The Upside of Prorogation

Maybe in their eagerness to appear hard at work during the parliamentary lock-out, it’s conceivable that our government ministers and MPs in general are accomplishing more than if the House was actually in session…

Update: Or maybe not. Good grief, how tone-deaf and insensitive to irony can one man be?

22 Replies to “The Upside of Prorogation”

  1. That Chiliwack Times column is simply repeating well known, and well-debunked, government talking points. It’s sad that one of those points is that Parliament is not all that useful.

    First, this is a minority government, not a majority one. Proroguing Parliament for anything other than a traditional reason, for a traditional length of time, is controversial.

    Arguing that there were prorogue abuses in the past, does nothing to invalidate our anger over this instance. If Joe gave Peter a black eye, is it okay for me to do so too?

    And let’s not forget that this is a minority Parliament. The other examples used were majorities.

    The cited prorogue average of nearly once per year fails to deal with the reality that the need to prorogue was drastically reduced in the mid-60s with a rules change in the House which makes it easier for recesses to be arranged. That rate also ignores some periods in history where we had many elections close together (prorogues happen before elections), and multiple PM changeovers without elections (prorogues happen then too).

    Chretien’s last prorogue, which was to switch PMs (traditional reason), was nevertheless too long, and did avoid a sponsorship scandal report (not the Gomery report, the Auditor General’s report).

    A sudden prorogue in the middle of a holiday season with only a vague rumour it could be coming, while only about half of the government’s business has been done, clearly in order to avoid scrutiny on the Afghan detention file (among other things), is wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Our Parliament sat through both World Wars., debating even during the time of budget preparations. I fail to see why we can’t do it now.

    Even Flaherty said that he didn’t need prorogue to do his work.

    Parliament, even with all its games, is the one place we have the chance to get the government’s answer on record, even if it is to say nothing useful. It’s also the place, and the only place where certain key accountability reports get exclusively, by law, reported. For example, where’s the Auditor General’s report? It is due out soon, but we don’t get to see it because it has to be presented to Parliament. There’s also some ethics reports due, which are not expected to be favourable towards the government. But we can’t see them either until Parliament is back.

    Indeed, if Harper’s plan was to get away with a prorogue, pump us with propaganda for months, have a happy Olympics, drop a decent enough budget, then arrange the downfall of his government, we’d never see those reports until after an election. Nor would we hear anything else on the Afghan detainee matter.

    Frankly, that was likely his best-case plan. No longer.

  2. Totally off-topic, but thought you would find this interesting Red:–u-s-school-bans-the-dictionary?bn=1

    “U.S. school bans the dictionary
    January 26, 2010

    Cathal Kelly

    A Southern California school board has pulled the Merriam-Webster dictionary off its shelves after a parent complained about the entry “oral sex.”

    The collegiate-level dictionary was being used in grade four and five classrooms. The school now promises to begin a thorough scouring of the dictionary for other offensive entries.

    “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,” Menifee Union School District spokesperson Betti Cadmus told the local The Press-Enterprise newspaper.”

  3. That article in the Chilliwack Times was partisan hackery of the worst sort. If, as the writer suggests, parliament is such a farcical waste of time where “Members are constantly running from one section of seats to the other so it looks like there is a crowd gathered around whoever happens to be talking on camera at any point” etc., then perhaps the whole sham should be disbanded…

    I doubt however that he’s advocating that, so his contemptuous mockery was more than a little disingenuous. And yet, his argument (and that being advanced by the Harper government, it has to be said) is that parliament is little more than a frivolous annoyance.

  4. In our village in wartime Scotland one kid owned the only soccer-ball. If his team looked like losing badly he just picked up the ball and went home. When he went on vacation the rest of the guys just hung around like a bunch of Conservatives.
    True story.

  5. The prorogation is helping us all be better students of our own political system.

    What does it mean when the PM shuts down the house and under what circumstances should it be warranted?

    This is worthy of discussion.

    We are discussing it.

  6. Chretien’s last prorogue, which was to switch PMs (traditional reason), was nevertheless too long, and did avoid a sponsorship scandal report

    Somewhat in Chrétien’s defense, Ms. Fraser already issued her first official report (about ‘irregularities’) on the matter prior to this, though she didn’t have a complete paper trail yet. Also they tried to pass as much of the Chrétien administration’s bills as they could before Martin took over – there were no 36 bills left to die. Though the prorogation was too long, it was done for a legitimate reason (change in leadership), and many in the Martin camp were not impressed with Chrétien leaving the Adscam hot-potato in Paul’s lap as he did.

    Chrétien did his part to belittle democracy in this country, just as Mulroney and Trudeau did before him. The above is one example of this. However the fact is that Harper has prorogued twice now for dubious reasons; the first to escape a confidence vote, the latest to escape a commons committee inquiry and an order of parliament. Both prorogations are unprecedented in modern times within any English-speaking Westminster-style parliament.

    As Tomm said, this is very worthy of our discussion. Frankly I am as afraid of future Liberal governments pushing the envelop any further as I am with what Harper might try next.

    The Canadian public must come together and confirm that it is indeed the Prime Minister who is subservient to Parliament, and not the other way around. This should be pretty basic stuff. Canada is not a republic, and we do not have a president. The PM leads by the will of the House of Commons, and the will of the Commons is always paramount …lest we forget the Brits beheaded kings and fought civil wars over this issue hundreds of years ago.

  7. TofKW,

    In a minority parliament, if we make the PM too subservient to the House we end up with Gilles/Jack and the media pulling the levers. Then of course add in the polling…

    I would rather have a PM who I disagree with making smart decisions, than a minority PM forced to become the Chairman of the largest disfunctional board in the nation.

