The so-called "red tide" that swept across Atlantic Canada in the last federal election has not convinced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the next Supreme Court justice must hail from that region.
Liberals unveiled a new, independent advisory board Tuesday that will change how top court justices are appointed.
The seven-member group, chaired by former prime minister Kim Campbell, will recommend three to five names to fill the seat of retiring Justice Thomas Cromwell of Nova Scotia.
Cromwell is the only Atlantic Canadian on the Supreme Court.
Justice Thomas Cromwell laughs as he listens to speakers during a ceremony officially welcoming him to the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa in February 2009. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
Traditionally, the court has had three members from Ontario, three from Quebec, one from British Columbia, one from the West, and one from the Maritimes. There has yet to be a justice from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Liberals have made it clear they are accepting applications from across Canada, despite the convention Cromwell's replacement should come from Atlantic Canada.
On a "frequently asked questions" backgrounder released by the justice department, the federal government acknowledges a "regional custom" exists, but says only qualified candidates — including those from Atlantic Canada — will be included on the list that will ultimately land on Trudeau's desk.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and MP Dominic LeBlanc bring a cooler of lobster onto the campaign media bus just outside Neguac, N.B., Sept. 8, 2015. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
"Applications are being accepted from across Canada in order to allow for a selection process that ensures outstanding individuals are considered for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada," it reads.
Federal Conservatives, still smarting after they were shut out of Atlantic Canada in the 2015 election, aren't pleased.
Tory critic Rob Nicholson, a former justice minister, released a statement Tuesday pointing out that Trudeau's new process does not "guarantee" Atlantic Canadian representation on the top court.
Nicholson suggested the development reflects poorly on the Liberals elected in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island — as well as the Liberal premiers of those four provinces.
"Every single federal Member of Parliament from Atlantic Canada, and every single premier, is a Liberal, and collectively they have failed to guarantee their region's representation on the top court in the country."
— Tory justice critic Rob Nicholson
"Every single federal Member of Parliament from Atlantic Canada, and every single Premier, is a Liberal, and collectively they have failed to guarantee their region's representation on the top court in the country," Nicholson said.
"Regardless of the process he chooses, Conservatives urge the Prime Minister to adhere to the longstanding convention that at least one justice of the Supreme Court come from Atlantic Canada as he seeks to replace Justice Cromwell."
All 32 MPs in Atlantic Canada are Liberal. All four Liberal premiers received campaign help from Trudeau en route to majority governments in the region.
Tory pick was deemed unconstitutional
Trudeau pledged on the campaign trail to reform top court appointments. Former prime minister Stephen Harper saw his appointment of Quebec judge Marc Nadon overturned in 2014 after it was deemed unconstitutional, setting off a public spat with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
"Under Stephen Harper, the all-party Supreme Court appointment process has been disrespected and degraded, culminating in the Prime Minister's unprecedented attacks on the Chief Justice," the Liberal platform reads. "We will restore dignity and respect to the relationship between government and the Supreme Court."
With files from The Canadian Press
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Tony Clement, a former federal cabinet minister, cut his teeth in Ontario as minister of transportation (1997-1999), minister of the environment (1999-2000), minister of municipal affairs and housing (1999-2001), and minister of health and long-term care (2001-2003).
Ron Liepert served in a number of key roles in Alberta, including minister of education (2006-2008), minister of health (2008-2010), minister of energy (2010-2011), and minister of finance (2011-2012).
MaryAnn Mihychuk previously served as Manitoba's minister of industry, trade, and mines (1999-2003), minister responsible for international relations coordination (2003-2004), and minister of intergovernmental affairs and trade (2003-2004). She currently serves as the federal minister of labour.
Jenny Kwan served British Columbia as minister of municipal affairs (1998-1999), minister of women's equality (1999-2000), and minister of community development (2000-2001).
Remember Ontario's only NDP government? Well, David Christopherson was a key figure in that cabinet. He served as Ontario's minister of correctional services (1992-1995) and solicitor general (1993-1995).
Irene Mathyssen also served in Ontario cabinet as minister without portfolio (culture, tourism and recreation) from 1994-1995.
Joyce Murray held cabinet jobs in B.C. before becoming an MP. She served as minister of water, land, and air protection (2001-2004) and minister of management services (2004-2005).
Judy Foote held a number of important roles in the government of Newfoundland and Labrador before going federal. She served as minister of development and rural renewal (1996-1997), minister of industry, trade and technology (1997-1998), minister of education and training (1998-2000), minister of education (2000-2003), and again minister of industry in 2003. She now serves as the federal minister for public works.
Yvonne Jones served as Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of fisheries and aquaculture and minister for the status of women in 2003.
Jean Rioux served as Quebec's minister of labour from 2005-2007.
Michael McLeod served in a number of key roles during his lengthy tenure in the Northwest Territories' legislative assembly, including: minister of environment, municipal and community affairs, natural resources, public works, transportation, housing, infrastructure, and minister responsible for youth.
Len Webber spent about 10 years in the Alberta legislature, where he served as minister of aboriginal relations and minister of international and intergovernmental relations.
Peter Fonesca served in the Ontario cabinet as minister of tourism (2007-2008) and minister of labour (2008-2010).
Robert Morrissey held a number of key jobs in P.E.I., including minister of transportation and public works (1986-1989), minister of industry (1989-1993), and minister of economic development and tourism (1993-1996).
During his 14 years in the Nunavut assembly (1999-2013), Hunter Tootoo held a number of roles, including minister of education and human resources. He also served as the minister responsible for homelessness, the Arctic College, and the Nunavut Housing Corporation. Tootoo briefly served as federal fisheries minister, but resigned from the role to seek addiction treatment in May 2016.