BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following is in response to 'LETTER: Independence of court 'keystone in our democracy',' published March 10.
Ms. Debbie Palmer has responded to my letter contesting her suggestion that Attorney General Doug Downey was justified in changing the practice for appointing the chief justice for Ontario. With all due respect, I believe she is misinformed.
There are two different processes at issue in this discussion: the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee process, which is an Ontario law proclaimed in the Courts of Justice Act in 1994, and the process of appointing a chief justice, which Doug Downey has changed. I am not aware of the background of that process.
Ms. Palmer is correct in her portrayal of the way in which the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee came into being, first as a pilot project and then as a piece of legislation. As a history teacher with a background in government and law, Ms. Palmer will know that law, once passed into legislation, can only be changed by legislation. Therefore, Doug Downey would be incapable of changing it by himself.
Ian Scott was the Attorney General in David Peterson's Liberal government. I got to know him at that time as I was the Attorney General of Canada. I quite liked him, and the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee pilot project was an excellent initiative which I also supported.
Doug Downey does not seek to change that law but rather the present practice of the Attorney General of Ontario being presented with a list of candidates for the position of Chief Justice of Ontario prepared by the outgoing Chief Justice of Ontario and restricting candidates to that list. Instead, Doug Downey has invited all members of the Bench in Ontario to apply directly to him, and after consideration, he will choose the succeeding chief justice of Ontario.
It seems to me that his change provides an opportunity for every judge in Ontario to apply, not just the ones chosen by the current Chief Justice of Ontario. The final decision will thus be made by an elected official, not a previously appointed judge. That, to me, is more democratic.