Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dubious History: Ed Morgan on the Senate

Professor Ed Morgan, constitutional law scholar at the University of Toronto law school, believes new Senator Betty Ungar of Alberta has more than Stephen Harper on her side. She has History.

Ungar once won one of those non-binding election-thingees in Alberta to determine who Albertans might prefer as a senator. Recently she was appointed to the Senate by the governor-in-council (ie, the prime minister). Morgan, who likes the idea of making the Senate elective without constitutional amendment, legislation, or popular consultation, comments in the Law Times here:
If a “person” can go from meaning a man in 1867 to signifying a man or woman in 1929, it can likewise go from meaning an appointed person at Confederation to an elected individual in 2012. Unger, then, is on the side of history
Funny how easily people can identify their own preferences with "history."  Morgan apparently believes "history" wants an elected (and hence powerful) Senate in which, among other things, New Brunswick and PEI together will have more senators than BC and Alberta combined.

But then Morgan's sense of history is pretty fuzzy:
The Confederation debates of the mid-19th century had taken place not long after English legal scholar William Blackstone notoriously proclaimed that the husband and wife are one person in law: the husband.
Blackstone's Commentaries? Published 1765-69.  Confederation debates? 1865.

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