The House

A judicial precedent for Quebec

This week on The House, Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel talks about the decision to let her province have a say in picking its Supreme Court justices. We talk about digital privacy with Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and look ahead to an international digital meeting hosted by Canada with MP Bob Zimmer. Finally, our In House panelists are back to talk about resources and the courts.
Sonia LeBel says if the prime minister wants to refuse Quebec's Supreme Court suggestion, he better have a good reason for doing so. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode50:00

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could reject Quebec's forthcoming recommendation for Canada's next Supreme Court justice, says Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel — but he'd risk a heavy political backlash by doing so.

"He's not bound, per se, but he agreed to that process," LeBel told The House. "If he has to pass [on] this recommendation, he will have to have a very serious motive."

The federal government recently launched a process to let Quebec play a larger role in selecting the next Supreme Court judge from that province — a position due to be vacated by retiring justice Clément Gascon in September. An independent advisory board made up of eight non-partisan members will draw up a short list of three to five names for the position.

LeBel, who nominated two of the committee's members, is also expected to consult on the list with Quebec Premier François Legault, who will select a top pick for the prime minister's consideration.

"If he decides not to go with Quebec's recommendation, we can expect there will be a political reaction," LeBel's office said in an emailed statement. "He therefore would have to explain the reasons for his choice."

Supreme Court Justice Clement Gascon announced that he will step down from the bench this fall. His replacement will come from Quebec, but unlike past appointments, the province will now have a say in who sits on the top bench. The Prime Minister has announced a special appointment process for Quebec judges on the supreme court, something other provinces don't have. Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel joins Chris Hall to discuss what this new process will look like, and what it means for her province. 8:27

The Liberal government is hoping to fill the spot before October's federal election — meaning Trudeau could risk alienating Quebec voters if he decides to go against the process.

It's not clear what circumstances might prompt Trudeau to go with another choice, though it's possible he could opt for a candidate recommended by the federal justice minister instead. But it's more likely that he would make a decision based on the short list, LeBel's office said.

If the prime minister should choose someone else, the Quebec government could express its dissatisfaction with the decision, but would not be able to overturn it.

Innovation minister not opposed to subjecting political parties to privacy laws

Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains unveiled the government's digital plan this week. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains says decisions about extending privacy laws further could be made in the coming months when asked whether it's time parties should be subject to stricter rules. 

Currently, political parties are not subject to privacy laws. This means, unlike the private sector, they are not obligated to disclose how they obtain or use the personal information of Canadians. 

Bains unveiled the Liberal government's digital overhaul plans this week, and he didn't rule out making changes to political party rules in the future. 

"There's a lot of non-commercial activities that we need to address as well, including political parties," he told The House.

Canadians' generate data in just about everyone of their daily activities whether it's wearing a wristwatch that monitors how many steps they take each day, shopping on line, or just visiting sites on the internet. What happens to all that personal information is now a significant issue, one the government is wrestling with. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains talks with Chris Hall about a new set of principles the government hopes will prevent your data from being misused. 9:39

When asked about his own party's use of the information of Canadians, Bains defended their methods. 

"We are very explicit and clear with individuals what we're doing with that information."

Parties insist they will have their own, internally held operating standards.

But there have been calls from leading privacy experts and officials in Canada to make changes for the parties. 

Ahead of a federal election, any gaps in security and privacy are particularly vulnerable.

The chief electoral officer even said he feared political parties were the "weak link" in the country's cyber security chain. 

While Bains wouldn't reveal a timeline for any potential changes, he did say the issue is on their radar.

"[The point is] making sure that everyone has to follow the law — and that this applies to commercial activities as well where there's non-commercial activities," he said. 

"We'll address those issues in a thoughtful way in the coming weeks and months." 

In House panel: Environment and resource troubles across Canada

A security guard stands nearby construction workers at the Kinder Morgan Burnaby Terminal tank farm. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

On Friday, a B.C. court ruled that province does not have the authority to block shipments of bitumen through its territory.

It's another win for the federal government as they continue to face off in court with province after province. 

The most recent victory was a Saskatchewan court ruling earlier this month upholding Ottawa's right to impose a carbon tax.

Just like the Saskatchewan government did in that case, B.C. wasted no time Friday saying the province plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Environmental issues have been a consistent focus in Ottawa — with those court cases and difficulty getting two key pieces of legislation (C-48 and C-69) through the Senate.

To dig into what this all means, we talked to Vassy Kapelos, host of Power and Politics on CBC News Network and CBC senior writer, JP Tasker, who covers the Senate.

Environmental issues have been a consistent focus in Ottawa - with those B.C. and Saskatchewan court cases and difficulty getting two key pieces of legislation (C-48 and C-69) through the Senate. To dig into what this all means, we talked to Vassy Kapelos, host of Power and Politics on CBC News Network and CBC senior writer, JP Tasker, who covers the Senate. 8:14


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