Give Mr. Harper his due

Mr. Harper has prorogued Parliament not twice, but thrice

by Aaron Wherry

On two occasions now, in respective attempts to numerically summarize his five years in power, the Prime Minister’s prorogation record has been woefully shortchanged—here by the National Post a week ago and here by the Globe and Mail today. Mr. Harper has prorogued Parliament not twice, but thrice.

In December 2009, his doing so inspired nationwide protest. In December 2008, he did so to avoid the likely defeat of his government in the House of Commons. But Parliament was first prorogued on his advice in September 2007, when he asked that the resumption of parliamentary business be pushed back a month so that his 19-month-old government might present a new Throne Speech.

Though lacking in the controversial context of the two more recent prorogations, Mr. Harper’s first did not go unnoticed and did receive some criticism, including the following editorial from the Montreal Gazette.

“The first session of the 39th Parliament was exceptionally productive,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last week, “especially for a government in a minority situation.” There’s some truth in that. What he didn’t then go on to say, but we will, is this: “… by continuing the session to pass worthwhile bills now on the order paper, we could accomplish even more for Canadians.”

Instead, the PM has chosen to prorogue Parliament. That stuffy old word means “throw out all the legislative work done this last year and more, except for bills already passed by both houses, and start over.” For a man who claims to be concerned with the well-being of Canadians, Harper certainly seems to have weighted this decision on the side of the well-being of his own career and party.

The opposition parties, we’re sorry to have to say, are no better, strutting and pounding their chests about forcing an election.

We’ve got news for all of them: The voter-intention polls have hardly budged in 18 months. Nobody wants an election and if you had one it would probably change very little. The collective wisdom of Canadians is that a Conservative minority is about right. That suggests to us that all the leaders should stop the posturing and do some work.

It’s illuminating to look at the pending legislation that Harper has tossed so casually into the waste basket: imposing mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes; raising to 16 the age of sexual consent; putting tighter controls on foreign tax havens; limiting bail for those charged with gun crimes; increasing the powers of the Competition Tribunal, assuring aboriginal women of matrimonial property rights … the list goes on.

Not everyone will approve of everything on the list, but by and large these are measures Canadians support. Why subject them to another perilous trip through the legislative sausage factory? One particularly notable bill to be mourned is the Clean Air Act. After laborious all-party negotiations, that one would have done some good, at least, against greenhouse gas emissions, and against other air-quality problems as well.

So why did Harper abandon all this? The pundits explain about positioning, and a fresh agenda, and regaining momentum. But all of that could have been accomplished, we think, by the simple expedient of a solemn declaration by the prime minister to the House: “Here are our new priorities, the new legislation will be along soon, I hope we can all work together.”

The one thing that sensible approach would not do, however, is to let Harper play election roulette. A new session means a new Throne Speech, followed by a vote on it. Harper’s prorogation decision appears to be rooted in the calculation that if the broad principles of his new program are supported in a Throne Speech vote – remember that any one opposition party can keep the Conservative government afloat – he’ll have little trouble surviving until next spring’s budget, at least.

And if the opposition parties do dare each other sufficiently actually to topple the government, well, the Conservatives have a full war-chest, the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois are in some disarray, and the New Democrats won’t win many Conservative seats. A re-elected Conservative minority would then surely survive for another couple of years.

Political calculations, in other words, seem to have trumped good governance. This will dismay those who hoped that Harper and his party were really different. This is, we’re afraid, just politics as usual. “Canada’s new government” is looking more and more like Canada’s “same old” way of governing.




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Give Mr. Harper his due

  1. Prorogation was meant to be the natural end of a parliamentary session when the agenda given in a throne speeh has been carried out.

    It was not meant to be a political weapon, or a way of avoiding issues.

  2. Your magazine has turned into a rag. Its now a right wing conservative mouth piece.

  3. What a well-placed comment. In a blog post that criticizes the Conservatives for excessive use of prorogation for partisan gain. Well done, can1!

  4. Wake up and smell the coffee [politics].

  5. You cannot be half way anything and expect positive results of any kind. The government of Canada always has been and always will be a joke. Private business and good people are the only reason we are "barely" a chair on the world stage. Decide what you want people. Progress or freedom. Decide now damnit.

