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Appeal of lawsuit against NB Premier’s snap election call in court today

UK Supreme Court set strong precedent by ruling in 2019 that PM Boris Johnson shutting down Parliament was illegal because it violated the sovereignty of Parliament

Case is not to overturn election results – just for ruling that future snap election calls will be illegal

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

OTTAWA – Democracy Watch announced that its appeal of its lawsuit challenging Premier Blaine Higgs’ advice in August 2020 to the Lieutenant Governor to call the provincial snap election is being heard by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal today in Fredericton (File no. 126-21-CA – hearing at 10 am at: Courtroom #6, 427 Queen St). Jamie Simpson is providing legal counsel to Democracy Watch for the court case.

The case is not aimed at overturning the 2020 election results. Instead, Democracy Watch is arguing the court should declare that Premier Higgs’ action:

  1. violated the fixed election date measure in the Legislative Assembly Act (ss. 3(4));
  2. violated the constitutional principles of the sovereignty of parliament and responsible government (for this reason, the UK Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2019 that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation of the British Parliament was illegal), and;
  3. violated the constitutional convention that has been created by premiers calling elections only on the fixed date in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

New Brunswick’s legislature enacted its fixed election date measures with Bill 75 in 2007. Then-House Leader Stuart Jamieson said at the time that: “It was thought by both parties in the legislature and by other provinces that it would be better to remove the political nuances and give everybody a fair and even playing field.” Bill 62 in 2017 changed the fixed election date from September to October. The fixed date for the next provincial election was set for the third Monday in October 2022.

“By calling a snap election during a pandemic instead of waiting for the fixed election date in 2022, Premier Higgs acted like an old-school power-hungry politician, not a leader committed to fair and democratic elections and inter-party cooperation,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Premier Higgs’ snap election call was self-interested and unfair, and it violated New Brunswick’s provincial law that fixed election dates, and the good democratic tradition of fixed elections every four years that had developed through the previous three provincial elections.”

“Hopefully the court will rule that the Premier violated the law when he called his self-interested and unfair snap election, which will prevent future snap elections,” said Conacher.

Calling a snap election in violation of a provincial law and a constitutional convention is bad – calling a snap election during a pandemic was even worse. Premier Higgs also used the completely invalid excuse that the three opposition parties refused to agree support the government in every vote until October 2022, or at least until after the pandemic. In a parliamentary system of government, or in any form of democratic government, opposition parties are not required to agree to support the government. In the 2020 election, Premier Higgs’ Progressive Conservative Party won 55% of the seats in the legislature with the support of only 39% of voters.

Snap elections are unfair not only to opposition parties (as they are usually called when having an election favours the ruling party), but also to people who want to run as a candidate but can’t afford to suddenly drop everything and run. That’s why the federal Parliament, and every province and territory, have enacted fixed election date measures. The UK Parliament also enacted such measures.

Justice Christie of New Brunswick’s Court of Queen’s Bench ruled against Democracy Watch’s case last October but, as set out in DWatch’s appeal arguments, the ruling made a false claim about what DWatch’s lawyer argued in the case; made a false claim about what the Federal Court ruled in DWatch’s case vs. Prime Minister Harper’s 2008 snap election call; ignored the UK Supreme Court’s ruling, and; ignored other key legal arguments.

An additional issue that the Court of Appeal will consider is that the Acadian Society of New Brunswick recently won a ruling, that is now being appealed, that the appointment of New Brunswick’s current Lieutenant Governor was unconstitutional because the Lt. Governor is unilingual. If the final ruling in that case nullifies all actions of the Lt. Gov., it would also nullify the 2020 provincial election call (a result that DWatch does not support as it is simply trying to prevent future snap elections). See Democracy Watch’s submission about this issue, as requested by the Court of Appeal.

Because they are illegal, dishonest and unfair, Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes also went to court to challenge the snap election calls by B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan in September 2020 and by Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau in August 2021, both of which violated fixed election date laws.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Democratic Voting System Campaign and the Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign