Will the prorogation of Parliament set off a populist revolt? - Macleans.ca

Will the prorogation of Parliament set off a populist revolt?

The people speak


The people speak

Of all the possible issues to trip him up—the deficit, stubbornly high unemployment, Afghan detainees—who would have predicted that a four-syllable term for a parliamentary procedure would send Stephen Harper’s poll numbers tumbling? Yet prorogation, the antique-sounding word for suspending Parliament, has done it. Harper’s Dec. 30 decision to send MPs on an unscheduled break until March 3 galvanized dismay over both his leadership style and the state of a democracy in which the Prime Minister feels free to wield such unchecked power. “It’s solidifying a very deep sense that there’s something wrong with the way we govern ourselves,” says Rick Anderson, a long-time advocate for democratic reform who, like Harper, worked for Preston Manning back when Manning’s Reform party embodied a grassroots desire for politics less dominated by prime ministerial power.

Harper, though, never really swam in that populist Reform current. Manning wanted to change the way Ottawa worked in order to give more clout to ordinary MPs, and in turn make them more responsive to voters; Harper was mostly interested in economic policy and conservative ideology. Later, after uniting the right to create a winning new Conservative brand, he proved himself an uncommonly disciplined top-down organizer, first of his party and then of his government. Harper’s underdeveloped populist instincts never seemed a serious liability—until lately. He clearly underestimated the backlash against proroguing for the second time in about a year. In late 2008, he suspended Parliament to avoid being defeated in the House by an opposition coalition. Last month, he resorted to it again, this time, his critics say, to cool the Afghan detainee controversy until after the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

If Harper’s only worry was the ability of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois to channel public resentment over prorogation, he’d probably have been safe. None of the opposition party leaders has managed to position himself as a potent voice of anger over the shuttering of Parliament. Instead, the movement’s centre of gravity is a Facebook group called Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, run by Christopher White, a University of Calgary graduate student in anthropology. He doesn’t belong to any political party and his main research concerns an old Calgary graveyard. Still, White’s online network has attracted more than 200,000 members, making it arguably the most successful use to date of so-called social media as a political organizing tool in Canada. “People who didn’t like the idea said, ‘Oh, it’s Facebook, it isn’t real,’ ” White says. “But Facebook is a tool. Use it right and you can effect change.”

He admits that his movement still has to prove it’s more than a forum for Web-wise political wonks to let off steam. A big test will come Jan. 23, when old-fashioned public demonstrations are planned in dozens of cities and towns, in a bid to take anti-prorogation anger off the Web and onto the streets. As well, White says he is now considering next steps. His initial goal was simple: use Facebook to encourage Canadians to write their MPs demanding that they return to work on Jan. 25, as they were supposed to before prorogation. But discussion among his group’s members has broadened to take in all sorts of ideas, including changing the way MPs are elected. White favours proposing more narrowly focused changes to Parliament’s rule book to prevent any prime minister from unilaterally shutting it down. And he’s wary of partisanship taking over. “If we let it just become Harper-bashing,” he says, “we risk alienating some people.”

Conservatives argue partisanship is already at the root of the anti-prorogation fomentation. They complain that past Liberal prime ministers have shut down the House and Senate without sparking anywhere near the current uproar. By convention, a prime minister asks the governor general to prorogue either for an election or when a government has run through its legislative agenda, and thus needs to launch a new session with a Throne Speech. Tories contend that then-prime minister Jean Chrétien did it in 2003 mainly to avoid facing an auditor general’s report on what turned into the sponsorship scandal. But Chrétien plausibly said then that the break was needed to let Paul Martin, who was taking over as Liberal leader and prime minister, set out his own House agenda. Harper can point to no similar watershed moment to justify proroguing now.

Along with the Facebook backlash, the government is being pestered by professors. More than 200 political scientists, constitutional lawyers and other academics signed a letter registering their objection over Harper using “his power to prorogue Parliament for a second year in a row in circumstances that allow him to evade democratic accountability.” But social-media and ivory-tower griping wouldn’t matter much in Ottawa if the opinion polls weren’t showing that the voting public doesn’t like it either. Among several polls showing the Tories have suffered since prorogation, Ekos pegged Conservative support at 30.9 per cent earlier this month, virtually tied with the Liberals at 29.3 per cent—erasing the 15-point lead the Tories enjoyed as recently as October. “Prorogation on its own would have been the blip everybody predicted,” said Ekos president Frank Graves. “It’s cumulative frustration that has pushed this from issue-of-the-day to significant resentment.”

Graves says the same resilient public respect for democratic institutions that helped Harper so much in the fall of 2008 is hurting him now. Back then, the opposition coalition formed to try to defeat Harper in the House raised public ire because it would have made then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion prime minister—even though voters had just resoundingly rejected Dion in an election. It turned out most Canadians didn’t like the idea that their votes counted for so little. Similarly, many resent the MPs they elected being sidelined with the House closed. Graves said both cases smacked of “a core level of disrespect for the democratic will of Canadians as expressed through Parliament.”

The question is whether Harper faces only a quick-burning reaction or has inadvertently breathed lasting life into the on-again, off-again push for democratic reform. “We’re not yet at the tipping point, I don’t believe, where we’re moving from moaning about the problem to concentrating on the solution,” Anderson says. He argues that Harper’s misuse of prorogation is only the latest abuse of a system that has for several decades seen power concentrating in the Prime Minister’s Office. “This has been evolving,” Anderson says, “since the introduction of the presidential-style politics by Pierre Trudeau.” And prime ministers since, from Mulroney to Chrétien to Harper, have further centralized power.”

Stephen Harper If that’s true, what’s to be done about it? Some reformers call for updating how Canadians elect their representatives. But various electoral-reform ideas were rejected by voters in referendums held in British Columbia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island in recent years. Those bitter setbacks have left some advocates of change favouring more modest steps. White says he hopes his Facebook group doesn’t shift attention from prorogation to bigger ideas, such as proportional representation, that failed to pass in those provincial votes. Manning, who now heads his own Manning Centre for Building Democracy, sees little chance of progress toward what he regards as the most fundamental reform—MPs freed to vote as they choose. “There’s nobody,” he said, “who’s going to champion that.”

After seeming slow off the mark on the prorogation debate, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals are trying to come to grips with the issue. Veteran MP Ralph Goodale, Ignatieff’s House leader, told Maclean’s that Liberals will spend the next three weeks discussing what to do with experts. “We don’t think prorogation should be used in the deceitful way that it has been,” Goodale said. He said the party is looking at three possible new rules: require that a session of Parliament run at least, say, a year before it can be prorogued; limit how long prorogations could last, perhaps to as little as two or three weeks; or require that a prime minister give notice to the House and Senate, with reasons, before going to the governor general to ask for prorogation.

Put like that, the solutions all seem a bit dry. They aren’t the stuff of big headlines, let alone populist revolts. Maybe that’s fine. “We don’t rely on being on the front page,” White says of his anti-prorogation group. They’d better not: some Conservative strategists are hinting that Harper’s fast, fulsome response to the Haitian earthquake is already burying the prorogation fuss. Experienced advocates of democratic reform, who’ve seen momentum fizzle out before, know it might be so again.


Will the prorogation of Parliament set off a populist revolt?

  1. "Ralph Goodale, Ignatieff's House leader, told Maclean's that Liberals will spend the next three weeks discussing what to do with experts."

    Earth to Ralph: consult them. Quickly.

  2. The fact that Parliamentarians need to seek outside experts on how Parliament should function speaks volumes about the caucus composition on all sides of the House.

    • Hear hear. But it also speaks to a frankly ridiculous abdication of leadership on the part of Ignatieff. Three weeks after prorogation, he still has no coherent position on it? This guy is unfit to be Prime Minister. I'm no fan of Harper, but the last thing this country needs, the last thing the Liberal Party needs, is "Paul Martin II: Very, Very Important," playing seldom in no theatre near you.

      • Just so that I'm clear, are you suggesting that you would prefer Harper's leadership to Iggy's?

    • Actually, I don't cast my ballot for a constitutional expert, I cast it for someone who is going to represent my riding, national and international issues the way I'd like them to. It's ridiculous to think that any elected member of parliament would be a Peter Hogg. I like the idea of my MP consulting experts in a certain field.

  3. It is gratifying to see the voters reaction to the prorogation issue. This action shows such disregard for the average Canadian. The action clearly states “I don’t like what you are demanding so we are shutting this House down and going home”. Remember when you were a Kid, and the Kid that owned the ball had all the power. If He said the rule was this way, that’s what it was. To say that the time away is required in order to prepare a Budget is an insult to the intelligence of the average Canadian. The average Canadian can see this plan in advance of it’s maturity. Parliament is recalled..the Throne speech is read..a vote is called on the Budget. with ZERO INPUT from all Paties…. IMMORAL and INSULTING.. I have been a long time Liberal, yet I don’t suggest for one minute that there is any clear alternative to this childishness. I wish there were a large enough group of MPs who were able to vote independently, to help change things. Poor Canada..We are at War..Our economy requires sound direction, surely with the input of all elected MPs. Our Troops are engaged in War and the people directing the issues are not in the house..SHAME…..Jim Hickey

    • Grow Up.You have all the freedom in the world Three extra weeks during the Olympics will not hurt our democracy.We all know most of these twits have tickets to some of the events.The Liberals look like idiots running off to Ottawa first class airfare return each weekend while we pay millions in tax dollars to support constituency offices.They are probably afraid that the voters may see how little they do when their home and want to cut costs by making them work out of their homes when not in Ottawa.

