A real constitutional expert speaks out

I’m sorry I can’t find the video clip on CTV’s excellent website, because if I could, I’d link to Mike Duffy’s interview with Ted McWhinney today. I remember McWhinney as the former Liberal MP from Vancouver Quadra. Wikipedia is often unreliable, but I have to tell you his CV is pretty awesome:

He has held professorships at Yale, the Sorbonne, Toronto, McGill, Indiana, College de France, and at the Meiji University in Tokyo. He has been a legal consultant to the United Nations; constitutional adviser to the Premier of Ontario and to the Premier of Quebec; chief adviser to the Canadian government’s Task Force on National Unity (the Pepin-Robarts Commission); Royal Commissioner of Enquiry to the Government of Quebec; Special Commissioner of Enquiry for the Government of British Columbia; special adviser to the Canadian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, as well as constitutional and international law adviser to a number of foreign governments.

The author of 24 books (two of them in French and one in German), editor of 11 symposium volumes, and author of several hundred scientific articles, he is the first jurist from Canada to be elected to the century-old Institut de Droit International. He has been a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and is a member of the Institut Grand-Ducal of Luxembourg, and of the Académie Internationale de Droit Comparé in Paris.

In other words, he has more expertise in constitutional law than any of the professors of political science who have been opining on the political crisis in Ottawa this past week.

I’ll try to remember to put up the exact transcript of McWhinney’s remarks when Infomart transcribes the show. But until then, here are excerpts from them, from a story on CTV’s website:

Ted McWhinney, a lawyer, former Liberal MP and constitutional expert, told CTV’s Mike Duffy Live that Jean does not need to give Harper an answer right away and should talk with a number of advisers.

He also said Jean needs to weigh public opinion on the matter.

“Public opinion is about 50 per cent of constitutional law,” McWhinney said Wednesday. “The common sense element is crucial in these things.

McWhinney said there “is a heavy burden” on the opposition to prove that they can form a stable coalition government.

He said it’s important for the opposition to put an agreement down on paper, like they have already done, but said the agreement needs to be signed by the Bloc Quebecois in addition to the Liberals and NDP.

McWhinney called the current agreement as is “unsatisfactory.”

The Conservatives had planned to deliver their budget on Jan. 27 — a plan now seen as tenuous.

I’ll be candid: when I saw Duff interviewing McWhinney, I thought “here comes more Liberal spin” — since McWhinney served seven years as a Liberal. No chance — he pointed out quite convincingly the common sense reasons why Gov-Gen. Jean could refuse the coalition — including the strange proposition that the identity of the prime minister will only be known for a few months. That’s not exactly the definition of stability!


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