remove the problem.
What are some of the limits? These are all real: A law is unconstitutionally vague – unless it is clear enough to create legal debate. Seriously? All have the right to vote – if 18 or older. Something magical happens at 18. Time between elections is five years – except in time of war, invasion, or insurrection. Some latitude there. Liberty, the freedom to act without physical restraint is guaranteed – unless lawfully imprisoned. Because of a right to the presumption of innocence, extradition is OK – unless there is the possibility of torture. One must abide by the law – except that It’s OK to break the law in perilous circumstances (an affirmation of moral involuntariness) and law enforcement (I kid you not). Both the federal parliament and provincial legislatures can pass laws that countermand some sections of the Charter – but only temporarily. Temporarily means not more than five years. Five? Why not six?
This last one is the notwithstanding clause. Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon have all used the notwithstanding clause. In fact, Quebec under the Bloc added ‘notwithstanding’ to every law on their books – every new law and every existing law. A following Quebec Liberal government reversed that. Whenever the notwithstanding clause is invoked, a court fight follows.
Enough of having differences from province to province. Enough of acting like goats who have to stand on the top of the rock. End the waste and absurdity. End the competitiveness. End the stupidity. Are we one country or not? Remove the provincial level of government and – a bonus – put lawyers out of work.