      • Millions of Canadians aren't getting three weeks off to watch the Olympics.

        It's not the Opposition's job to run the government. It's…the Government's job. Shock.

      • Well said, Gar.

    • …And did you complain when Chretien shut down parliament for 82 days?
      I don't thinkl so!
      IF you did not complain then…don't beef now!

      J Bruce Winnacott

  4. Why is this a problem for a Conservative government? Past Liberal govt's did this as a matter of course. Maybe the Liberals don't like it when someone else uses their tricks?

    • Because the liberals never did it in order to avoid difficult questions from Parliament. Why is that so hard to understand?

      • Pat….the Liberals did it because they were caught stealing (for the umpteenth time) from the taxpayers.

        Do you understand that Pat?

        • James, remember that the Liberal government of the day, had a judical inquiry on the sponsorship scandal. It was a very open and transparent process. Those found guilty were prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The Prime Minister (Paul Martin) was completley exonerated by an impartial judge. Why don't we have a public inquiry on the afghan detainee issue as well. Or do the Conservatives have a lot to HIDE?? Is that why they shut down parliment, so that the committees could not meet?

    • This is not about right and left, but about right and wrong. If it was wrong before, it is wrong now. Remember, Harper promised to put an end to bad government, and has instead brought it to new heights.

      • I completely agree… this is especially insulting since Harper was elected on a platform of accountable and responsible government. He has betrayed those principles.

    • Willie, I don't buy that you are actually asking that question. If you have read anything over the past couple weeks you already know why this is different. This is nothing more than a diversion line. No big deal. It's been done more than 100 times in the past. Blah. Blah. Everyone here knows you're asking that question to follow a line of partisan postings.
      Now, I will be the first to agree that Chretien's prorogation before the sponsorship scandal really blew is suspect. The difference is that he had a majority government AND was much further down the legislative agenda than this. In other words, it MAY have been dirty tricks, but it just wasn't so blatant. There was something midly plausible about it.
      Mr. Harper on the other has dumped 36 bills to avoid accountability. Big difference.

    • Perhaps you should read the article.
      Liberal government's prorogued as a matter of course when their legislative agenda was done, or when there was a serious need for another throne speech, such as a new person becoming the PM.

      Harper's prorogued with over half his bills stll out there, with no indications that he's resigning the post.

    • get a grip, you sound like a troll

    • Maybe I missed the 2006/2008 campaign(s).

      I don;t think Canadians voted for the Conservatives on the slogan "We'll be the same as the Liberals!!!"

    • There are some valid reasons for using this process. If you are referring to when the Liberals did it due to a change in leadership, I think that it a valid reason. There has been no change of leadership in the Conservative party….the fact is THE HEAT IS ON—-and they want to get out of the kitchen. Mr. Harper has proven himself to be a control freak, and more and more Canadians are unhappy with this!

  5. Prorogation Protests were a dismal failure. it is time for the media to shelf this story .The bias is showing so clearly to most Canadian the way some networks and news media have tried to turn this into a major parliamentary crisis and a threat to our democracy.from my view the crowds were small and were made up of a lot of kooks like the publicity seeking Raging Grannies and those to idiots in Toronto dressed in what looked like diapers to suit their mentality .

    • I must get off here, before i lose my mind with the BS that's flooding the message boards. Loyal Conservatives must have received new talking points. The protests were NOT a dismal failure. Unless of course you think that WAY outnumbering the anti-coalition protests last year is a failure. Besides, you know the only numbers that count are the poll numbers. How are they looking for you again?

  6. Shorter gar: "Don't tell anyone! If you'd just stop telling people, maybe they'd let it go!"

  7. Details, details: Christopher White is a graduate student at the University of Alberta, not the University of Calgary, and the cemetery that he researched is near Edson, not Calgary.

    If you can't get the little stuff right, what trust can we have in the big stuff?

  8. Clang clang, rattle bing bang, gonna bang on my drum all daaaaaaaaaY!

    If the Liberals wanna rebrand, there's the slogan they can use. Iggy's wise not to get too close to this non-issue. Bang on, liberals, bang on… clang clang, rattle bing bang, gonna bang on my drum all daaaaaaaaaay!

    • Hey Ryan – is this the new talking points of the Harper Government?
      What are you – 2 years old…..

