Stephen Harper held a majority government for four years. In that time he systemically worked to make Canada more Conservative.

But as Chris Selley writes, Harper failed in one big way – he was unable to shift the Supreme Court towards enacting and supporting more Conservative policies. In fact, very few judges in Canada subscribe to Conservative notions of constitutional law:

Unlike in the United States, “constitutional originalists” are a rare breed in Canada’s legal community. The “living tree” view of the Charter, as a document to be interpreted and reinterpreted as times change, is dominant. “Harper did not have much of an opportunity to appoint conservatives in the vein of Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court because they don’t really exist in Canada’s legal community,” said University of Waterloo political scientist Emmett Macfarlane, an expert on the Supreme Court.

Not only was Harper unable to appoint Conservative justices, he failed to enact Conservative policies. The Supreme Court struck down numerous far-right policies throughout his minority and majority governments:

The list of Conservative losses at the Supreme Court is long and famous: Nadon, assisted suicide, prostitution, mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, Senate reform, credit upon conviction for time served pre-trial.

Canada’s Supreme Court nomination process is (thankfully) far less contentious than the United States. But as the issues outlined above illustrate, the court has an incredible impact on important issues. It’s a stark reminder of the power of our federal government, and the importance of strong institutions that prevent the spread rightwing influence.