Media Release, Wednesday, May 6, 2004
Formation of the Conservative Party of Canada to be Challenged in Federal Court on May 11, 2004
Chief Electoral Officer registered the new Conservative Party of Canada on Sunday, December 7th, 2003 pursuant to what appear to be inadequate "merger" resolutions of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance in that they did not meet the requirements of the Canada Elections Act. One consequence of the registration was to eliminate the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Honourable Sinclair Stevens, on behalf of a number of "PC Party loyalists," has launched an application to judicially review the Chief Electoral Officer's decision to register the new Conservative Party. The Notice of Application not only alleges that there were no proper "merger resolutions"; it asserts that the October 15, 2003 "Agreement-in-Principle" put before the Chief Electoral Officer was an agreement to form a new party rather than to merge existing ones.
An internal elections Canada document reveals that, at a meeting on November 25th, 2003, the Chief Electoral Officer advised party representatives that he was prepared to adopt flexible and responsive procedural processes to respond effectively and efficiently to any application which might be submitted to his office. The Applicant takes the position that the processes adopted contravened the rights of the "PC Loyalists."
The Chief Electoral Officer's comment was made following discussions which began with a secret letter sent on October 21, 2003 by Jerry Rice, Secretary of the Canadian Alliance, to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer. In the letter Mr. Rice stated "…we are interested in how the merger provisions in the Elections Canada Act would be interpreted and applied to our specific situation." The letter also stated:
"As we discussed on the phone yesterday a group representing the Canadian Alliance Party and the Progressive Conservative Party would like to meet with the Chief Electoral Officer and discuss the agreement currently in place between our respective leaders….
It is our hope that we will be able to start a new party in the middle of December called the "Conservative Party of Canada." This party would merge with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance some time in February/March 2004. The leadership race for the new party is to be concluded by March 19-21, 2004."
On November 25, 2003, the Chief Electoral Officer and several members of his staff met with representatives of the PC Party and the Canadian Alliance "respecting the proposed merger of the two parties." In addition to the Chief Electoral Officer's comments referred to above, other suggestions were made to the party representatives, including "the value of clarity of intent in the resolutions to merge the parties." The draft letter of application the party representatives gave to the Chief Electoral Officer stated that it was an application "for the creation of a new registered party." That phrase was omitted from the application letter, however, when it was sent on December 7th. Instead, the word "merger" was inserted in the application letter, but the wording of the party resolutions themselves was not changed.
The Notice of Application further alleges that registering the merger on the day after the vote by the Progressive Conservative Party denied natural justice to those who wished to make representations to the Chief Electoral Officer that he should not accept the purported merger. To the applicant's question of why the merger decision had been made on a Sunday, the senior general counsel to Elections Canada responded that they had often made decisions on the weekend in the past, and cited the Manitoba Flood as an example. The materials do not reveal any flood or similar emergency that occurred on or about December 7, 2003.
The Notice of Application also alleges that PC Party leader Peter MacKay usurped the role of the Management Committee of the PC Party in selecting the PC Party members to sit on the interim joint council of the new Conservative Party, and that the Conservative Party of Canada did not have any structure (such as a constitution) whatsoever at the time that the Chief Electoral Officer registered it as a political party.
The application for an order quashing the Chief Electoral Officer's decision to register the Conservative Party will be argued in the Federal Court (East Court, Supreme Court of Canada Building, Wellington St.) in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2004, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Court Hearing: 9:30 a.m., May 11, 2004
Supreme Court of Canada Building
For more information: The Honourable Sinclair Stevens (416-798-7281, 905-382-2504) and his counsel Peter Rosenthal (416-978-3093 (U of T) or 416-924-2257 (home)) will be available between today and 2 p.m. on May 10th to provide any additional information.