  9. I certainly hope this leads to a populist revolt. If I've learned one thing from this whole debacle it is the fragility of our democracy in the face of abuse. We as citizens have to be on guard because we are inches away from autocratic rule. With things the way they are right now, the only day we have a democracy is when we are at the polls. What happens if an extension to prorogation is asked for?

    Harper is particularly dangerous in that he has never hidden his contempt for Canadian tradition and his 'judged by God not history' attitude leads me to believe he is willing to push his agenda even if it is not in the best interest of the populace. On the 23rd when he gave his speech to his loyal lieutenants (who'd been ordered to cheer), in the parliament building. The opposition has been sent away so there was no dissenting voices to be heard. The press were there but were not allowed to ask questions so the people's voices were silenced. It was something out of a banana republic or Balkan state. I couldn't help but feel like I was watching something out of a fascist state not democratic Canada.

  10. Time they are forced to work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks ( minus 4 weeks vacation) like the rest of us. Maybe then they would be worth the money we pay them for doing nothing now.
    The least efficient workers in canada.

  11. The way I see it, the Liberals, Iggy in particular, have absolutely no new (or any) ideas for governing the country. Parliamentary sessions consist mostly of partisan bickering and posturing, purely to gain power. Canada's economy is, relatively speaking, one of the best in the world, considering the global impact of the US housing bubble that started this 'crisis', and that is thanks to the conservative policies of this government. Stephen Harper has restored respect for Canada worldwide, and has restored respect, morale, and some 'teeth' to Canada's military. Now we have to ride it out, without any drastic changes to our political system. Politics is often the art of determining the 'lesser of two evils'. Before dismissing Harper, consider what things was like under the previous Liberal govt, and what live might me like under an empty suit such as Iggy, who is struggling for ideas and support even within his own party. And consider this, the less time that sit in the Commons debating, the less damage they can do. With govt. , less is more!

    • TeeJay
      The headline is about a populist revolt – not a Liberal election.

      That said, the continuous rash talking the protest could just turn off enough of the swing vote to get them elected.

  12. Populist revolt? Are you kidding?

    There are issues out there that deeply impact fellow Canadians far more than this prorogue. Harmonized Sales Tax. Climate Change. Job Losses/Layoffs. Devastated retirement accounts, and more.

    Geddes expects us to get all bent out of shape on this? Our democracy is being threatened… what shall we ever do? Canadian politics have always been chock full of scandals and controversy (which makes good fodder for journalists like him) and this is nothing new. We're used to it. Get over it.

    If he thinks for a moment that this even appears on the top 5 issues pressing on the hearts of Canadians, he's sorely mistaken. I bet the Conan O'Brien fiasco probably bothers most Canadians more than this.

  13. You do realize that just because the House isn't sitting does not mean they are not working. The government is still running they just aren't discussing new legislation.

    I wish people would take the time to understand how our government functions, and the the sitting of the House is only a small portion of the work that happens.

    Also, even though I don't agree with the prorogation of Parliament, it is saving tax payers millions of dollars in travel expenses for the MP's, something that in this economy is hard to complain about.

    • No it's not; MP travel budgets are essentially a set amount per year. Whether Parliament is sitting or not, they can — and do — gad about the country as required.

      Know what you're talking about before tossing off cheap shot anti-pol posts.

      Also, an astonishing number of us don't even get 4 weeks. Two is the legislated minimum.

  14. Do you think the saved travel expenses is going to outweigh the estimated $130Million cost of the prorogation?

    Oh and the 'government' is actually formed by the opposition and the government working together. The debate is actually supposed to be part of the working of government. For example, harper suggested yesterday that the opposition parties time is best spent working on their ideas for the economy. They are supposed to be able to supply that input to the 'government' through parliament. In effect the voices of the majority of Canadians have been taken out of the budget process… I wish people would take the time to understand how government functions not just get told by their chosen political party what the 'how government really works' talking point of the day.

  15. The descriptive words are contemptuous, arrogant and incivil for this government and minority status to boot. This prorogue was 'minor' but it comes with 4 year history of mismangement from what they promised after the Liberal record (sponsorship etc). Now supporters of this government say that if the Liberals under Trudeau/Chretien can prorogue 100x then they can do it also. We are in the 21st century openness and honesty in government is what citizens want (therefore long standing dislike of politicians and apathy at vote time). This government is still competing withthe Liberals who appear to be their standard.

  16. you have been watching too many war movies or reading too many books.The days of you lefties convincing Canadians Harper is dangerous is over. Look at the few protesters about 35,000 maximum for all of Canada out of 33 million half can vote in the next election.The hidden agenda is all B.S. .Most Canadians are sick and tired of hearing about a Taliban murdering detainee while our young men and women are being killed by these scum bags.Why should we have these idiots condemning our soldiers calling them war criminals during the Olympics..You lefties are so chicken .I have challenged many to defeat the budget on march 3 and create an election.You blog a lot of nonsense but not one of you have demanded the government be defeated because you know the Conservatives will come back with a majority.The silent majority do not parade in the streets and dress in funny clothes.

