Prime Minister Stephen Harper has revised his version of events around what he and his office first characterized as an “inappropriate” and “inadvisable” phone call by the country’s top judge over a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Now Harper suggests he foresaw a court challenge and legal issue he previously said “surprised” him and his advisers because it had “never arisen” before. Earlier, Harper had characterized a call by Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin as inappropriate, just as any minister’s call to a judge would be on a case that was before the courts.
On Wednesday, Harper appeared to suggest he simply didn’t need to speak to McLachlin.“The fact of the matter is this,” Harper told the Commons Wednesday. “A matter came before me that I thought was likely to come before the court — the Supreme Court of Canada — based on information that I had. For that reason we completed our consultations with outside legal experts and later referred the matter to the Supreme Court.”
Harper "thought" it was likely to come before the court? Baloney. He knew full well he was playing games when he tried to get Marc Nadon appointed. He was hoping that nobody would have the spine to challenge him on it.
Brent Rathgeber, an independent MP, lawyer and former Conservative MP who vetted two previous Supreme Court judicial appointments for Harper, said Harper has clearly changed his message.
“The narrative now is, ‘There was no need for me to talk to the chief justice because I was already aware of the issue, as opposed to the original narrative, which was, ‘It would have been inappropriate for me to talk to the chief justice,” Rathberger said in an interview. “Now it’s changed to, ‘It would have been redundant and unnecessary for me to speak to the chief justice.’”
“And I’m fairly confident the reason they changed that narrative is that they know they messed this one up, that they crossed the line and that their insinuation that the chief justice in her administrative (heads-up) acted inappropriately was beyond the pale, over the top and unacceptable by the entire legal, judicial and media communities.”
It's not just that they "messed this one up", rather it is the fact that Harper doesn't like being challenged by anybody on anything. Up to this point, Harper has gone after appointees who are responsible to parliament or are part of the bureaucracy. This time, he went after the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. This is a person who enjoys considerable legal support in the Constitution. Short of showing personal perfidy on the part of the Chief Justice there is very little chance that Harper could unseat her.
Harper is changing his story because he knows he can't win the fight he's picking.