    Do you really want the PM forced to knuckle under that way?

  8. TofKW:

    Sorry but that’s how a democracy works, so yeah, I want the PM to be forced to knuckle under to the will of the people as expressed by our elected representatives.

    Only 22% of elible Canadian voters supported Harper in the last election. That is not enough for him to be given free reigns. In fact, given how he has behaved so far and what contempt he has shown for Parliament and accountability, I really shiver at the thought of him with a majority.

    Majority has worked in the past. Pearson and Trudeau both had “dysfunctional” Parliaments but they worked with, instead of against, the other side. Pearson today, as a result, is considered one of our more accomplished PMs for his short 4 years of minority government.

    The dysfunction arises entirely from Harper and his preference not only to not work with the other parties but to actively butt heads with them.

  9. Tomm, how did Pearson handle things in his two minority governments? For that matter Trudeau later or Martin most recently? You work with whatever party you can find common ground to get bills through, and compromise where you can. Martin worked with the Conservatives to get budget bills passed, the NDP for social issues. If it were not for Adscam, Martin could have kept a minority parliament running for years under such an arrangement. The fact that Harper does not play well with others is what has caused our House of Commons to become the Gong-show it has. The only adults we have left on the Hill, sadly, are the separatists.

    If Harper would actually work with the Liberals on budgets and crime bills, the NDP on repealing the long-gun registry, and the Bloc on issues where decentralizing federal powers come to play; you would find that a lot could get done without the constant partisan attacks and fears of election showdowns every fucking week. As a bonus, Harper would look pragmatic and prime ministerial in the process, and would probably have that majority by now.

    Finally, at this point I fear a Lib-NDP-Bloc coalition less than Harper’s constant parliamentary crisis du jour government. Plus Conservative should look at the bright side of a Lib-NDP-Bloc coalition, it would most certainly be a weak government and would fall within two years …plenty of time for the CPoC to replace Harper with someone who could actually win a majority.

  10. In a minority parliament, if we make the PM too subservient to the House we end up with Gilles/Jack and the media pulling the levers.

    What “levers” is Tomm babbling on about?

  11. I dunno Ti, personally I felt that was a silly premise to add the media in there anyhow. For what it’s worth Tomm means the ‘levers’ of power. Layton is the only one I worry about, Gilles has proven to be a good parliamentarian over the past 16 years, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of sovereignty talk over the last decade. Turns out the Quebecois worry much more about jobs and taxes than separation, anyone surprised?

    Besides the whole coalition thing is dead anyhow, as the GG would certainly call for an election should the Harper government lose a confidence vote. The coalition was only feasible during last year’s crisis because general elections were held the previous month, and Canadians had already quite freshly decided who their representatives were in the House.

  12. For what it’s worth Tomm means the ‘levers’ of power.

    When it comes to anything Tomm says, what’s it’s worth is exactly 0.

    You may not be aware of just well this blog’s commenters have come to understand Tomm.

  13. Tomm really is more a symptom of something I find tiresome.

    I’ve always found the tendency to engage in more grandiose speculation the more opaque the issue is to be a really irritating element in political discussions. You know, the drunks at the end of the bar asserting something profound and significant with respect to issues they neither understand nor have any real experience in.

    Most of the problems with respect to how Harper has governed has to do with the fact that he has neither parliamentary nor popular legitimacy to support the actions he’s taken. In that light, many of them seem more authoritarian and intolerable than they otherwise would be.

    A lot what he’s done is objectively intolerable, of course, but that really is a consequence of getting the government a lot of Canadians deserve. I’m thinking here particularly of ” people who pay their taxes and play by the rules” whose egos were stroked by this type of manipulative twaddle.

  14. I think some retractions are being made about M.P. Hoback. I see you made some mileage on his back. Maybe to want to update as well. Seems he was hard at work at a town outside of P.A. adressing their chamber of commerce on Jan 23. Sorry your souces are so unreliable

  15. Seems he was hard at work at a town outside of P.A. adressing their chamber of commerce on Jan 23.


  16. That is correct Ti – Steve already fixed this over at his Far & Wide blog.

    However, I’ve now re-read everyone’s post here and checked links even. No one has ever mentioned your local member of parliament Bubba. Are you just going around to all the progressive blogs clearing your MP’s name?

  17. That is correct Ti – Steve already fixed this over at his Far & Wide blog.

    I was making a point with respect to someone demanding retractions and complaining about sources while not providing any for a correction he believes should be made.

  18. Hmmm. Hard at work addressing a local Chamber of Commerce. Wow. There’s some heavy lifting for a Conservative. But yes, I guess my “souces” are unreliable in this instance.

  19. Hard at work addressing a local Chamber of Commerce.

    Yeah, must really be hard for a Conservative to address a hostile audience like that.

  20. It seems Bubba wildly misses the point that in much like a frantic oblivious mother defending her criminally inclined son, Bubba resorts to splitting hairs in trying to excuse Hobak’s actions. Given the fact the Conservative courtier Stephen Taylor spared no malice in going after Iggy for going on a vacation, it is only fair to ridicule a backbencher of a governing party who told us that it was absolutely necessary to have all this extra time to critically work on the budget and work excessively hard.

    Normally, being told about this obscene level of urgency, it would normally encourage serious people not to squeeze our every technical vacation day much less pontificate in the warm vacationing sun. I mean, that would be like calling your boss while on vacation telling him you desperately need a 2 month deadline extension or leave due to the heaping amount of urgent work that needs to be done to be ready to present your project, yet you will not get to it until you use up all your alloted vacation time. It is alright just as long as you vacation during my technically allowed time. Sounds pretty convincing to me. Give me a break.

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