  17. Lets be thankful that Professors and Students aren't running the country. The hissy fit approach reminds me of the strategic planning that used to go into everybody dropping rulers at 2:45. It's over hyped and this issue will fade into the sunset of silly concerns, that is until the left comes up with some new angle. Hopefully there will be an election before then.

    • It's funny you mention this, as in modern times the professors and the students are often the ones leading the revolution against the tyrant.

  18. Chretien didn't prorogue Parliament in the face of a parliamentary order to produce documents.

    And besides, since when was "he started it!" a reasonable defense of undermining the democratic process?

    • Chretin not only prorogued parliment whenever it suited him but he shut down the Somalia Inquiry in the middle of testimony because it was bringing to light to many failings of his government. But I guess that was okay because he was Liberal and part of the true ruling party of Canada.

  19. "The hissy fit approach reminds me of the strategic planning that used to go into everybody dropping rulers at 2:45."

    How's this for a hissy fit: Okay, Conservative Committee Members: Everybody don't show up for Committee as of December 15th. That'll show em!

    This, from the party that once purported to Stand Up for Canada. Well, Canada's a parliamentary democracy, and they ain't standing.

  20. Again with the elitist thing? It's all too academic and picayune to understand or matter? Revolutions have been waged, wars have been fought and the freedoms and prosperity we have enjoyed collectively are directly due to the details, conventions and ideals of constitutions. Tearing at them, stretching them in ways that no reasonable, honest person would find acceptable will eventually – if it hasn't already been achieved – destroy them. That the everyday person is waking to this and expressing discomfort is an indication of the degree to which that destruction has been realized.

  21. LynnTO noted:
    "Chretien didn't prorogue Parliament in the face of a parliamentary order to produce documents. "

    To which I reply,

    You're right LynnTO. Chretian perogued because his Party was caught red handed stealing millions and millions of dollars from the taxpayers.

    Give me a hard time getting documents…over having my pocket picked by Liberals any day.

    • You don't actually have to support either of those misdeeds.

  22. That's debatable… sure Chretien wanted to avoid the AG's report, but he also had a legitimate excuse, ie: handing power over to Paul Martin meant a new Prime Minister w/ new agenda, therefore a need for a new parliamentary session. It is customary to prorogue parliament in such cases. Stephen Harper has no such excuse.

  23. The fact that the opposition parties suck does not change the fact that proroguing parliament under the current context is wrong, and it doesn't change the fact that parliament being prorogued without its consent is wrong.

    I'll take Harper's minority government over Iggy or Jack any day, but when he goes around doing stuff like this, I certainly don't trust him going anywhere near majority territory.

  24. That old chestnut… if you disagree with the government you hate Canada and wan the terrorists to win, it's laughable. If you really cared about the young men and women you'd want assurance that our political leaders weren't putting our soldiers in a position that left them open to reprisal. If I were a Taliban fighter would I be more or less inclined to fight if I knew that being caught meant being tortured and that the Cdn soldiers I'm fighting turned my friends over to torture… Screw you putting yourself on the 'righteous' side defending our troops. Draping yourself in the 'silent majority' is a joke too. Claiming yourself to be the voice of those who have said nothing how arrogant.

  25. They were not all Professors and Students at the rallies. And they weren't all lefties by a long shot either.
    But keep up the smear – it just clarifies who the CPC really stands for.

    • Being a professor or a student or a person with left-leaning political views is not a "smear". These are only considered insults if you buy into the anti-elitisit, anti-academic, anti-education rhetoric.

      • Sigh
        Whether I subscribe to the view or not (and I don't) I can recognize the attempt to "smear" the protest as elitist and not relevant to anyone except a small elite.

        Pics from any of the protests outside Toronto will give a good idea exactly how wrong you are and they are easily found.

  26. Yeah, some of em weren't just lefties; they were far lefties. But just keep up pretending that this isn't just another liberal grasp at power. Personally, I find the bias of the "anti-prorogorites" to be plainly obvious no matter how much they try to say they aren't.

    Anti-Harperites is what the majority of them anti-prorogies, by far, really are. Go find some pics on the protests, look at the signs and tell me that they represent the balanced Canadian. I dare ya.

