Federal Court Dismisses Application to Resurrect Former Progressive Conservative Party

On November 19, 2004, an application for judicial review seeking to dissolve the Conservative Party of Canada and to resurrect the former Progressive Conservative Party was dismissed by the Federal Court in the recently released decision of The Honourable Sinclair Stevens v. The Conservative Party of Canada.

Justice Elizabeth Heneghan dismissed a legal challenge by Sinclair Stevens, who claimed the Progressive Conservative Party was dissolved illegally when it merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada in December 2003. Mr. Stevens argued that Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer erred in approving the merger and changing the registry of political parties without soliciting submissions from those who opposed the merger, and without conducting an investigation and making a legal determination on whether or not the process for merger adhered to the old Progressive Conservative Party’s constitution.

The court dismissed the application in its entirety finding no material errors on the part of the Chief Electoral Officer in accepting the merger. Furthermore, Justice Heneghan noted that the merger had been approved by party members in a democratic vote and confirmed that neither the Chief Electoral Officer nor the Canada Elections Act regulate the internal governance of political parties.

This strengthens the precedent established by the Ontario Court of Appeal, in the decision of Ahenakew v. MacKay, the registered political partied have a legal existence separate from their individual members and are entitles to regulate and control their own internal affairs.

Mr. Steven has filed a notice of appeal in this matter. A date for the hearing of the appeal has not been set.

Arthur Hamilton and Laurie Livingstone (commercial litigation) of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP acted for the respondent, the Conservative Party of Canada. Peter Rosenthal of Roach Schwartz & Associates represented the applicant, Sinclair Stevens. Ronald D. Lunau and Catherine Beaudoin of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP acted for the intervener, the Chief Electoral Officer.