  6. wish i can vote conservative but not davinder shoury he is only for indians

  7. "Political calculations, in other words, seem to have trumped good governance"

    Unfortunately Brodie and Giorno, and since he appointed them, presumably Harper, all take this as a compliment.

  8. Aaron Wherry presents a well-balanced and empirically substantiated article here, if a bit too forgiving…..in fact, were all Canadians to forced to read and understand the content herein and go even beyond the issues covered, Harper's true intentions would become a plain as the nose on your face……voting for the cons is exactly that….voting for those who conned from Day 1 as Reformers and continue to con, and will continue to con Canadians with an inner conviction and fervour usually the exclusive domain of despotic rulers in 3rd world countries which can only result in a 'darker Canada'; hidden, secretive and unabashedly only pseudo-democratic in name….not exactly what the Fathers of Confederation had in mind, was it?

  9. No, Harper.

  10. I love it when a Harper-hater is blasting Aaron for the crime of supporting Harper… even as Aaron is criticizing Harper.

    Reading comprehension will have to wait when struggling with rabies, I suppose.

  11. It means to properly credit. Erroneous editorial pieces, as is implied by crediting only two prorogations, is not giving Harper his due.

  12. There is plenty of context for what he means in the post. Giving him "his due" would be reporting that he actually prorogued parliament three times rather than two. Take what you will from that. I don't see any bias here, he is just advocating that Harper be given credit for something he as actually done–prorogue parliament three times. He didn't say whether that was good or bad, just that he's done it.

  13. Harper pulled a no-rogue when he stymied Layton and Dion from jumping into government bed with the Block.

  14. Tell Bob Rae that!!!!

  15. The Bloc was never in a coalition.

  16. Telll him what?

  17. Canadian George, I couldn't agree with you more. What is wrong with certain segments of our population? I can' t understand for the life of me why people can't see through these guys? Every decision taken by this Govt. has been to undermine our demoracy. We know where they stood even though they changed their name from the Reformers to Cons. The only thing I am fearful of is, the deep hole they have dug for this country in every aspect. It will certainly take more than my life time to correct them. I wonder what it will take for people to wake up and see how dangerous these guys really are.

  18. "or a way of avoiding issues. "

  19. Sorry, you've lost me. When did Bob Rae prorogue Parliament to avoid an issue?

  20. Liberals & NDP signed a government coalition agreement with a written pledge of support from the Bloc. Harper saved the country in my opinion

  21. hi canadians ,steve here,here we go again i like this ,a chance to screw up canada a little more and pull the wool over the voters eyes,i am a sick man,my main goal in life is to hate liberals,and i will help all canadians do the same if you vote for me ,i will give you a tax break.for the favor,,,as you can see my nose has grown an inch a year scince i have been elected,told a few lies,,,see ya vote for me,,suckers,,,steve

  22. If you hang around here you'll be meeting a few of them. The Harper devotees are a special group.

  23. I was looking in the Ibbitson piece for some indication of the dramatic increase in spending under Harper – a point AC often raises – and it seems Kevin Page has recently been harping about (how to cut to meet deficit forecasts). Not surprising Ibbitson didn't include this point, though.

  24. As Premier of Ontario he porogued the Legislature three times. We are talking about the act of poroguing are we not?

  25. It is interesting that Stephen Harper a reformed based conservative has managed to pull off successive minority governments and cause the liberal and new democrat parties as well as Canadians in general to examine and clamor for political change (reform). Yes it is a totally hidden agenda that a reformer wants to reform. The amazing finesse of the deal is Harper is creating an atmosphere that can foster change by those most resistant to it. I hold out the hope that he is successful and that other area's more ludicrous than prorogue may be addressed, such as our entitled Sennett.

  26. Since you mention "uneducated and ignorant people", have you given any thought to starting your sentences with capital letters?

  27. Jean Chretien prorogued five/five times.

  28. Sigh…if you had read my opening post you'd know that prorogation is a normal parliamentary tool at the end of a session. All parliaments use prorogation.

    It is not to be used to avoid a confidence vote…a problem Rae didn't have….or to hide documents from the public ..another problem he didn't have.