  27. I'm not sure why columnists and pundits are making the leap that this will "wear off". Everything about this has defied the norm. Harper clearly believed people wouldn't give a damn about proroguation…they do. Most of the pundits and pontificaters dismissed a facebook page as a mobilizing tool and yet there are 216,000 members and it's literally growing by the minute. Then they said that wouldn't translate into feet on the streets. While the "numbers" may be difficult to pin down, it's probably an underestimate to stay 20,000 Canadians went out in the cold to say "ENOUGH". So, why is everyone relying on old school logic that this will "wear off". Guess what? I can walk, talk and chew bubble gum at the same time. I can say that the Government's response to Haiti has been pretty darned good so far. I can also say I'm still mad as hell about Harper shutting down parliament in a self-serving bid to avoid accountability.

    • Yes it will "wear off" because it's just a bunch of kids clicking buttons on the internets.
      Except it hasn't turned out to be true – it's at least half made up of people over 40 who are politically engaged and vote.

      Anybody posting here or elsewhere on political topics will know. It doesn't wear off.

      If I had it to do over, I'd be either a pundit or a meteorologist. Neither one has to actually be right more than half the time.

    • "I'm not sure why columnists and pundits are making the leap that this will "wear off"."

      Because the opposite does not fit their condescending view of the average Canadian voter.

      • I suspect it's something to do with overexposure to American media. The whole elite-filter shtick is more of an American meme. Oddly enough, quite a few people want their politicians to worry about stuff the "average voter" doesn't have time to think about.

        • That's what we pay them to do. Glad we understand this better than our American friends and neighbours. I would not want someone in charge based on whether or not I'd feel comfortable having a beer with them. No, I want someone much smarter than me who do a good job.

          • Yeah. Having to drink American beer with Bush Jr would be a crime against humanity on both counts.

    • This issue is not going away, and democracy is important to many Canadians!

  28. Let's be real about the "torture" of the Taliban; it's not like they are being waterboarded, they are beaten. Men, women and children are beaten in Afghanistan daily and whether we like it or not, that is a reality of this county . Should it come as a huge surprise that the police would beat a Taliban soldier captured by international forces when they will also beat a non-Taliban soldier for a lesser offence?

  29. Outside of being the moral duty of our country to achieve a higher standard, International law is pretty specific about this for exactly the reasons I outlined. My understanding was some of the countries in Afghanistan were talking about building their own detention facilities to avoid exactly this issue. Canada opted out.

    If we are there to provide security for a new democracy we should be obeying the rule of law and the rights of the individual both in Afghanistan and at home. It makes me crazy that people who support the current regime in Ottawa would say that opposition to harper is opposition to the troops. In fact it makes me sick to my stomach.

  30. Overhyped? This is the sort of stuff that, if politicians are allowed to get away with, leads down the road to a dictatorship. Left-wing, right-wing, either way it leads to a dark place and no party should be allowed to get away with it.

  31. Nah, the talking points on both sides of the proroguement are already out there for all to see. There's nothing more to say on the issue.

    So I'm just gonna bang on my drum all day; like how a liberal tries to make a point.

    • You keep banging buddy, the rest of will continue with reasoned discussion of democracy in Canada. There's PLENTY more to be said about this, especially after the House returns and those committees can get back to the Afghan detainee question.

    • grow up and get a life

  32. Prorgation is just the latest act revealing Harper's contempt for democracy. From very early in his rule he has kept a tight rein on press access to his ministers and muzzles his MPs. He carefully selects which media organizations he will speak to, preferring only friendly media (including, in the US, Fox News). He refuses to allow questions at photo ops, and at press conferences his staff choose when and who will be allowed to ask questions based on a pre-approved list of reporters. He escapes media scrutiny by communicating "directly" to the public – all carefully contrived by him and his staff. He couldn't be bothered to respect the office of the GG by visiting her this time when proroguing parliament. He simply made a quick phonecall. He has consistently used the Haiti disaster for his political gain and to distract from the prorogation issue. He walked with his wife on his arm – and conveniently with cameras along for the spectacle – when proffering his personal charitable donation to the Red Cross. Harper sees Parliament and accountablility as nuisances to be avoided. Clearly he doesn't believe in democracy.

  33. He did actually say at one point that Canada was content to be a second rate country run by a second rate strongman… clearly he has decided to be that strongman. He is a real danger to our society.

  34. According to important Canadians 1. Justice Gomery. Decisions in gov. are not made by the House or caucus, but by the PM's office and the appointees around him. 2. Bob Ray , It is Harper's way or the Hiway.!!! What do grass roots conservatives need to see this male wants a dictatorship which obviously he will head!!! Oh, also speaking of heads it amazes me how Harper gets his through doorways it is so BIGGGG!

  35. Dear Louisa, I was amazed to see how right on you are in your analysis of S. Harper!!! Those of us who see through this piece of to be compost have to continue to speak out until the masses see him for the bloated member of the old boys club, that he is. did you notice his wife did not look up when at the Red Cross office. He likely refuses to let her speak to the media either. This male is a dictator in the making, and many Canadians are like a bunch of sheep being led to the slaughter house. Thanks again for calling a louse a louse!!!

