September 9, 2009

Was the 2008 Canadian election legal?

CANADA - Apparently the 2008 Canadian election wasn't entirely legal.

You see what happened was in 2007 parliament passed a Canadian Elections Act which dictated that elections would be held every four years (like the Americans do) and elections would be held on October 19th every four years (2009, 2013, 2017, etc).

So when Stephen Harper called an early election in 2008 he broke the law, a law he himself voted on.

And the reason for calling the election early? Harper saw in the polls the potential to get a few more seats in parliament. It cost Canadian tax payers millions of dollars, cost campaign fund raisers millions more, and all Harper got was a few extra seats (19 more). Not even enough to make a majority government.

It's now up to a Canadian judge to decide whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper's snap election call a year ago was not just politically self-serving but also illegal. Yesterday lawyers squared off in the Federal Court of Canada to determine whether the Prime Minister broke the law. A law he himself helped to pass and later ignored.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the day Harper forced an early campaign last September – the third election in four years.

According to the new laws the Prime Minister can no longer call a snap election whenever he feels like it. Elections must be held every four years on October 19th, unless the government fell on a confidence matter first.

The problem is that law does not clearly prohibit the prime minister from pre-empting a no-confidence vote and asking the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. The wording is a bit vague.

Chalk it up to Stephen Harper to pass a law that was vague in wording.

Watchdog "Democracy Watch" says Harper's move broke the spirit if not the letter of the new law. The new law was designed to prevent this kind of electoral mischief by calling elections whenever the polls were in your favour. Harper's action also breached the Canadian Charter right to a fair election, a right that has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Indeed one of Stephen Harper's 2006 campaign promises was to ban snap elections. Apparently he's completely forgotten about that promise.

If Stephen Harper is proven to have broken his own law the watchdog Democracy Watch says they will consider launching a class-action suit against Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party to the tune of the $350 million Canadian dollars wasted during the 2008 election.

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