The justice minister announced yesterday morning that the prime minister would be naming Justice Richard Wagner as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, thus both respecting the tradition of alternating between a Common Law and a Civil Law judge as the Chief, as well as picking an accomplished jurist who has 15 years left on the bench, ensuring that there is a long enough period of stability on the Court. Wagner is well respected in the Quebec courts, where he hailed from, and it is noted that he doesn’t really fit into the left-right divide – something that is not only indicative of our Canadian system, but is one of those things that people point to when they note how a Liberal PM can elevate a judge chosen by his Conservative predecessor.
A trip to the Maclean’s archives finds this piece by Paul Wells on the day that Wagner was named to the Supreme Court was also the day that Justin Trudeau threw his hat into the ring for Liberal leadership, and that both men had famous fathers in political circles. Tasha Kheiriddin notes the choice of Wagner is a safe one.
Reasons! 1. Wagner is relatively young and collegial. Suggests a long period of stability on the court might be possible. 2. Sometimes avoiding partisanship means not reflexively shunning your predecessor's appointee. https://t.co/ARMcW7veJt
— Paul Wells (@InklessPW) December 12, 2017
This will no longer be permitted but up I recently saw Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner on the train to Montreal, riding economy, just like the rest of us.
— Alison Crawford (@alisoncrawford5) December 12, 2017
— Supreme Court Canada (@SCC_eng) December 12, 2017
It’s also worth noting that Wagner also becomes Deputy Governor General with his elevation to Chief Justice, and he can grant royal assent to bills in the event that the GG herself is ill or absent; he opens Parliament before a Speaker is elected; and he will head the committee in charge of nominating people to the Order of Canada. The practice since 1939 also used to be that the Chief Justice would close a session of Parliament instead of the Governor General following some particular manoeuvring by Mackenzie King while the GG was out of town, until the government stopped with prorogation ceremonies. (If you ask me, they should restore the ceremonies, but with the GG doing them).
— GGJuliePayette (@GGJuliePayette) December 12, 2017