Former prime minister Stephen Harper speaks to supporters on the campaign trail. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz/CP)Alani launched the challenge last year when Stephen Harper was prime minister. Harper stopped appointing senators in March 2013, amid the Senate expenses scandal; there were 22 vacancies in the 105-seat chamber by the time Harper's Conservatives lost power on Oct. 19.
Liberals create advisory boardLiberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has created an arm's-length advisory board to recommend non-partisan nominees to fill Senate vacancies in a bid to return to the upper house to its intended role as an independent chamber of sober second thought. The board, to which members were named just last week, is supposed to recommend potential appointees for five vacancies early this year and for the rest by the end of the year. The appeal court judges last week questioned whether Alani's challenge is now moot, given that the new government is preparing to start appointing senators.
"It's plain and obvious that a case concerning the prime minister's obligation to fill Senate vacancies has no chance of success."Alani, who believes the court still needs to clarify whether the prime minister has absolute discretion to fill Senate vacancies when — or if — he chooses, says the appeal court panel ultimately decided Monday that the mootness issue should be decided by the lower court judge as part of the overall case. Alani maintains that the prime minister has a constitutional obligation to fill Senate vacancies. He wants the court to declare that empty Senate seats should be filled within a reasonable time of falling vacant. Federal lawyers have maintained it's the Governor General's constitutional responsibility to appoint senators; that it's only by convention that the appointments are made upon advice from the prime minister. They've argued that conventions are not enforceable by courts.
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