    • Ann Marie, you are quite right to be outraged by the fact that Mrs. Harper does not speak out on public affairs. For instance, I spoke out regularly on the issues affecting Great Britain while living in 10 Downing.

      Yours sincerely,

      Denis Thatcher

  36. No, certainly not. But I've come to think, over the last week, that Ignatieff is just not up the job either. He literally does nothing but waffle. Nothing.

    He has just released his plan (see Wherry's later post) for restricting the PM's power to advise prorogation. Why, then, did he not once but three times dismiss such a move not four days ago in the online chat with CAPP? I'm happy with his final (i.e. current) position, but the sheer incompetence and bewilderment radiating from Ignatieff's office makes me hope they will never do to the country what they're doing to the Liberal Party.

    • "But I've come to think, over the last week, that Ignatieff is just not up the job either. He literally does nothing but waffle. Nothing."

      Glad to see that you've finally come to this side of the room. I keep hoping that I'm wrong about him and that he will surprise us all but I just don't think he has it in him. I saw this problem in him during the leadership campaign and he has done nothing since to change my mind.

      If anything, his current stint as leader has reinforced my views. The LPC made a terrible mistake in crowning as leader.

      You think he's bad now, wait until he has to face off against Duceppe, Layton and Harper on the campaign trail.

      It will be a disaster.

  37. I was willing to give him the full benefit of the doubt, for the duration of a year, because I was so enraged at Harper's attack on representative democracy during the coalition crisis; such was my rage, indeed, that I was even willing to accept Ignatieff's rejection of the coalition, and his forswearing of its legitimacy, as a pragmatic necessity. But now Harper has again given Parliament the back of his hand, and Ignatieff's earlier anti-coalition stance must be reinterpreted in light of his current response: which is essentially indistinguishable from Harper's, i.e. from the catalyst for my initial political engagement. His new plan for outlawing ad hoc prorogation is commendable in itself, but in terms of assessing Ignatieff's character it leaves me gasping: he only came out against ad hoc prorogation after 20 000 people showed up in the streets! He was sitting on the fence! This from a supposedly card-carrying man of principle? Meanwhile, the gobbledygook about "listening to Canadians" and "welcoming ideas" continues unabated — without a single point of policy. It's catastrophic. It will give Harper a third straight mandate, albeit another minority. The opportunity for renewal represented by poor Dion's tragic end has been squandered. The reputation of the Liberals as the party of bafflegab, Paul Martin's precious legacy, has been reaffirmed in the public's mind.

    It is time that Al Apps walked the plank.

  38. the problem is where to next. the party's best potential repeatedly allows there names to be foisted in the rumour mill only to walk away when the leadership contests actually begin. and with recent news that a lot of former candidates have still not buried their campaign debts, I think we are some time from a seeing the Liberal party being led by someone with the skill and tenacity to ensure a robust opposition to Harper and his cronies.

    • I don't buy that the problem is strictly one of leadership.

  39. A depressing, but likely accurate, thought.

    I wonder where CAPP will lead. That's given me my first new hope that renewal is inevitable, somehow, if only because people demand it, even as my old hopes have been dashed.

    I don't know much about her, but everything I've seen of Martha Hall Findlay has been positive. It would be wonderful to have a young, female leader of the opposition.

  40. Jack I concur with points.

    MHF is one of a small number of those I hold out hope for at this point. As you say it would be great to have a young, smart, female leader of the official opposition. Gerard Kennedy may be another.

    I think your CAPP point is really important, albeit a longer-term (just my opinion) influence. It really seems to have a great deal of momentum, and the opposition parties will be foolish to not try to harness this. Any attempt to do so without a serious effort at renewal will fail, and so will those parties. There is something afoot here and it is about time. This democracy needs better citizens and they appear to be getting the point!

  41. didn't suggest that leadership was the only problem. was just making the point that to the degree that Iggy was not it, a point with which i agree, that there are not a lot of great options as a replacements (which is not to say there are none as per the exchange that followed).

    Your math doesn;t tell the whole story either. to the degree that votes migrate from the dippers to the cons and from the libs to the cons at times, there is more to the story then just too many parties on the left.

  42. You assume that I am talking about a merger on the Left. I'm not. In fact, I think that a merger would be a terrible idea.

    I am thinking of an arrangement for the next election where the Dippers and the Libs agree to not compete against each other in ridings where one of them has a better chance to beat the Tory candidate.

