Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 1 of 3

PART 1 of 3

NOTE: I’ve broken the original gigantic “Canada, we have a Prorogue” article into 3 more manageable segments with no additions.
So if you read the long version, you will have already read this.

Canadian Flag flies in a rural setting
A flag flies in rural Canada

It takes a lot to anger Canadians, but when riled, that anger can move mountains.

The last time the Canadians got really angry at our government:

“The oldest party in Canada was reduced from a 151-seat majority to two seats in the worst defeat ever suffered for a governing party at the federal level.”

Wikipedia: Brian Mulroney

Funny, that was a Conservative government too.

Canadian Politics

The Canadian Encyclopedia
online article about the Canadian
House of Commons tells us that:

“The Parliamentary Calendar specifies the time of the year that the House sits.   Sessions of Parliament begin with a summons and end with prorogation.   Both are formally issued by the governor general in response to the government’s request.

Minority parliaments recently have lasted only one or two sessions.   Between 1867 and 1938 the annual sessions lasted only a few months; now they normally run a full year, with 3 long adjournments.   The main purpose of prorogation is to wipe clean the Order Paper.   All business unfinished at the end of a session – unanswered questions and all orders relating to bills and motions – die on the Order Paper.   The House controls its own adjournments, but the CROWN (which in this instance is the cabinet) controls both the length of a session and the Parliament. ”

House of Commons, The Canadian Encyclopedia

Just as every session of Parliament begins with a Summons,
every session of parliament ends with Prorogation.

Prorogation is intended to halt the law making process, and is generally employed after the all the new legislation has been passed.   Or not.   An administrative device to clear the decks before an election, prorogation sweeps away any incidental unfinished bureaucratic detritus and allows the new government coming in after the election the opportunity to govern from a fresh start as a a courtesy.   This is perfectly reasonable… why should the newly elected government be obliged to clean up the unfinished business of the old?

Prorogation can also be used for a changing of the guard without calling an election.   When Brian Mulroney chose to step down and hand the reigns of power over to Kim Campbell, he would have prorogued parliament, just as Prime Minister Jean Chrétien did when he retired in office and handed the reigns of government to his successor Paul Martin Jr.   This allows the successor to start with a clean slate, and falls under the normal intended uses of the prorogation procedure.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has now twice employed prorogation in a completely abnormal way.   Harper prorogues parliament long before the legislative business of parliament is finished.   Because prorogation discards any laws that have not yet been voted on, most of the legislation that has cost a Canadians a great deal of time and money to craft — all the legislation which has not yet been passed into law — has simply been swept away in the blink of a Prime Ministerial phone call to his tame Governor General.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has treated a great deal of the work done by the 40th Canadian Parliament by discarding the bulk of the legislation as bureaucratic detritus.

Until now, prorogation was simply a bit of political jargon that covered a routine bit of business.   Like every other ordinary Canadian, I hadn’t even heard the term prorogation before Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose this way to subvert the Canadian democratic process.

Canadian prorogations of 2008 and 2009

During the 40th Parliament of Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has prorogued Parliament twice, both times attracting significant national and international media attention.   Canadian Parliaments have always been prorogued every one to two years, but those prorogations were usually seen as procedural rather than political moves and attracted little media attention.   The 2008 prorogation was soon after the first session began and was to avoid a vote of no confidence from opposition parties, an unprecedented use of prorogation. ”


Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has now twice misused the prorogue process in order to bypass Canadian democracy.   Prorogation to evade hard questions and retain personal power has cost taxpayers far more money than an election would have, since all of the unpassed laws that this session of parliament was working on have been swept into the trash.   Heaps of money wasted. All so Harper could remain in office with the hope Canadians would forget the questions we have demanded answers to.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t much like leading a minority government.   He seems to have a great deal of difficulty playing well with others.

American President Richard M. Nixon

For myself, I am very happy that we have a minority government, probably for the very same reasons that Mr. Harper is not.

Because the Prime Minister of a minority government is accountable.   The plug can be pulled on his authority at any time.   That’s a good thing for citizens.   One of the reasons Canada needs election reform is that when we have a minority government there is currently no mechanism in our electoral system to remove a bad Prime Minister.

One thing I admire about the American electoral system is that they have legal remedies: even their president is not above the law because impeachment is a remedy open to them.   Another is the fact that a President is barred from serving more than two consecutive terms.   In itself that would prevent a lot of electoral abuse in Canada.   When we have a majority leader in Canada we’re stuck with him.

Forward to Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 2 of 3   Forward Navigational Arrow


6 thoughts on “Canada, we have a Prorogue: Part 1 of 3

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