Nfld. & Labrador

Atlantic Opposition leaders band together to fight Supreme Court changes

The Opposition leaders in all four Atlantic provinces have come together in an unusual move to keep a guaranteed Supreme Court Justice seat for their region.

Letter sent to Justin Trudeau signed by all four party leaders from Atlantic Canada

Leaders Jamie Fox, from P.E.I., Bruce Fitch, from N.B., Paul Davis, from N.L., and Jamie Baillie, from N.S., have all signed a letter to the prime minister encouraging him to reverse his decision on removing a guaranteed seat for Atlantic Canada on the Supreme Court of Canada. (CBC)

The Opposition leaders in all four Atlantic Canada provinces have come together in an unusual move to keep a guaranteed Supreme Court seat for the region.

In each of the four provinces, the Opposition leaders represent the Progressive Conservatives.

The four leaders penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, calling on him to reverse his decision to no longer guarantee Atlantic Canada a seat on the Supreme Court of Canada.

The four Opposition leaders penned the letter, in part, because all 32 of Atlantic Canada MPs are Liberal, and so are the four Atlantic premiers.

I really think they're being quiet because they want to keep riding the Trudeau wave.- Jamie Baillie

Newfoundland and Labrador PC Leader Paul Davis acknowledged the uniting of all four leaders is unusual.

"It's probably unprecedented," said Davis. "It's an interesting dynamic, to say the least, but we see an opportunity to benefit Atlantic Canadians."

Trudeau said when Nova Scotia Justice Thomas Cromwell retires this year, his seat can be filled by anyone in the country.

That ends the constitutional convention of designating one seat on the court to an Atlantic Canadian.

No guarantee from PM

During his recent trip to Atlantic Canada, Trudeau said regional representation is important on the court, but wouldn't guarantee the seat wouldn't be filled from someone outside the region.

Nova Scotian Thomas Cromwell, seated far left, will retire this year and the federal government will have to replace the vacancy. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

While some legal experts have decried the move, opposition from the provinces has been muted. Some provincial Liberal politicians have said they'd prefer to keep the seat for an Atlantic Canadian, but there hasn't been a strong outcry.

"I really think they're being quiet because they want to keep riding the Trudeau wave.," said Jamie Baillie, the leader in Nova Scotia.

"This is one of those times where you have to put the region first. We're going to do this united as PC Opposition leaders to put heat on our own elected premiers to do their job."

Baillie said government should file an injunction to try and stop the seat from being filled from outside Atlantic Canada.

Working together more in future?

The leaders have started working more closely together, after a recent meeting with interim federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose.

And Davis said this may not be the only issue they fight for together.

"I think it's important for us to have that understanding, that open communications," he said.

"I'm sure we'll not always agree on all matters, but when we do, and matters are important for Atlantic Canadians, I think it's important to speak up on them."


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