The real issue

Absolute must read by the great John Ibbitson: Few countries can claim such a pathetic Parliament. Every single word…

It is a small symptom of a grave condition. Our Parliament has become the most dysfunctional in the English-speaking world, weaker and more irrelevant than the U.S. Congress or the parliaments of Britain, Australia or New Zealand.

If Britain is the mother of Parliaments, her Canadian daughter is a fallen woman. Government MPs are cowed; parliamentary committees are too often irrelevant. Three consecutive minority governments haven’t strengthened the powers of the House to hold the government to account; instead, they’ve encouraged new methods by which the Prime Minister’s Office seeks to centralize authority…

It isn’t prorogation, as such, that’s the issue. It’s everything around it: the motive, the precedent, and most of all, that our Parliament should be in such a degraded state already that the Prime Minister would think he could slap it around with impunity. All parties have contributed to this, and it is time for all parties to clean up the mess they have created.

That’s what all the facebook fury should be aimed at. That’s what the rallies later this month should take as their subject: not bemoaning the past, but fixing the future. It isn’t as if Parliament is going to be “unprorogued.” It’s what happens after Parliament returns that counts. The first week of March could prove to be a historic moment in the life of Canadian democracy: the opportunity, at long last, for Parliament to stand up, and start to take back the powers and rights that have been stripped from it by successive prime ministers.

And if Parliament won’t stand up on its own, then maybe it will need a little bit of encouragement.

NOTE: There is one sure way to stop anything useful from coming of this, and that is for the opposition parties to try to turn the whole thing into a chance for partisan point-scoring, rather than a genuine reform moment. No doubt there will have to be some barking of shins to impress upon the PM that Parliament means business. But the Liberal leader would make a sign of his sincerity if he were to publicly accept his party’s share of the blame for the damage that has been done to our democracy over the years.

Offer to cooperate with the government on a comprehensive plan of parliamentary reform. Make suggestions; challenge the government to match them. But be constructive. If statesmanship is met with indifference, the voters will be able to draw their own conclusions as to who is interested in restoring popular rule to Canada, and who is not. But first they have to see some statesmanship.




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The real issue

  1. Last year, Parliament was prorogued because the opposition announced an unprecedented minority coalition intended to form government. This year you've said it's because Parliament made an unprecedented demand for sensitive government documents. And you feel these incidents represent a trend of an enfeebled parliament…it seems more like they're attempts to preserve the status quo.

    And take a moment to read some of Matt Yglesias' comments on the US Senate – there's some really horrifying degradation.

  2. I suppose it's a waste of a perfectly good question to ask if you actually read either Ibbitson's column or Coyne's take on it?

  3. You say you want a revolution?

  4. How we long to get back to the days when,

    a prominent MP can jump ship (Brison, Stronach) and we don't have to question representative democracy falling apart before our eyes (like with Emerson)

    a prorogue was just a normal parliamentary procedure,

    ignoring Kyoto was passed off with a shrug, not a sign of international pariah status,

    vendictive untrue campaign ads (Harper taking away our rights) was just normal partisanship – no more need to castigate completely true campaign ads (Iggy's extensive absence) as the "downfall of civility".

    We could all rest easy once again.

      • Of course I don't "get it" from your perspective.

        Just as I didn't "get" the earth shattering implications of giant cheques, Harper eating or not eating a wafer, a pooping cartoon, a single line of black humour, and the myriad other over hyped faux scandals we've seen in the last three years.

        Each one of those episodes, we were called to look past what it seemed on its face. To the DEEPER meaning. The more sinister broader implications. If you truly believe Harper is a sinister man with a hidden agenda, then EVERYTHING looks sinister, and can be made to look sinister, if you look at it in the "correct" deeper way.

        The media's philosophy closely resembles the left hyperpartisans on this thread. Which is why they've lost all perspective and have lost all credibility.

