What happened that day at Rideau

In an interview with Ontario News Watch, constitutional scholar Peter Russell suggests concerns about a Conservative backlash played into Michaelle Jean’s decision to grant Stephen Harper’s request to prorogue Parliament when the Conservatives were facing defeat to a Liberal-NDP coalition. Russell made similar comments in October 2010, but Peter Hogg, another of Ms. Jean’s advisors, dismisses the idea.

Peter Hogg, another former adviser to the previous governor-general, said Monday that he did not think this concern played a role in her decision. “That issue of the Tory propaganda machine did not figure in anything that I am aware of,” said Mr. Hogg, a leading constitutional authority and scholar in residence at Blake, Cassels & Graydon. “I do not know exactly what moved her but I don’t think that was one of the factors.

Russell has also said previously that Ms. Jean asked for certain commitments from the Prime Minister. Hogg has reportedly said that the coalition’s unravelling soon thereafter proved that the Governor General made the right decision.

In an interview with me before she left Rideau Hall, Ms. Jean offered the slightest of explanations for the decision.




Browse

What happened that day at Rideau

  1. GG Jean failed to do her job that day….the only actual job she had, over and above the ribbon-cutting trivia…and the country has suffered for it ever since.

    • Strongly disagree. Does nobody remember the Rebellion, where we fought over this exact issue–for GG to stay out of it? Mind you, when GG finally got that message and stayed out of it–then we burned down the legislative buildings in protest.
      So, okay, we’re a bit wishy-washy on this subject. Maybe we Canadian citizens should talk about exactly what it is we wish our GG to do in a given situation–I mean, before such a given situation is upon us.

      • The GG is there to perform a specific job…and has the constitutional power to do so.

        We have never fought over the issue, I have no idea whose history you’re discussing…….the GG represents the Queen, and it’s her job to protect our democracy.

        Jean failed to do that job.

  2. She didn’t “ask” for certain committments; she made Harper table a deficit budget against his wishes with a minimum of $32 billion in stimulus spending, and she had no constitutional authority to do so.
    Peter Russell is a Trudeau era 80 year old white academic from Toronto – no surprise he’s palpably anti-Conservative, his peers would “de-person” him otherwise. Shrieking hysterically and displaying naked partisanship seems below the dignity of one who is supposed to be Canada’s leading constitutional scholar.

    • Not exactly debunking the theory about the dangers of loud consistent outlandish war room messaging, here…

    • If you are trying to prove that Harper is an incompetent and impotent prime minister you are succeeding wonderfully well.

    • Harper was bullied by the GG? Sure. Remember, it doesn’t have to be true, but it does have to be plausible.

    • Treading close to libel there, aren’t you?

      I certainly didn’t see Ms. Jean with a gun to his head at the presentation of the budget. Once she granted the prorogation, he could have presented any budget he wished when Parliament came back into session. Short of the vote failing, she would have had little power to call an election thereafter.

      Ms. Jean didn’t have to do a thing to get Stephen to include a stimulus package in the budget. That was done by the Canadian voters and the makeup of the MPs that they sent to parliament. He knew damn well that the opposition thought they’d be able to win an election on any budget without significant stimulus in it. And he was certainly bright enough to see that given the conditions of the world around him and the mood of the country right after the prorogation, they’d have a decent chance of kicking him down to official opposition.

      That said, I personally do believe there were some conditions applied to Mr. Harper at that meeting. However, they had nothing to do with the budget. If you’ll remember at the time, pretty much the moment he came out of that meeting, the CPC screaming about a coalition being treasonous or anything like that just disappeared. I think she requested he make some phone calls to the party war room to tell them to tone down the divisive attacks they were making on a legitimate action of parliament.

      • I suspect the conditions you speak of were indeed applied, but probably consisted more of “you can’t run away and hide for months and months and months…you better be back in Parliament with a Throne Speech & budget in a small number of weeks, or I will dismiss you”.

        • Good point, and one I hadn’t thought of. I don’t see any reason why both conditions might not apply.

          However, for me, part of what’s interesting about this conversation is Fassbinder is obviously uncomfortable with the idea that the CPC and Harper turned its back on their stated principles just for power’s sake. He has to try to find some sort of evil plot that forced them to do it. It’s interesting because it’s an insight into what the minds of dedicated CPC supporters are doing before they go into the polls.

    • Did she force him to also spend additional and continuous millions on advertising this deficit budget? Ongoing for (so far) the rest of his time as Prime Minister, and long after Jean herself has left the post?
      Wow, GG is way more powerful than I thought.

      • You want a gazebo? Talk to the GG and he/she will get it done!

      • Clearly, she was a Liberal plant.

  3. @Fassbinder
    Thanks for taking the time to spin the PMO version. Now you can get back to the real work of forging new fabrications for Del Mastro, Clements, Kenney, Baird, and of course, our Dear Leader.

    • Yes, Wherry is a supine Conbot, as we all know.

  4. I suspect Russell’s concerns indeed played a small part, although it was larger than the standard Conservative PR machine. My recollection is that some obscure freelancer known as Andy Coin made reference to the coalition as being illegitimate in the pages of Macleans. (I believe he has since found occasional work for the Post.) Having 40-60% of the population believe their government is illegitimate is a horrible state that Canada seems destined to remain in for a while.

    • Having 40-60% of the population believe their government is illegitimate
      is a horrible state that Canada seems destined to remain in for a
      while.

      Well, the Americans have been living with it for 12 years, since Dubya stole won the 2000 “hanging chad” election, and now we have Obama who can’t seem to decide if he was born in the USA or in Kenya.

