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Globe and Mail, Monday, January 9, 2006

Critic of Tory merger to take fight to top court

by Gloria Galloway

Ottawa – A veteran of the former Progressive Conservative Party will ask the Supreme Court to overturn a rejection of his bid to undo the amalgamation that created the current Conservative Party.

Lawyers for Sinclair Stevens, a 78-year-old former Tory cabinet minister, will file his appeal of a Federal Court of Appeal ruling tomorrow.

That ruling found that Mr. Stevens's objections to the merger on Dec. 6, 2003, were essentially correct and that Chief Electoral Officer Jean Pierre Kingsley should have waited 30 days after party members approved the joining of the Progressive Conservatives with the former Canadian Alliance to register the new party.

Instead, Mr. Kingsley acted just one day after the delegates to a meeting of the Progressive Conservatives voted more than 90 per cent in favour of the merger. But because Mr. Kingsley was under no obligation to hear submissions from affected parties such as Mr. Stevens, and because he could not be an arbiter in internal party disputes, the lower courts have ruled that the hasty registration had no material effect.

The waiting period for registration is required because no party can be registered within the 30 days prior to an election call. In fact, no writ was dropped for several months after the amalgamation but the law says Mr. Kingsley should have delayed the registration to ensure that was the case.

"We feel that there are very strong arguments that the merger of the Conservative Party should have been quashed," said Peter Rosenthal, a lawyer for Mr. Stevens. "The issues involved are extremely important, not only for this case and this generation but in future to protect the rights of people who are in political parties from having their parties extinguished in a manner that contravenes the law."

The request for appeal will ask the Supreme Court to consider whether it was proper for the federal appeal court – and the Federal Court that first ruled in the case – to let the merger continue even though the registration was unlawful.

Mr. Stevens will also ask the Supreme Court to consider his argument that the Canada Elections Act requires that officers of the merging parties must be notified before the merger is registered.

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