Good prorogue or bad prorogue?

How to tell the difference anymore?


Here is a suggestion that the Prime Minister will ask the Governor General to prorogue the House this fall and that, as a result, the House will then not be recalled until after Thanksgiving. Susan Delacourt, while noting another theory that the Prime Minister will seek to have the House return in November after the Conservative convention, argues that Mr. Harper is justified in seeking to prorogue the House so that a new Throne Speech can be presented.

Susan is unquestionably right. At least in the abstract. But this is now a particularly fraught matter of procedure in light of what Mr. Harper did in 2008 and 2009 (and what Dalton McGuinty did last fall).

In 2008, Mr. Harper was facing a vote of non-confidence. In 2009, his government was facing questions about the treatment of Afghan detainees. This year, there are the lingering matters of Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin. In 2009, prorogation killed a number of government bills and halted committee hearings into the treatment of detainees. In this case, most of the government’s legislative agenda was pushed through in the spring and the government would merely be avoiding the daily exercise of Question Period.

In fairness, there would probably always be some outstanding controversy or another. And so the matter might come down to how often we expect our legislatures to be in session, how well an extension of the summer break could be justified and how poisoned the basic concept of prorogation has become.

The House is currently due back on September 16. Pushing the start date back until after Thanksgiving would eliminate 20 sitting days. Pushing the start date back until after the Conservative convention would eliminate another 10 days. (For the sake of comparison, the prorogation of New Year’s Eve in 2009 eliminated 22 days from the schedule.)

Returning after Thanksgiving would seem to provide for a parliamentary year of 105 days. That would seem to be the fewest sitting days in a non-election year since 1968. (Next fewest was in 2003 when the House sat for 108 days.) Return in November and conceivably the House might sit for only 95 days.

My working theory has been that the Prime Minister would ask to prorogue the House for perhaps a day or two, allowing the House to resume business on September 16 and thus avoiding any questions about accountability. On the other hand, proroguing Parliament for four to six weeks now would be slightly less obviously problematic than what Mr. Harper did in 2008 and 2009.


Good prorogue or bad prorogue?

  1. Prorogation is a normal procedure and has been used many times over the years. The only time anybody objected was when Harp used it as a political tool to save his neck.

    • Yes, it’s certainly a normal procedure. When Harper did it in 2008 there was no reason why the opposition couldn’t call the non-confidence motion as soon as parliament resumed. I think the real reason people were upset was because Harper rightly guessed that the coalition wouldn’t last that long.

      • No, too much time had elapsed, and the motion was no longer useful or needed.

        • LOLOLOLOL

          • Would you have preferred a coalition?

        • I don’t think the length of time or usefulness of the motion had anything to do with it. The Liberal party and the coalition completely imploded during the break. Public opinion quickly turned on them and most Canadians were in favour of a new election which polls were indicating the Conservatives would take 46% of the vote. The opposition fumbled the situation so badly they had to retreat.

          • The only one who fumbled the ball was the GG.

          • Unfortunately you are correct. The opposition fumbled their chance and the voters forgot and re elected the Cons.

      • Harper rightly guessed he could run a misinformation campaign and give the Liberals cold feet.

      • So it’s okay for any government facing a confidence vote it will lose to be able to shut down Parliament and govern for up to a year, waiting to see if it can ride out whatever caused the loss of confidence?

        • Well Harper only prorogued parliament for about two months. Don’t forget also that the conservatives had just won an election about 6 weeks prior to the whole situation. The opposition certainly could have called another confidence vote as soon as parliament returned; however, during that two months the Liberal party essentially rejected the leadership of Stephane Dion and distanced themselves from the coalition.

          Clearly Harper took a risk, had the coalition come back united with public opinion on their side he would have been ruined. That’s not what happened though, they coalition splintered apart and public opinion had turned on them. The opposition dropped the ball on the coalition, they presented themselves as a fragile unrealistic government and gave Harper the opportunity to claim that he prorogued parliament in the interest of stability and national unity.

