Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prorogation By Twitter?

Our federal government has definitely been taking some (much deserved in my humble opinion) heat lately over its decision to once again"prorogue" Parliament. Heck, there's even a 'Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament' Facebook group ... make of that what you will.

And apparently it's even grabbed the world's attention (including China's), with the British magazine, The Economist, accusing Harper of stopping inquiries into allegations of torture of Afghan prisoners and suggesting he is guilty of "naked self interest.", along with this caustic slap.

CANADIAN ministers, it seems, are a bunch of Gerald Fords. Like the American president, who could not walk and chew gum at the same time, they cannot, apparently, cope with Parliament’s deliberations while dealing with the country’s economic troubles and the challenge of hosting the Winter Olympic games. This was the argument put forward by the spokesman for Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister, after his boss on December 30th abruptly suspended, or “prorogued”, Canada’s Parliament until March 3rd.
The first time around, Harper (He of the premature prorogation) was attempting to short-circuit an upcoming non-confidence motion that the minority government was not expected to survive.

This time, depending on who you ask and who you believe, it could be about "getting away from the constant pounding that Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the government is taking over allegations of the torture of Afghan prisoners after they were handed over to Afghan authorities" or it could be just another example of good governance.

The new session has been billed as a way to focus on repairing the country's economy.

"Our priority in the new session of Parliament will continue to be rapid and effective implementation of Canada's Economic Action Plan to benefit communities, workers and businesses," Harper said, in a written statement. "We are already looking ahead to future challenges. These include restoring a balanced budget once our economy is fully recovered and building a strong foundation for our economic future."
Either which way, Harper has now said that he's considering making prorogation (is that even a real word??) an annual event; sort of like a giant "reset" button for Parliament each year.

Do you think maybe Harpers been looking longingly south of the border for a little too long? Then again, perhaps He should take a lesson from that little gaffe, seeing how well that how that was received politically out and as how He seems a little bit "overcharged" with himself and his own power.

The problem with premature prorogation (yep, that's what I wrote) is that it has even bigger effects than disbanding the Special Committee on Afghanistan, currently examining allegations of the torture of detainees and giving Harper the chance to appoint five new Conservative senators, creating a Conservative majority in the upper house when Parliament resumes.

It also kills any pending legislation.

And that right there (in addition to the lack of respect it shows for Parliamentary proceeding) is my biggest problem.

Annual premature prorogation, indeed. Trying saying that five times quickly.

Proposed legislation can take a long time to work its way through the Parliamentary process, what with first, second and third readings, the committee process and debate in the House. Then it's off the Senate for more possible amendments. And even after all that, it awaits Royal Assent from the Governor-General.

A fair number of bills introduced in one sitting of Parliament are carried over the next session and even the next before they finally become law. But when Parliament is prorogued, all outstanding bills die on the order paper. Meaning they have to reintroduced and start the entire process all over when Parliament deigns to sit again.

Which is exactly what has happened to the Conservatives' own bills on consumer product safety and harsher sentences for drug traffickers this time around. And which they (in all their wisdom) apparently plan to reintroduce in their original forms. Next time around.

That Harper is actually threatening considering doing this on an annual basis as a way to more "efficiently" run government is a flagrant abuse of Constitutional power and, in my mind, only shows his contempt for the Canadian people who elected (by however small a margin) him and his part to actually run this country. Not as a dictator but in the well-established democratic Canadian tradition and process.

Take heed, Mr. Haper - the job we elected you and your party to do most assuredly does not include closing down Parliament whenever the hell it suits your political fancy.

And although I think Dan Leger is more than a bit unfair in castigating the majority of Canadians for hypocritically getting upset about Harper's latest actions while not giving a damn about Parliament while it's actually sitting, the Chronicle Herald does get one thing right - the casual manner in which Harper dealt with this most recent prorogation (leaving the announcement to his spokesman and phoning it in to the Governor General rather than calling upon her in person, as tradition dictates) only goes to additionally show (if one needed more evidence) how much respect he has, not just for Parliament, but for all Canadians.

What’s next? Prorogation by Twitter?

1 comment:

tam said...

perhaps a prorogue should be considered a leave of absence, as it would in the "real world", in which case, all those MPs, and dare I say Mr. Harper himself, would have to take an unpaid leave.

Why in heck should our tax dollars go to paying them when they aren't working.

gahhh.......I'm just cranky over a lot of things government these days, moreso provincial.....

tam :)