‘Contempt for parliamentary democracy’


Constitutional scholar Peter Russell condemns Dalton McGuinty’s prorogation.

To tell us, as Mr. McGuinty did Monday, that he asked the Lieutenant Governor to prorogue the legislature “to allow these discussions with our labour partners and the opposition parties to occur in an atmosphere that is free of the heightened rancour of politics in the legislature” is to show contempt for parliamentary democracy.

When parliamentary democracy is functioning, the great issues of the day are thrashed out in the legislature that the people have elected and to which the government is responsible. Debate in any parliamentary chamber can no doubt become raucous and full of rancour. But we didn’t fight two world wars for a democracy in which the governing party can shut down the elected legislature to escape the heat of parliamentary debate…

When parliamentary democracy is reduced to whatever is convenient for the governing party, we are coming very close to losing it.

Mr. Russell ventures that Mr. McGuinty’s prorogation is worse, in at least one respect, than Stephen Harper’s 2008 prorogation.

One of Mr. McGuinty’s cabinet ministers acknowledges “discomfort.”


‘Contempt for parliamentary democracy’

  1. Very valid points, and i am gladdened to see Russell didn’t make the error that Loewen did yesterday when Loewen wrongly called McGuinty’s prorogation “longer” than harper’s, rather than “open ended”.

    • This comment was deleted.

      • How about valid and useful vs valid but oblique to the issue at hand..

  2. “……Debate in any parliamentary chamber can no doubt become raucous and full of rancour…….”

    Maybe in the Parliaments of Asian countries that are foolish enough to have them, but surely not in polite Canada?

    “……But we didn’t fight two world wars for a democracy in which…..”

    Oh dear! Time to update your rhetoric of our ‘noble democratic nationhood born in the sacrifice of war’ to include the Korean Police Action and that Afghanistan thingy.

  3. We need to establish rules/guideline for prorogation: we cannot simply accept that the leaderof the party in charge of the house can simply ask and always be granted prorogation.

    • Agree with this.

  4. Was in The Netherlands when they voted on 12 September to elect a new parliament, and stayed on for a few weeks thereafter. Like Canada, The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. It is also described as a consociatal state. It hasn’t seen a majority government in generations – yes, they do have proportional rep. Wiki describes the goals of consociationalism as: “governmental stability, the survival of the power-sharing arrangements, the survival of democracy, and the avoidance of violence”.

    Are we going there? Is there any turning back? Will we again see political power alternate between two or at most three parties? Or will we see more and more minority governments? It could be.

    What I witnessed during my trip were party leaders meeting in total secrecy. Any contact with the media was strictly forbidden. This lasted for weeks, with the Queen occasionally reassuring the citizens that negotiations were progressing. Eventually they agreed on a budget. Once that is agreed upon parliament resumes. Parliament is definitely not used as a political tool to destabilize the country.

  5. It bothers me to no end this abuse by ALL our leaders (but I do agree with 2008 prorogation, the take over by Layton, Dion and Duceppe bothered me even more) and Harper sure learned a lesson after the Olympic prorogation fiasco, or I hope he did. Premiers tend to treat the legislature with such a little regard and respect.

    • Party above country forever and always, CPC supporters!

      • Yes, anyone who votes for or supports the CPC is a traitor and a bad Canadian.

        • anyone who claims to hate pro-roguing for improper purposes but is all like “ecxept for 2008! ” does indeed place party above country.

          • Not that I really care to reply to your usual stupidity.

            But it was a very ill conceived coalition, and I do oppose stupidity.

          • If it was ill-conceived it would have ended in an election. if it was not, then you simply didn’t like it. ie, party above country.

          • Ends justify means?

          • In the case of the 2008 coalition. I think it did.

  6. As I’ve said McGuinty prorogued because it would be absurd for him to trust Hudak not to try and engineer, with Horwath’s help and the absence of campaigning Liberals from the house, an early defeat which would force him on the campaign trail again. I just can’t believe that commentors are so naive to think Hudak would not try to defeat the Government before the new leader was chosen.

    • So what’s wrong with, or illegal about, trying to defeat the Government before the new leader is chosen?

      • You could certainly call it sharp practice. Even harper will probably wait for the new Liberal candidate to be installed three or four weeks before violating his fixed election law once again.

      • Nothing. But not illegal to prorogue in that situation. No comparison between PM resigning and not resigning. Changes everything. He’s gone!!

      • Remember Stockwell Day and Jean Chrétien? That an election was called soon after Day became leader, and at Day’s request, made such a hooplah, was deemed to be so antidemocratic, that we now have a (sham) fixed-elections date law on the book. Why would it have become fair-play now? Your question gives a lot of weight to McGuinty’s claim about the atmosphere at Queen’s Park – how acrimonious politics has become. If we are going to produce more parties and more minority governments we’re going to have to frame this better.

  7. Peter Russell writes “So here, as with Steven Harper in December, 2008, Dalton McGuinty appears to be avoiding a confidence vote.”

    Really? Well not in my book. Stephen Harper did not appear to avoid a confidence vote, he clearly avoided a confidence vote. A coalition agreement was signed on Dec. 1, 2008 and made public by the opposition parties; the members of this coalition publicly stated their intention to table a non-confidence vote, and provided a date for this (Dec. 8, if memory serves).

    I may still be jet lagged but there was no such movement in Ontario to my knowledge. Maybe I have missed it in the news…

    • The Bentley business may have been moving in that direction but that’s essentially it.

    • There was no obvious movement, but I think it could have arisen at any time. I would have said “appears to be avoiding the possibilityof a confidence vote”

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