          • Not much of a risk. Even before the coalition agreement was signed Ignatieff was making it clear to everyone he disagreed. He wanted to be leader and did not want to do anything to give Dion another shot. Anyone who was paying attention could see that.

            It does not matter how long he prorogued for, what matters is why.

        • Yes. Pretty much. But the public did nothing to repudiate the tactic. They could have turfed Harper next election but did not. The problem is the divided left.

      • The real reason people were upset was that Harper abused his power to avoid the non-confidence vote.

        The fact that he was right in predicting the LPC would implode (that is something that was pretty much obvious to anyone. Ignatieff spent two years undermining Dion while he was leader and was not about to stop now that the end was so close) has nothing to do with it. No matter how the LPC reacted to this, Harper still used prorogation to avoid being voted out. People do not like autocrats who abuse their power.

        • Yet they re elect them……

    • Then everyone promptly forgot ( that and a long list of other sins) and gave him a majority. Voters are just too dumb

      • Agreed. But then voters have never been too smart. Mind you, we often haven’t had much to choose from either.

      • Yes, voters are only smart if they elect a party that you like. Otherwise, they’re dumb.

  2. The 41-1 parliamentary session includes (so far) a record 272 sittings.

  3. Don’t these people ever work?

  4. This handy bit of pseudocode should help.

    boolean prorogueIsGood (String proroguer) {

    boolean goodProrogue = true;
    if (proroguer == “Conservative”) {
    goodProrouge = false;

    return goodProrogue;

    • Oh yes, the Conservatives are so hard done by. They never do anything wrong. It’s all the Liberal Media Party which is spreading slanderous lies. They are on a crusade to persecute Conservatives!

      The fact is Harper has earned a bad rep because he twice abused the process of prorogation. Its purpose is to end a session in Parliament. Harper once prorogued to save his government from defeat in a confidence vote. He later prorogued to shut down a committee investigating the torture and murder of Afghan detainees, killing over a dozen of his own bills.

    • Mc/guinty shutting down Queens Park was pretty bad, too. Perhaps not as bad as running from a losing confidence vote, but close.

      • Agreed. I would say just as bad as any of the others. Perhaps worse. Harper and McGuinty are the types who would do anything to hold on to corrupt power.

  5. Of course it’s evil when Conservative’s do it. Everything Conservative’s do is anti-democratic and they like to kick puppies. They’re evil scum.

    • Conservatives believe in taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions — as long as it’s someone else…

    • You can’t accept any criticism for your team. You’re a mindless cheerleader and useful fool.

    • I have yet to hear anyone but conservatives say they like to kick puppies.

      You do know that making stuff up does not actually make your point, right?

      • But after a certain point, don’t you have to take them at their word?

  6. Some ground rules, I guess –

    Leaving unpassed bills on the table – bad, not a dealbreaker

    Opposition has announced intention to vote non-confidence in minority government – unthinkable. Governor General should not allow pro-rogation.

    Government embroiled in scandal – bad, not a dealbreaker. often unavoidable.

    Leader resigns while proroging – does not ameliorate all bad, but makes prorogation close to acceptable. Should be allowed unless second point is in effect.

  7. I’d say a pro forma prorogation in the days before the Throne Speech should raise no real outrage, but a Prorogation like two or three months before the Throne Speech will definitely raise a fuss. Especially if the prorogation is used to try to deflect attention or avoid answering the latest revelations in the scandals embroiling the government.

  8. So much for being accountable to the people. Just more hollow words from Stephen Harper. Does that mean they won’t collect a paycheque or incur any expenses while not doing the people’s work?

  9. Hey guys. If you do to like Harper, work to get him thrown out. Posting on websites is useless.

  10. What in the world are we paying these politicians for?! Someone needs to pay ME for an extended “summer break” like this!