  29. No more stupid than the Liberals see Canadians being as they AGAIN go to the trough with claims that Harper has some secret, evil hidden agenda. Absolutely pathetic ploys by the opposition.

  30. The coalition was NDP/Lib…..the Bloc simply agreed to support the coalition for 18 months.

    Saved us from what? The Bloc has been the Official Opposition!

  31. People like to talk about how other coalition governments work in other countries and that Harper was anti-democratic when he prorogued to avoid a Libera/NDP/Bloc coaltion. What most people forgot is that such governments almost always include the government that the people voted in. This coalition was against Canadians wishes and circumvented democracy in an unprecedented manner. Thank goodness Prime Minister Harper saved us from having Jack Layton as Minister of Finance or Scott Brison as Minister of Defense.

  32. …dude it is not really a support piece for him at ALL! did you even read it? It is a sensible attack on how our government works in general, and how under the surface, Harpers CC's are no different than Martins Libs really…in fact they spend FAR more money (mind now, the stim package I agreed with)

  33. Prorogation is a normal parliamentary tool at the end of a session. All parliaments use prorogation.

    It is not to be used to avoid a confidence vote, or to hide documents from the public.

  34. I don't trust any news agency that uses the word "thrice." Only elitist like Mr. Burns use it.

  35. For four-and-a-half months, and Rae didn't even bring in a budget that year.

  36. @ Lucky – thanks for your positively corroborative post. What is will take, as far as I'm concerned, is for a BRAND NEW PARTY to emerge from the debacle presented over and over and over in rehashed form, but never changing the core principles by Cons, Libs, NDp and to a much smaller degree the Greens..

    Perhaps you may hear of, and support, T.H.I.S. party of Canada soon down the road…..Truth, Honour, Integrity and Security for ALL CANADIANS being the modus operandi and acronym on a DAILY BASIS in everything it does! Let's hope this does come to pass, because like you, I'm not getting any younger and would dearly love to see the Canada I LOVE reappear again in my lifetime!

    Politics and governing a Country is not brain science……it only became unecessarily complicated when the players in ppower made it so in order to cover their own lies, deceits, corruption and inadequacies. The old adage about lying once just a teeny bit, then needing to lie more elaboratively, and then continuing to lie as a way of daily life in order to cover up all previous lies is so true in Ottawa and Queen's Park. That's one reason why a FRESH START is needed by a NEW PARTY!

  37. The best thing you can say about the prorogue is that they've gotten less and less objectionable: from (almost?)-crisis, to abomination, to merely objectionable. if this keeps up, by 2025 the CPC may be using them properly.

  38. Long live Harper. He has been able to maintain a strong and sustainable Canada!

  39. Ya, it's not like it's been used that way since John A Macdonald, actually even before.

  40. What is it that makes you so resentful of your fellow Canadians just because they have different opinions and have exercised their right to vote differently than you? I worry for you Herry69, you seem really upset. You might need to take some deep breaths…meditation or yoga can be really helpful.

  41. Actually, our fathers of Confederation were simply flying by the seats of their pants. We evolved far more gradually as a country, and still have to define our identity. For example, we tend to define ourselves by how we are different from the US, and that gets us nowhere. By referring to our founding fathers, you make an inappropriate comparison between us and the USA. Please don't do that.

  42. The conservative "attack" ads simply tell the truth. If that makes you uncomfortable, vote for someone other than Harper.

  43. And both Trudeau and Chretien stacked the Senate with their own libs way more than Harper has with cons.

  44. Which has nothing to do with it.

  45. Get back to work Baird.

  46. Cons are the majority in the Senate due to Harper stacking.

  47. Were we ever in danger of being wiped out??

  48. When Stephen Harper prorogued parliament, it was in response to political games from the opposition. Anyone can argue that it's a tool that shouldn't be used lightly. Typically I'd agree with this statement but in light of what the opposition was doing at the time, I can't say I blame Harper. The "coalition"? Really? There was just an election where the Liberals were soundly rejected under Stephane Dion, yet the Libs, NDP and Bloc were willing to join forces and raise Dion to the office of PM. Talking strictly legal, this is acceptable. Morally, no way. There's no way that anyone on the Libs, NDP or Bloc (and Tories for that matter) have the right to rig an election result for their own desires. No confidence in the government!? Please! At the time the ballot counters were still licking their paper cuts! I don't agree with everything Harper has done, but in the case of using parliamentary tools to stop stupid games in their track, I'm okay with that.