    • It seems to me there’s only one side that see’s a democratically elected government as “illegitimate”.

      • The coalition was as democratically elected. Libs+NDP popular support exceeded that of CPC.

        • No question about that. But they never formed government. I’m not going to say for certain that the CPC wouldn’t have accused the Coalition of being illegitimate if they had gone through with their plan, because there’s no point in speculating.

          But my point was more about the general tendency amongst the left to call any government they don’t like “illegitimate”, regardless of how many people voted for them.

  5. Harper could not have successfully attacked the legitimacy
    of coalition as he had attempted to gang up with NDP and the separatist Bloc to
    topple Mr. Martin’s Liberal minority government in 2005 (both Jack Layton and
    Guy Duceppe publicly testified Harper’s overture). From my view point, Michaelle Jean had her own
    interests to protect – had she said “No”, she would have become the
    target of Tories’ withering attack as she had shared the freedom toasts with
    the separatists, and Canadian aids to Haiti would have possibly been
    disrupted/delayed due to a change in government; hence, she was the wrong
    person to make the decision in good faith for Canada. I would have preferred to have a referendum
    to allow the people of Canada to make a choice.

    • We have laws, and rules, and precedent. That’s what Jean followed. Just because you don’t like the result, doesn’t mean she was wrong. The PM was within his rights, everybody knows it. Calling the GG a coward 4 years later doesn’t do anything to prove any kind of point.

      • The PM had his rights to ask for the prorogation
        of the Parliament as he saw it would serve his purpose – protecting his power,
        but there were neither laws nor rules that the GG had to give the PM her
        consent as she did. Calling her “coward”
        would not prove “any kind of the point”, but proving that she had her own interests
        for giving her consent may prove that she was coward.

        • By the way, I would blame on the Liberals for making the grave mistake of putting the wrong person on the GG chair.

      • I don’t think she made the wrong decision. I do think we have a problem if a government staring down a non-confidence vote it will likely lose can opt to prorogue Parliament for up to one year. That is what our constitution and now precedent allows. It’s something that should be fixed.

        In my book, the executive should not be able to unilaterally shut down Parliament. The executive branch in this country is already overbearingly powerful, having almost completely subsumed the legislative branch. This is a Bad Thing, regardless of the stripe of the bastard/bonehead who occupies to PMO.

        • I think her decision, while there was nothing technically wrong with it, it was wrong none-the-less for the exact reasons that you cite.

          I also think she was wrong in granting Mr. Harper his election while the ink from her signature on the fixed elections act he was subverting was still wet. Such a refusal would have been more difficult to justify on grounds of our precedent, but I still think justification to refuse it was there. “The majority of the House of Commons has passed a law dictating when elections are to be held, Mr. Harper. While you are the first among the ministers I listen to, your will does not supersede that of the House. To have your election you must repeal the law or at least bring to me evidence that the majority of the House seeks it.”

          Instead, her ruling pretty much explicitly said that the PM’s word does supersede that of the house, and her prorogation ruling reaffirmed that.

          While I very much like Mme. Jean and her works, those particular decisions were, I felt, wrong and damaging to our system of governance.

          • I agree with Thwim; Michaelle Jean had major decisions to make for Canada and she made the wrong decisions, which have damaged hour system of governance. I would not blame Mr. Harper for asking her; he was allowed to ask for anything he wanted, but he should not have been allowed to have everything he wanted. She was the wrong person for the position of GG!

        • I completely agree. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll happen any time soon. It would make a great part of a “democratic reform” platform though. Just tough to imagine anybody in government actually enacting such reform once they’ve finally got to the top of the greasy poll.

  6. Several questions are raised by the fact that a bit more, but still incomplete, information is coming out in June 2012 about Governor General Michaelle Jean’s constitutional considerations during the December 2008 shutting down of Parliament by Prime Minister Harper.

    First, what were the Governor General’s considerations in calling the election in September 2008, despite the fact that legal measures had been passed by Parliament fixing the date of the next federal election for October 2009?

    Also, why are there (still) no clear, written rules about when Parliament opens up and shuts down? about when elections happen and who has the power to rule after an election? and about what types of votes could end the rule of one party as a vote of non-confidence? And why do none of the provinces have clear written rules covering these key situations?

    Politicians from all parties in Britain, Australia and New Zealand have, to varying degrees, written down these rules, thereby clearing up constitutional confusion, and helping ensure that their prime minister and governor generals/monarchy act properly and democratically in these significant, country-changing situations.

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Spokesperson for Your Canada, Your Constitution (YCYC) / Votre Canada, Votre Constitution (VCVC)
    http://ycyc-vcvc.ca

  7. Several questions are raised by the fact that a bit more, but still incomplete, information is coming out in June 2012 about Governor General Michaelle Jean’s constitutional considerations during the December 2008 shutting down of Parliament by Prime Minister Harper.

    First, what were the Governor General’s considerations in calling the election in September 2008, despite the fact that legal measures had been passed by Parliament fixing the date of the next federal election for October 2009?

    Also, why are there (still) no clear, written rules about when Parliament opens up and shuts down? about when elections happen and who has the power to rule after an election? and about what types of votes could end the rule of one party as a vote of non-confidence? And why do none of the provinces have clear written rules covering these key situations?

    Politicians from all parties in Britain, Australia and New Zealand have, to varying degrees, written down these rules, thereby clearing up constitutional confusion, and helping ensure that their prime minister and governor generals/monarchy act properly and democratically in these significant, country-changing situations.

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Spokesperson
    Your Canada, Your Constitution (YCYC) / Votre Canada, Votre Constitution (VCVC)
    http://ycyc-vcvc.ca

Sign in to comment.