    • As for your comment about Brison, he didn't cross the floor. He was a member of the Progressive Conservatives, but NEVER a member of the Conservative Party. He left as the new party was created. Belinda Stronach left partway through her term (and should have faced a by-election), she had some reasons to leave (primarily personal) but I don't beleive it was sufficient. She was slagged in the media over this. Emerson was bribed by Harper prior to the House even sitting. He was voted in as a Liberal, but never sat in Parliament as a Liberal. That is completely different than the two examples you gave.
      Prorogation can be a nomal parliamentary procedure, but it should never be used to avoid Parliamentary committees, to dodge a confidence vote, or to buy time to stack the Senate (which he decried as villainous when the Liberals appointed people). That is avoiding the will of the people, which is represented by the majority of Parliament.
      As for the attack ads, Harper has long (prior to running for Prime Minister) decried Gay Rights as sinful and promised to remove them if he could, he also promised to re-open the abortion debate. That is taking away peoples rights (maybe not yours, personally, but "ours" collectively). He was also accused of American style attack ads for his attacks on Dion primarily, but his attacks on Ignatief were slanderous. Not his time in the States so much, but misquoting a single line taken out of context from one of his books.

  5. But the Liberal leader would make a sign of his sincerity if he were to publicly accept his party's share of the blame for the damage that has been done to our democracy over the years.

    IMO this would not only resonate with Canadians, but would stand in sharp contrast to a PM that is never wrong, and when challenged, sees anything less than full denial / hyper-aggressive counter attack as complete capitulation.

  6. vendictive (sic) untrue campaign ads

    Oh my. That is rich

  7. He also doesn't seem to be able to use the letter "D" when he attempts to use "and". Them three letter words can be tricky!

  8. In what sense. I recall seeing ads of young girls rocking in a fetal position victims of Harper's suposed monstrous ways to be – from the media, a collective shrug.

    Yet an obvious point of contention – that being a PM to be not spending much of his adult life in the country he seeks to lead, garnered headlines of a new low in politics.

  9. I'm starting to draw the conclusion you're a bundle of bound sticks… prickly and incendiary.

  10. Every one of your points is wrong – or gross distortion at best. And you know it!! Harper has always been an ugly political monster – right back to his NCC days. His latest prank is simply not acceptable. Something HAS to be done about it.

  11. Excellent read Andrew, thanks. The first step, in my opinion, is to begin by limiting the number of confidence votes. As far as I'm concerned, only the budget, and Opposition day motions should bring about non-confidence in the government. While the Conservatives have been better about that since 2008, the year and a half of making everything a confidence motion just to thumb their nose at the Liberals did a ton of damage. I do agree that the Liberals need to acknowledge their own share of the blame as well, as all parties are culpable in treating Parliament like a game. However, what's needed most is a willingness to change the culture. A willingness of someone, somewhere to take the first step towards the middle (of decency not any sort of political spectrum) and stay there. As you note, hopefully if that's met with disdain and indifference, those who ignore the gesture will be judged by the voters.

    All of this of course is idealism. I too share your hope for such change, but we're dealing with a pretty poisoned well right now, and I don't know if any of the actors are willing to make that first move.

  12. why not reform from the ground up. Come up with a proposal to select our own head of state, reform the senate and overhaul our house of commons in regard to all of the changes above.

    Then we would have something constructive to talk about.

  13. Wow. The very first sentence from the very first comment. Did you hear that? It was a "woosh" as the point flew over biff's head.

    Biff, they are all at fault. They all have been playing too many games for their own benefit and not the benefit of Canadians. They all need to recognize the rolls they've played, and do something constructive for you, me and the rest of the country. I couldn't give a rat's fat ass who was elected next time, if there was a choice to have an honest working parliament. I think most Canadians would agree with that.

  14. Wrong, The Liberals were roundly criticized for the ads against Harper.

  15. Ridiculous.

  16. Don't recall those ads, but sure wouldn't think much of such attacks. I've grown to respect the long road SH has traveled and the obstacles he has overcome. I am not opposed to the Conservative Party in general – I simply do not care for SH.

    I do have a stack of ten percenters (got the first one shortly after Dion won the nomination) which transformed a quiet, but dutiful voter into the raging hunt and peck fool who compulsively follows this Cirque de Macleans

  17. I, for one, long for the good old days when "prorogue" was a verb, not a frickin' noun.

    I blame decorator TV and makeover reality shows. Cf. "the reveal".

    You want truly dysfunctional… take a look at the Bow-Wow Parliament in St. John's. How about it, Canada's self-styled news magazine?