  49. I like the man and his thinking. Do you guys really want any of the other yeehaw’s that lead the other parties in office? The NDP leader is a crackpot hothead..and the leader of the Liberals is the biggest wimp I have ever seen in politics.

  50. Some of the words here don't mean what you seem to think they mean.

  51. Let's see, those of us who support the conservative party and Mr. Harper have been called uneducated, ignorant and now "a special group". Then of course there are the comments about the former reform party. Given that we make up a significant portion of the Canadian adult population, I think it is safe to say we represent all walks of life. Maybe not so many university professors vote conservative but certainly many educated people do. The Reform party was born in the west. Maybe you are not from there so you do not understand the strong emotions that lead many still to contemplate separation. I may not agree with your politics but I will show you respect. Whether or not you do the same, is your choice.

  52. Careful there Jody….there are lots of personal attacks that can be made on Harper.

    So unless you want to hear them, stick to policy.

  53. As bad as south of the border I would say.

  54. Come on, at least he read the title.

  55. I may have to set a macro for "Come on, at least he read the title."

  56. I love "thrice". But then, I hate the troops.

    (Rory Calhoun, on the other hand, holds a special place in my heart.)

  57. Your political insights are compelling. Do you have a newsletter?

  58. Not going to play "is too, is not". Your comment "a way of avoiding issues" – Rae porogued to stall for time and had nothing to show for it.

  59. Well if Harper believes the best governance is his governance, then it's hardly as cynical as the writer suggests, and the falsely presented choice between good governance and political expediency hardly applies.

  60. His due? Give Harper his due?
    Ok, due for change and a reality check.

  61. A budget is not a requirement of a parliamentary session….however using prorogation to avoid a confidence vote, or to avoid handing over documents is a clear violation.

    PS…you've been playing 'is not, is too' for several posts now.

  62. Americans won't be 'wiped out'…..they'll just be broke.

    Rome is still around….it just doesn't rule the world anymore.

  63. Someone named Herry 69 is trying to tell several million of us ordinary Canadians that WE are uneducated & ignorant??? Give me a break!!!

  64. Britain prorogues every year.

    Mr, Harper in a minority government has used all the levers of power available to keep the opposition off-balance and irrelevant. Its called political survival. This PM as made minority governments as stable as any can be in this sort of electoral milieu.

  65. Our form of "democracy" was sufficient when there were 2 or, at most, 3 parties; now it is a travesty because the vote is so split that a shabby government can get power with a minority of the popular vote. We need to modernize our electoral system.

  66. It is a very, very, old word – if you read Jane Austin you will run into it.

  67. Okay, it was funny when you guys called me Stephen Harper but come on that joke is getting a little old!

  68. I undertstand what you are trying to say….and to some degree you have a valid point. Canada is not like the USa, should not try to be like the USA and God Forbid our Country is ever like the USA!

    Insofar as the Fathers of Confederation are concerned, of course they could not forsee the future abuses by Harper and his ilk…or else they would have written in it as a definitive NO!

    Legalized, and legally-interpreted within a hairs' breath of being legal ABUSES, are still ABUSES…..future legislation by FAR WISER MEN than Harper and his cons will see to that! Maybe not in our lifetimes, but the cream rises to the top, and corruption is always found out and punished in one way or another for EVERYONE! It's easy to do the expedient thing…..it takes a man with HONOUR and INTEGRITY to do what is unpleasant and difficult for himself, but much, much better for others! Harper always takes the easy way out for himself and makes it sound so grandiose when in fact what he has done is put Canadian Truth, Honour, Integrity and Security back 50 years in the overall picture!…….and we're not even touching on ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT yet!

  69. No, but it was in response to
    1) Dion telling Harper he will not support anything he brings forward (layton doesn't support anything) – Political game
    2) A no confidence right after an election to form a coalition that the majority of Canada did not support (cost Dion his job) – Political game
    3) For the Olympics, that all parties agreed to before the media got hold of it and turned it into a story, then the opposition backed off and objected. – Political game

  70. Mike, if you are trying to be condescending, I think you will have to be a little more specific in your criticism. Marvin made his point very well.

