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POL214Y1 (215)
Lecture 2

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Political Science
Nelson Wiseman

Lecture 2 16/9 2013 “Constitution and constitutional change” Outline: 1. Big “C” constitution, small “c” constitution 2. The SSC on the constitution (Supreme Court of Canada) 3. Competing constitutional visions 4. Constitutional amendment a. Convention (Pre 1982) b. Law (Post 1982)  In Canada: Canadian government can ask for an opinion from the Supreme Court  Ultimate sanction of the government: Can be done through election by the people Big “C” Constitution  Formal texts of the constitution o The law of the constitution Small “c” Constitution  Regular laws  Order in Council ( The Cabinet passes it)  Judicial decisions (On Constitution)  3 components: Custom, usage, convention  Custom (rules, but not obligatory) o Ex. Prorogation, normally occurs after all legislature is passed o No request for prorogation has ever been denied o 2008, Harper asked for prorogation without passing legislature o Thus, the custom (old) of prorogation changed/ended  The custom was not obligatory o No governor general had ever asked for prorogation like that before, so she couldn’t have said no. o But, the governor general has the power to fire the P  Convention: Obligatory rules o Ex. If a government loses the confidence of the House of Commons, the PM must resign. o The governor general generally does whatever the PM asks him/her to do o Constitutional requirement, but not written o Purpose: To ensure the legal part of the constitution will work in the context of small “c” values of the time The SCC on the constitution  1998, Chretien ‘Can Quebec secede unilaterally?’  Pg. 262, Russell reading  “The constitution is an expression of the people of Canada” o The people can change the constitution through their representatives, (legislature and government) o Federal parliament and provincial legislation can initiate constitutional change  ‘Embraces rules and principles that constitute constitutional authority’ o Principles that animate the constitution:  Federalism, democracy, rule of law, respect for minorities Competing Constitutional Visions of Canada 1. Pan-Canadian theme o Government of Canada can unilaterally ask the UK for changes in the constitution. The parliament of Canada represents the national visio
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