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Liberals weigh court challenge over unilingual Auditor-General

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Aug. 30, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Just days after his caucus dramatically boycotted a vote in the Commons, Bob Rae is suggesting the Liberals will take Stephen Harper to court for appointing a unilingual Auditor-General.

"All I can say is our consultations will be continuing this week," he told The Globe Monday morning.

During a teleconference Liberal town hall meeting Sunday, Mr. Rae told participants the party is "closely studying" launching a court challenge as a result of Michael Ferguson's appointment. He also vowed to continue the fight in the House of Commons when it returns next week after the Remembrance Day break.

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Mr. Ferguson, a former New Brunswick auditor, succeeded Sheila Fraser as federal spending watchdog last week after a resolution approving his nomination was passed in the Commons and Senate. But it was not without controversy.

The Interim Liberal Leader led his caucus out of the Commons Thursday rather than even cast one vote against the Mr. Ferguson's nomination. Liberal Senators also boycotted the vote when it was put before the Red Chamber.

The Official Opposition New Democrats, meanwhile, remained in the Commons to vote against the appointment but the Conservatives, who have a majority in the House, prevailed.

Mr. Rae called the vote a farce. He said the government neglected to mention that Mr. Ferguson could not speak French after it had advertised the post as one that required a bilingual candidate.

"The Conservatives changed the rules at the end of the game," Mr. Rae said. "Since when is it fair or reasonable to do that? It is not. It is whimsical, it is arbitrary, it is capricious, it is wrong, it is illegitimate, and the government should know it."

At that time, Mr. Rae said he had been consulting constitutional lawyers: "I can assure you the battle does not end here," he said.

NDP battles

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A second woman is poised to enter the contest for the NDP leadership. Niki Ashton, 29 and in her second term as MP for Churchill, Man., is expected to announce her candidacy Monday.

The field is becoming crowded. Ms. Ashton will be the ninth candidate to declare but only the second woman after Toronto NDP Peggy Nash entered the race a week ago.

Ms. Ashton has been busy fighting against the government's plans to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board as it will dramatically affect the survival of the port of Churchill, of which 95 per cent of its business comes from the wheat board.

Another leadership contender, meanwhile, is busy announcing policy. Last week, Paul Dewar outlined a jobs strategy and on Monday he is to pledge his support for Canadian actors and performers.

The Ottawa Centre MP's plan would see federal taxes removed from the first $15,000 earned "from artistic activity."

"Arts and culture define who we are, express our diversity, build bridges between cultural and geographic divides and also drive economic growth," Mr. Dewar says in a news release that is to be distributed later Monday.

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He is also calling for EI and CPP to be extended to self-employed, freelance, and part-time workers.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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