  71. Yes, we all know that. It is not, however, used to avoid a confidence vote, or to hide documents.

  72. Yes, that is true. He has done exactly what every Prime Minister, Liberal and Conservative did. Hey Emily, I was wondering why you never blogged on that Liberal senator that has run his expense account up into the high hundred thousands. It was reported here on Macleans online and I kept waiting for you and Holly Stick to write something but neither of you did.

  73. Whatever party 'wins' the election does not automatically form the government in a Parliamentary system. The party which can command the confidence of the house forms the government.

  74. Instead of constantly trying to survive, maybe Mr Harper could try to govern.

  75. If this is your idea of truth then you are a seriously misinformed person. They do not make me comfortable, the disgust me, to think that this is how low Canadian politics has sunk.

  76. I stand corrected. I should not have used the term "morons", it was unhelpful and I apologize.
    My point was/is that these new attack ads are such extreme examples of political propaganda that they would make Joseph Goebbels sigh with admiration – they do not belong in the Canadian public space!
    Thus I am sorely disappointed in my fellow Canadians that there are supposedly decent, educated people who support this type of activity with their dollars and their votes. I am truly mystified how any decent person can support this type of propaganda and the people who peddle it. Forgive me if my frustration sometimes leads me to resort to abusive adjectives.

  77. Just like Harper to create a crisis, then try to take credit for solving it

  78. I caught Pamela Wallin on the CPAC discussion on US/Canada relations, seems she believes we are in Afganistan so people like her can sit at the big table and feel important on the "world stage". Funny how we are supposed to be fighting for freedom,democracy, human rights, but people who actually belong to human rights organisations and speak out for these beliefs, have their movements monitored and restricted and in many cases denied entrance into Canada or the US, imagine Sen. Ted Kennedy was on the no fly list. Security posing for dictatorship.

  79. I'm sure you meant to say " God Forbid any continuation of Harper; if only for the sake of a Better Canada"?

  80. "Political calculations, in other words, seem to have trumped good governance."

    The epitaph of the Harper government.

  81. Shorter Marvin B:

    Majority rule bad. Minority rule good.

  82. In case you haven't noticed..that was the government we voted in. A certain number of conservative MPs, a certain number of Liberal MPs, a certain number of NDP MPs, and a certain number of Green MPs.

    Did you or me or anybody else vote for this particular configuration? No. We voted for our MPs, and once the vote is done, ideally it's up to them to get on with the task of governing, including deciding from among themselves who's going to set the legislative agenda.

    To say we didn't vote in a coalition government is to be willfully ignorant (at this point) of how our system works. After all, there is no voter out there named "Canada" who sits down and decides all this. There's just us, and the collection of MPs we sent to the House.

  83. Apathy has ensured the continuance of the status quo. A motion of No Confidence by the House of Commons could have provided change and sent a strong message to future leaders.

  84. were either of you even born when Bob Rae was Priemer of Ontario?

  85. While I understand your pride in our great country (I am a proud Canadian as well) I do not understand your aversion to America. Your statement that "…God Forbid our Country is ever like the USA!" strikes me as being quite ignorant (in the uninformed sense, not rude). I say this because if you look at the original principles of the American constitution they were quite an admirable attempt at forming a country of equality.

    Take for instance "All men are created equal under God". I take this to mean that no matter who your parents are, you can attain any station in life. Being born poor does not relegate you or your offspring to that financial station.

    Or that American governance is based on "a government of laws and not of men." Meaning that no man is above the law and the law shall apply to all people equally, no matter their lineage.

    These are just a few of the tenets that the USA was formed under which is quite admirable if you ask me. While these principles may not be espoused now this was the intention of the founders of America.

    And before you attack me as an American I would like to state that I am indeed a proud Canadian whose family fought our way out of the USA to remain loyal to the Crown.

  86. and since confederation the party that has been able to command the confidence of the house has been the party that has won a plurality of the seats in the house. It's not unreasonable for people to prefer it that way.

