Show us some respect

BY PROROGUING Parliament, Harper is serving his party rather than the country


Show us some respectThis was to have been the week Parliament returned to work. A comfortable six-week vacation to allow our MPs to recharge their batteries, and then once more to the business of running the country. Unfortunately, the holiday will now last until March. The damage could last much longer.

Parliament last sat on Dec. 10, 2009. It will not sit again until March 3, 2010. Thanks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s controversial decision to prorogue, Parliament is missing in action at a time when a great many issues demand its attention.

The Prime Minister claimed in one recent interview that a “routine” break of this sort is necessary to “recalibrate” his government. In another, he said suspending Parliament would actually provide greater stability by stifling election speculation. Neither reason is remotely convincing.

Harper’s real motivation was to end embarrassing inquiries into the Afghan detainees affair and fast-forward Parliament to the next federal budget, a topic he feels more comfortable defending if an election is in the offing. It’s a move that serves his party, but not the country.

It’s true that much of the work done by government occurs away from Parliament Hill. Our dramatic support for Haiti, planning the upcoming G20 summit, crafting the new budget and winding down the economic stimulus program are all functions of the executive, rather than legislature. But this does not mean Parliament should be regarded as a bothersome formality that gets underfoot of running the country. The House of Commons remains the ultimate source of law and democracy in this country. It deserves respect.

During these four years of minority government, the Prime Minister has often shown a distinct lack of interest in democratic convention, or even his own commitments. When opposition parties refused to bring down the House in 2008 at a time convenient to his own agenda, Harper did it himself. This in violation of the spirit of his fixed-date election law. Now he’s decided it would be inconvenient to have an election called before March, and so he’s essentially taken away Parliament’s power to make this call through a vote of non-confidence.

We have also heard frequently that opposition parties are to blame for derailing the Harper government’s agenda; in particular, its popular law and order platform. Yet now it is the Prime Minister himself who is being obstreperous. Of the 36 pieces of legislation sent into oblivion by prorogation, nearly half were important changes to the Criminal Code or similar laws. Of particular note is the fact that necessary reforms to the national sex offender registry—the need for which we revealed in a recent Maclean’s investigation—are now on hiatus.

Also lost in the shuffle are significant foreign policy innovations such as free trade deals with Jordan and Colombia. Why abandon all this work?

While Harper has provided generally competent leadership throughout the current economic crisis, he risks throwing all of this away with his cavalier treatment of Parliament. Canadians expect their politicians to show up for work, whether it is convenient for them or not.


Show us some respect

  1. I agree with you. A few facts though. Records show that the Liberals did not delay his bills at all. In fact, most of them he did himself by not providing them in the proper form and of course by proroguing.

    Also, as to the economy, there was the appearance of a steady hand on the wheel, but this is not really the case. Stimulus was directed at Conservative ridings, insead of being targeted to areas that needed it most. They might argue that they were pressed for time, but it took a lot of work getting it to MPs that needed the splash.

  2. The Canada Action Plan was little more than a huge PR stunt and I suspect that once the auditor general's report is public (delayed because of prorogation – quite convenient) we will see that, but the budget officer could only account for about 12.8% of it.

    And another little known fact, that can be found right on the Finance website. Jim Flaherty has made the Canadian taxpayer the largest lender of sub-prime mortgages in the world. The financial post recently referred to Canada as the Fanny Mae of finance and have sounded the alarm, not once but twice. Some financial advisors have already sent out warning letters to their clients.

    Stephen Harper did not pilot us through the recession, he was charting his own course, while Jim Flaherty was poking holes in our lifeboats.

    • EmilyDee wrote:”The Canada Action Plan was a huge PR stunt and I suspect that once the Auditor General’s Report is made public (delayde because of proroguation – quite convenient)…


      In Canada’s 142-year history, Parliament has been prorogued 105 times; averaging about every 16 months.

      The last two Liberal Governments, Trudeau and Chretien, between them, prorogued Parliament 15 times. Trudeau 11 times and Chretien 4 times.

      The last time the Liberals prorogued Parliament was in 2003 when Chretien shut down the House of Commons in order to avoid your above-mentioned Auditor General’s Report on the Liberals’ Sponsorship theft of $100Million of the taxpayers’ money so that he, Chretien, could retire, with his mysteriously- acquired ( he spent virtually his entire working life, from the age of 28, as an MP) multi-million-dollar fortune and dump the Sponsorship scandal on Paul Martin’s plate.

      I guess what goes around, comes around.

  3. "The electorate gets what it deserves"still holds.But let's not put all the blame for the present state of affairs into the electorate's shoes. Horse trading at the Liberal convention brought forth the least electable candidate imaginable! His successor is only slightly more electable,ie.: he will get exactly nowhere in the next election! He and the other opposition parties refusing to bring Harper's government down shows them as indecisive wafflers whose interest is in anything except in the country's well being. What a choice we have! Dictatorial Harper or a namby-pamby liberal leader, whoever that might be come election time. Why bother casting a vote! If you don't like the choice of movies on TV, you just switch it off. Same with elections!

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