The Liberal government relies on a large network of party officials and supporters to decide which lawyers receive sought-after judicial appointments, e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail show.
Liberal MPs, ministerial staff members and even party volunteers have been involved in candidate vetting since the federal government revamped the process in 2016, after having accused the previous Conservative government of politicizing appointments.
In the United States, where the process of appointing judges is blatantly based on partisan loyalties, you pretty much have to belong to the President’s political party if you ever want to make it to the Bench. Here in Canada, um…
The dozens of e-mails between ministerial staffers from 2017 and 2018 detail widespread partisan involvement in the selection of new judges, offering unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the current judicial appointment process. The e-mails also show clear tensions during that time frame between the minister of justice’s office, which handles the appointment process, and the Prime Minister’s Office, which collaborates on those decisions.
The PMO ensures Liberal MPs are consulted on all nominations in their ridings, the e-mails show, using the judicial candidates’ postal codes to determine where they live. In 2018, a member of the PMO’s appointment branch asked then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s office for the results of MP consultations for more than a dozen candidates, despite the concerns of her judicial affairs adviser, François Giroux.
The Globe reported last year that the PMO also vets potential candidates with a private Liberal Party database called Liberalist to see whether they had given money to the party in recent years, participated in party activities and even put up Liberal election signs.
Honestly, none of this comes as a surprise, and I’ll go even further and say involvement with the governing political party shouldn’t disqualify you from being appointed as a judge. We lawyers are definitely over-represented in government and politics – heck, the reason I went to law school was because I didn’t know what else I could do with my political science degree – and being a party hack doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified.
My only wish is that we stop pretending this doesn’t happen.