  87. Having a plurality of seats generally assures confidence of the house. Still, after an election, the choice goes to the incumbent party as to whether or not they feel they can command the confidence of the house. They may not have a plurality of seats. They may have 'lost' the election by not establishing said plurality. They may decide to make other arrangements with other sitting parties or members.

    I've learned a lot from reading the boards here.

  88. In the end until someone stop's drawing lines in sand that they allow to be crossed, we will have CPC/LPC governments that bend the system to meet political gains.
    The opposition that has a yellow strip as long as the Trans-Canada must shoulder it's burden in Parliament. The adversarial system depends on it.
    Many Canadians don't want an election because they feel little will change. Not because they don't seek improvement.

  89. I will give Stephen Harper his due. The Conservatives have yet to hold a majority in the House of Commons with him as prime minister, and maybe they never will.

  90. You were undoubtedly protesting the scaremongering Liberal ads claiming that Harper was planning to have armed soldiers marching in Canadian streets, ending with the assurance "We did not make this up". If not, you're just the typical lib hypocrite.

  91. When it comes to Harper, I can only repeat (and believe) what many others have stated. This politician's authoritarian behaviour has fundamentally only one concern – and that is to stay in power and manage the opposition.

  92. When Chretian prorogued parliament FIVE TIMES it was with the most lily white, purest of pure intentions.

    Harper does it,

    and of course the sky falls.

    To the hyperpartisan leftist media, that is.

    To the average Canadian, and as a matter of fact, it is all the same.

  93. And a prediction:

    Sun TV will be wildly successful, just as Fox is. (drawing ratings equal to all of its competitors combined)

    The disconnect between our elite betters in the Ottawa media (who were literally tormented by the sheer horror of prorogue), and the average Canadian sitting around the dinner table (who didn't think about the issue for even a fleeting moment),

    is more than enough evidence.

    There will be a very refreshing counterpoint to the "progressive" pablum we've been force fed from our lockstep media (and our academic elites),

    and all but the raving leftist commenters, like those who inhabit this site, will eat it up.

  94. Could not care less what Harper does or doesn't do, would not vote for so called conservatives anyhow. Nor for any of the other parties . The whole Canadian political scene is a joke . For instance why does the BQ even exist as a national political party? Why do Liberals feel divinely entitiled to rule? What does the NDP stand for except Unions?

  95. You have certainly lost any perspective you may have ever had. I just cancelled my subscription because MacLeans leans too far left and is not balanced. Editorials and commentary are put forth as news and information to obscure the left wing bias. Whenever a political position is being taken, the writing is comment, not news. I hoped for more from Mr. White.

  96. The NDP, Liberals and Bloc all support the Quebec NHL arena for $ 200 million.

    Ignatieff already gave the Layton the corporate freeze. Dion was tougher and Layton gave in.

    What else did Dion and Layton promise the Bloc for the 18 months? Do you have a tape of the conversations of Layton and Duceppe before the election results?

  97. Are you referring to the Somaila Inquiry, APEC Inquiry or the Adscam Report from the AG?

  98. Which was done after the threat of the coalition reared it's ugly head. Our PM tried and failed to have cooperation by the opposition, provinces and unelected Liberal Senators for three years.

    A pity after 13 years with Liberal majorities, Liberals did not care to make any reforms in the unelected body.

  99. I expect Aaron was watching a recent clip from Conan talk show host that wanted covered the lack of use of "thrice" today.

  100. Emily and whoever, spare us your discussions a deux. They are boring and take up valuable space.

  101. I find it funny that whenever the facts are discussed some right-winger claims left-wing bias. That's really amazing considering these media outlets are usually controlled by right-wingers and contributers to the Conservative Party. I wonder how many stories there are that we don't see due to right-wing bias? Most likely ten times what appears as criticism of Harper and his Conservatives.

  102. The Liberals use dirtbag politics as well, no question. Functionally there is little between the Liberals and the Conservatives – two sides of the same coin. And no, this does not mean I support the NDP – I think they are all on the wrong track. My point is that the Conservative attack ads are a new low.

  103. It's a good thing that the Liberals, or Montreal voters for that matter, have never drawn their power from political calculations….pinko commies are amazing in their ability to 'forget' their own BS.

  104. Start by not allowing regional parties in federal elections, or just get use to being manipulated by regional parties. (Bloc)

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