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Lawsuit against B.C. Premier’s 2020 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 – just to have the court rule election call was illegal for same reason as in UK, and because snap election was called one year before the legal fixed election date

Thursday, May 12, 2022

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch announced that, after a long delay caused mainly by a backlog in the B.C. courts, the B.C. Supreme Court will hear today and tomorrow its court case filed together with Wayne Crookes, founder of IntegrityBC, challenging Premier John Horgan’s advice to the Lieutenant Governor to call the provincial snap election in September 2020 (B.C. Supreme Court file no. S2010710; the hearing is at the Vancouver courthouse at 800 Smithe St., and starts at 10 am both days).

Emily MacKinnon, Sergio Ortega and Brodie Noga at Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP in Vancouver are providing legal counsel to Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes for the court case.

The case is not aimed at overturning or voiding the election results. Instead, it is aimed at preventing future illegal, unfair snap elections and asks the court to declare that the Premier’s action:

  1. violated the fixed election date measure in B.C.’s Constitution Act;
  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 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017.

B.C. was the first jurisdiction in Canada to enact fixed election date measures with Bill 7 in 2001. The B.C. NDP showed it was in favour of fixed election dates when it introduced Bill 5 in 2017 to change the fixed election date from May to October. The fixed date for the next provincial election was set for the third Saturday in October 2021.

“By calling a snap election during a pandemic instead of waiting for the fixed election date, Premier Horgan acted like an old-school power-crazed politician, not a new democrat committed to fair and democratic elections,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The B.C. legislature wanted to keep operating when the Premier called the snap election, and no single MLA, not even the Premier, has the right to shut down the legislature for no good reason, as the UK Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2019.”

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

Calling a snap election in violation of B.C.’s constitution is bad – Premier Horgan calling a snap election during the COVID pandemic was even worse. Elections B.C. was forced by Premier Horgan’s cynical power grab-scheme to issue 16 emergency orders to change how polling stations will run and people will vote, and it will likely hurt voter turnout. Wayne Crookes filed an affidavit in support of the case setting out all the evidence about how bad the snap election call was.

Snap elections are unfair not only to opposition parties (as they are usually called when having an election favours the ruling party, as was the case in B.C.), 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, followed B.C.’s lead and enacted fixed election date measures. The UK Parliament has also enacted fixed election date measures.

Because they are illegal, dishonest and unfair, Democracy Watch and Wayne Crookes also went to court to challenge the snap election calls by the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Premier in August 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 Stop PM/Premier Abuses Campaign