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Democracy Watch files lawsuit against NB Premier’s election call

Case is not to overturn election results – just for ruling that election call was illegal

Thursday, November 26, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that it has filed an application in New Brunswick’s Court of Queen’s Bench challenging Premier Blaine Higgs’ advice last August to the Lieutenant Governor to call the provincial snap election (New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench file no. FM-90-20).

The case is not aimed at overturning the election results. Instead, it only asks the court to declare that Premier Higgs’ action violated the fixed election date measure in the Legislative Assembly Act (ss. 3(4)) and 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.

“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 has developed through the past three provincial elections,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch, who filed an affidavit in support of the application.

Calling a snap election in violation of a provincial law and a constitutional convention is bad – calling a snap election during a pandemic is 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 at any time.

“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. “Hopefully the courts will rule that the Premier violated the law when he called his self-interested and unfair snap election.”

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 except Nova Scotia, followed B.C.’s lead in 2001 and enacted fixed election date measures. The UK Parliament also enacted such measures.

In the election, Premier Higgs’ Progressive Conservative Party won 55% of the seats in the legislature with the support of just over 39% of voters.

Jamie Simpson is providing legal counsel to Democracy Watch for the court case.

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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