  43. What a shallow bunch…probably drown in a parking lot puddle. The Conservatives ARE governing, doing what most Canadians expect them to do…i.e Haiti. The opposition parties are doing NOTHING but scheming, together with their "rent-a-protestor" groups to bring them to power. They don't seem to have an inkling, and it takes a thousand inklings to make a clue. How sad!

  44. "Libs took a beating when they tried this arrangement with May and she did not win."

    Not sure I understand. Are you suggesting that voters turned on the Libs because of that arrangement?

    As for May losing, your point doesn't make sense to me since a Lib candidate wouldn't have been able to beat Mackay either. The idea is to have such an arrangement where the battle is between a Lib and a Dipper so as to prevent a Tory to come up the middle, i.e. Gary Lunn.

  45. By being so disrespectful of democratic traditions the Harper government (maybe not all in the Conservative government) is leading our country down another slippery slope. How can we be leaders in the world of democracy with this reputation at home?. I hope this issue will wake up the general public. Remember an old quote (by Whitman or Emerson?) Bad leaders are elected by the good people who don't vote. It is time to become concerned.

  46. you were endorsing a strategy whereby "the Dippers and the Libs agree to not compete against each other in ridings where one of them has a better chance to beat the Tory candidate". my point was that the Libs tried such an arrangement with May who had a better chance to beat McKay given her profile, etc. and it did not produce the intended result.

    did the voters turn on the Libs for this? i am not sure politics is ever that deliberately instrumental. did the Libs get a lot of negative press for this arrangement? yup. was the strategy questioned? yup. was it a good idea? maybe, but there is little evidence to suggest it was.

    it was also tried informally elsewhere by vote trading arrangements. those who undertook the administration of the vote trading never divulged the results so it is not possible to ascertain the effects.

  47. my point there was maybe this would fare better today then last time (e.g., the May attempt; or the informal vote trading). not sure where you are picking up that i am endorsing sitting on one's hands. indeed i said above that we need better engaged citizens and that maybe we are starting to get them.

    your enthusiasm is great Pol, but critical skepticism is an essential ingredient in any successful planning effort.

  48. "Well while you wait for that to happen"

  49. no need to repost my own words, sea. I just explained what my point was. Is there some reason why you feel the need to do that every time?

  50. your explained point just seemed to be inconsistent with what you had said is all.

  51. Prorogation is business as usual in Ottawa.The Grits used it (and would again) if it suited their agenda.The much better question is whether the Parliamentary system that was imported from 16th century Britain is the best way to govern a culturally diverse, twenty first century society that spans a continent. Historically, constitutional reform in Canada has been limited to which level of government will get to push its snout into the tax trough by preference.An honest look at a system where sitting legislators represent and answer to their constituents rather than the leader of their Party is long over due.

  52. Libs took a beating when they tried this arrangement with May and she did not win. and, my point stands i think, to the degree that votes migrate from the dippers to the cons and from the libs to the cons at times, rather then the other of the two, there is more to the story then just too many parties on the left.

  53. "to the degree that SH is increasingly seen as intolerable by a larger percentage of the population, maybe"

    Well while you wait for that to happen, Harper is going on a tear through this country and abroad, making some drastic changes that will leave lasting damages to our legacy. I, for one, see the urgency of the situation and don't want to wait any longer. That next budget is going to cripple our social institutiions and God only knows what else. Nothing is sacred when it comes to Harper.

    We need to take him out of office at the very next opportunity and Iggy CANNOT do it alone. The sooner the Libs accept this, the better it will be for this country.

  54. I wasn't suggesting that you'd sit on your hands. I just think that this citizens engagement you are referring to isn't worth a damn if it spreads its vote on three parties against Harper.

    He will win again. Again, simple math.

  55. Note to John Geddes: Kindly omit picture of harper for your next article. I was unable to finish your most excellent piece as the picture on the second page made me lose my most excellent dinner.

  56. Enough already! The government IS working and the opposition parties (particularly Iffy et al) are trying to make hay out of smoke and mirrors. Would we want them in power? Heaven help us all!

  57. Prorogation protests just reveal how many stupid and gullible people are out there. They may as well protest the law of gravity for how nonsensical it is.

    These nincompoops are being manipulated by the opposition parties, especially the Liberals. This whole "grassroots" protest smells distinctly like the work of Donolo & Kinsella. It's about as grassroots as astroturf!

    Every government in this country has taken extended breaks at one time or another. This is such a non-issue that I shake my head thinking about it. A lot of people in this country need to gain some common sense.

  58. The constant and continued attacks on Government watchdog groups by the Harper Government is a challenge to the very roots of democracy. They cannot be dismissed as irrelevant. The media in particular are guilty of this, however, the movement won't die. We have the internet!
    Consider. At least half the members are 45 years of age and older. Those most likely to vote.

  59. fuck the libral bitches