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The charter and election law in Canada : towards a unified theory of judicial review? Letkeman, Emily Susan

Abstract

The advent of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms signaled a new and vastly expanded role for the judiciary. By entrenching our civil liberties into the Canadian Constitution, the courts were given the express authority to override inconsistent statutes. Due to the inherent overlap between law and politics, election law is an area that is particularly sensitive to this recent enlargement of judicial power. Despite this, the courts have scrutinized many areas of election law and many federal and provincial statutes have been fundamentally altered. The purpose of this thesis is to determine whether the courts have developed a uniform theory of judicial review where election law is concerned via four case studies: electoral boundary redistribution, prisoner voting rights, the publication of opinion polls during campaigns and third party spending limits. Through an extensive review of the relevant case law and literature, I conclude that the courts have failed to develop a coherent and consistent theory judicial review regarding the application of the Charter to election law. My analysis reveals that the inconsistencies stem largely from three main sources: first is the failure of the courts to adopt a single vision of what constitutes a fair electoral system; second is that the case studies are dealing with two different sections of the Charter (ss. 2(b) and 3); and third is the Oakes test which has expanded judicial discretion along with the potential for disparity. If consistency is ever going to be achieved, the courts need to adopt a single vision of democracy in Canada. Until then, we are left to guess when our political rights may be justifiably restricted under the Charter.

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