Single-Subject Constitutional Amendments

15 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2017 Last revised: 3 Jan 2018

See all articles by Richard Albert

Richard Albert

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; Yale University - Law School; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law

Date Written: October 16, 2017

Abstract

What makes a constitution difficult to amend? The answer varies across jurisdictions. In the United States, for example, the threshold problem is getting two-thirds of Congress to initiate an amendment—a virtual impossibility in our present day given that Congress has a hard enough time agreeing by a simple majority to pass a simple law. In Australia and Switzerland, it is largely the combination of subnational approval and referendal ratification that complicates matters. In Canada—the subject of this paper—constitutional amendment difficulty derives from similar challenges associated with initiation and ratification but perhaps even more from the use of omnibus amendment bills that combine the good with the bad and give political actors as much a reason to vote in favour as to vote against. In this paper prepared for a symposium on “Rewriting the Canadian Constitution,” I suggest that amending the Constitution of Canada could become easier under a new single-subject rule that prohibits omnibus amendment bills but permits multiple single-amendment bills only if voted on separately and differentiated by subject-matter. Imposing a single-subject rule for constitutional amendments in Canada is likely to make the Constitution much more flexible in some important ways but perhaps much more rigid in others.

Keywords: Constitutional Amendment, Canadian Constitution, United States Constitution, Single-Subject Rule, One-Subject Rule, Amendment Difficulty, Formal Amendment, Constitutional Rigidity, Meech Lake Accord, Charlottetown Accord, Constitutional Referendum

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, Single-Subject Constitutional Amendments (October 16, 2017). Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 466. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3054051 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3054051

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
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512.213.1113 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.utexas.edu/faculty/richard-albert

Yale University - Law School

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.yale.edu

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca

Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho

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Colombia

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.uexternado.edu.co/derecho/

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.idc.ac.il/en/schools/law/pages/home.aspx

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