The court system can be confusing. Those of us behind this project have been asking lots of questions to one another, and the lawyers we're working with on this case. We've done our best to keep track of those questions (and answers) here. We also understand that you may have questions about the organizations and people behind the work, our plans, so have also tried to anticipate any questions that might arise as you consider supporting this project.
If you questions that aren't answered here, please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org
- What is the role of the Supreme Court in Canada?
- If the Supreme Court is the court of last resort, what other courts must this case pass through first in order to reach the Supreme Court?
- How could a Court ruling change the voting system? Doesn’t that have to be a political decision?
- Would a court decision apply to provincial electoral systems as well, or just the federal system?
- Will this case be heard by the Supreme Court for certain?
- Would a favourable decision mean electoral reform in time for the next (2019) federal election?
- How much does it cost to fund a case like this?
- How will the funds collected for the case be used?
- Who is behind this Charter Challenge?
- How can Springtide issue charitable tax receipts for this work? Aren’t charities prohibited from political activity like this?
- What impact does a charitable receipt for my donation to the Charter Challenge have on the ‘true cost’ of my donation?
- What happens if we do not raise enough money?
- What happens if we raise more money than is required to successfully fight the case?
- Why doesn’t the donation-tracker on the donate page match the amount raised reported on the home page, blog and email updates?
‘The Supreme Court of Canada is the court of last resort (or the highest court) in Canada. As the final general court of appeal it is the last judicial resort of all litigants. Its jurisdiction embraces both the civil law of the province of Quebec and the common law of the other nine provinces and three territories. As it is a general court of appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada can hear cases in all areas of the law.’ (Source: Supreme Court of Canada FAQ)
If the Supreme Court is the court of last resort, what other courts must this case pass through first in order to reach the Supreme Court?
There are a range of options. A case in any court in the country may eventually be elevated to the level of the Supreme Court, should the court decide to hear it. Our case will be brought first to a series of courts within a single Canadian province, and if granted leave, it will then be heard in the Supreme Court.
The Court has the power to rule that any law enacted by any order of government in Canada is in contravention to the Canadian Constitution, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms contained within it. Our case is driven by a belief that Canadian’s right to vote, and equal treatment before the law is contravened by a voting system where most Canadians vote for candidates that do not win, and parties that are not a part of the government.
It would be unlikely that a court would change the voting system. Our hope is to have the court rule that the first-past-the-post voting system fails to honor these rights, and to order the government to propose a system where these rights are taken into account.
Our case asks the court to rule specifically on the federal voting system. A decision in our favour would only have immediate implications and effects on the federal government.
However, a Supreme Court decision in favour of our case would set a strong precedent for all future cases of it’s kind. In many cases involving charter law where a strong precedent has been set by the Surpeme Court, it increases the chances that a case will be resolved at a lower court, and governments often take proactive steps to avoid legal battles they cannot win.
No. As noted on the FAQ section of the Supreme Court’s website ‘in most cases, appeals are heard by the Surpeme Court only if leave to appeal is given. Such leave, or permission, will be given by the Court when a case involves a question of public importance.’
So, in order to have this case heard at the Surpeme Court, the Court must first decide that the matter is a question of sufficient public importance.
It is highly unlikely a final decision would be reached by that point in time. The court case itself will take 2 - 4 years to reach the Supreme Court. If the court does rule in favour of our case, they will likely set a timeline for the government to legislate a new voting system that does not contravene the charter. A best-case scenario would likely result in a new voting system in place for the election following the expected 2019 election.
A case like this can cost $300,000 - $500,000. The specific costs vary depending on a range of factors including the court (and province) where the initial case is filed, the approach used by government lawyers, and the expenses related to obtaining expert testimony for the case.
The vast majority of funds collected for the case are reserved for hiring of legal counsel and associated legal expenses. Other project expenses include the costs associated with public outreach and supporter communications by Springtide, along with donation transaction fees, and general project administration fees.
This project was initiated by Fair Voting BC. Fair Voting BC is a non-partisan non-profit society that works for fair voting systems for all elections held in British Columbia - including federal, provincial, and municipal elections. In the 2009 referendum on electoral reform in BC, Fair Voting BC FVBC served as the official proponent of the BC’s Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform’s recommendation that we adopt the Single Transferable Vote (BC-STV)
In May of 2017, Springtide accepted an invitation from Fair Voting BC to collaborate on this project, as project manager and overseer of funds. Springtide is a Nova Scotia-based charity dedicated to non-partisan research, teaching and public engagement about democracy and politics in Canada, and defending democratic rights and freedoms. Springtide has published two papers on electoral reform - modelling four alternative electoral systems for Canada and Nova Scotia - and conducted public engagement and education workshops on electoral reform throughout Nova Scotia.
How can Springtide issue charitable tax receipts for this work? Aren’t charities prohibited from political activity like this?
A: We (Springtide) had a similar concern when we first considered this project. The kind of political activity registered charities like ours can be involved in is limited by the Canada Revenue Agency. But,litigation is not considered a political activity under the CRA's policy statement on political activities (CPS-022).
In fact, it has been well established in Canadian case-law that upholding the administration and enforcement of the law is charitable, and doing so is one of the purposes of Springtide, alongside research and education about Canadian democracy.
What impact does a charitable receipt for my donation to the Charter Challenge have on the ‘true cost’ of my donation?
When you file your receipt with your income taxes at the end of the calendar year, you reduce the amount of taxes you owe to the provincial and federal governments. This amount varies depending on the value of the credit in the province or territory you file taxes in. A greater tax credit applies to amounts donated in excess of $200.
The chart below provides an overview of credit and after-tax costs for a $500 donation in various provinces. To enter a donation of a particular amount, consider using the Red Cross tax credit calculator.
In the event that the fundraising goal is not met, the funds will be held in trust for a future case, or used to create educational programming and resources for teaching and learning about electoral reform in Canada. That said, our intent is to do everything we can to ensure this case makes it to court.
If a favourable decision is made, and donations to the project remain unspent at the time of completion, Springtide would hold those funds in trust, either to use for public education purposes when a new electoral system is proposed by the federal government and/or use the funds to contribute challenging unfair voting at a provincial level.
Why doesn’t the donation-tracker on the donate page match the amount raised reported on the home page, blog and email updates?
The donation tracker counts only donations submitted through the donate page itself, and does not include donations made by cheque, e-transfer or paypal. The donation ticker updates itself instantaneously, while the homepage is updated only on a (roughly) weekly basis.