  18. I'm trying hard to think of what the Liberals share of the blame would be. Sure Chretien centralized some power, but its not like people are saying Shawinigate was distasteful but still allowable or that Adscam wasn't investigated. And for (I hope) the last time no confidence vote occurred in 2005 which was ignored by the governing party. The not quite four years election is pretty minor (and, uh, Stockwell Day had been screaming for an election for months, in fact the last words of the announcement were "Mr. Day, you will have your election") If people can post examples of egregious Liberal behaviour it would be interesting indeed.

    By comparison the conservatives look hideous. I don't think past Liberal governments should be forced to pretend they are in the same league as the current guys in order to move forward.

    But I also don't think anything official can be done or rules can be changed. All we can really do to evaluate calculated self-serving but permissible behaviour is to take it into account at the ballot box.

  19. But wasn't Mr Ibbitson cheer-eading the dressing down of our Prime Minister a few weeks ago in China? Maybe he should visit their hardworking gathering of officials

    Didn't Mr. Ibbitson write a book titled: Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper.

    Maybe I should just read the Economist, or the Guardian if I want real news and opinion on Canada.

    Yeah, currently, The British Parliament is "top o the class"

    Maybe after Canadians address their impotent parliament, they can address the band of loser-media folk following them around.

  20. I think suspet Liberals supporters here like Mike T, will agree that adscam (the stealing of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and funnelling it via money laundering, into the Liberal party) was not as "agregious" as anything Harper has done…

    which is why it will be a long, long time before the Liberals get their hands on power again.

    • Mulroney

      And please put it in the right order. Adscam was only "2nd" in corruption. Sir John A. MacDonald was the most corrupt PM and drunk we've ever had.

  21. Quite. But Coyne's like that from time to time.

  22. "Representatives don't hesitate to vote against the party line if they feel a piece of legislation doesn't serve their constituents' interests."

    " … it can take tens of millions of dollars to run a Senate campaign; legislation is stuffed with pork aimed at securing crucial votes; bills are routinely eviscerated or defeated because of powerful special interests."

    This is what Coyne really wants : government by special interests. In other words, government by oligopolistic capital, just like in Yankeeland, where health reform which will reduce costs for the taxpayer can be blocked by health care insurance companies, who want the federal government and private individuals to continue to pay for catastrophic health care so it doesn't cut into their profits. How pathetic.

  23. "But the Liberal leader would make a sign of his sincerity if he were to publicly accept his party's share of the blame for the damage that has been done to our democracy over the years."

    Oh for the love of…

    Stop writing, you hack.

  24. I think it might resonate with Canadians too, but that doesn't place me anywhere near believing it really would happen that way. It's like one of those game theory scenarios where the best outcome can only come from all parties choosing the option that exposes them to the greatest personal risk if not everyone chooses to play nice. Sure, there's potential for a big payoff, but it's more likely that someone's going to get creamed.

  25. Stronach crossing the floor to the Liberal cabinet on the eve of a confidence vote the government would have lost would probably make the top 10. It's hard to find a Conservative counter-example that's as egregious – especially if you take seriously the fact that the House had already voted to express its loss of confidence in the government.

  26. There is one sure way to stop anything useful from coming of this, and that is for the opposition parties to try to turn the whole thing into a chance for partisan point-scoring, rather than a genuine reform moment.

    Are you kidding me? That's all they do.

    Must as well be trying to stop the sun from rising.

    • In November 2005, Stephen Harper said the following:

      We must clean up corruption and lift up the veils of secrecy that have allowed it to flourish," (We are) promising to "replace the culture of entitlement with a culture of accountability."

      Given that the generally accepted view is that a large part of the rationale for proroguing was to get the Afghan inquiry off the table, how can you view the above statement as anything but hollow, partisan point scoring?

      • I don't care what Democracy Watch says. The day they sued the government for calling an election was the day I decided they're fools. And yes, you don't have to remind me of their reasoning.

        As for the Afghan issue, it's not going away. Parliament will be prorogued for 6 weeks. The issue refers to events 3 years ago. So what the heck do you mean? If it's such a big issue, the opposition can bring it up again. The fact is, it's not a big issue. It's an absurd issue. That's the real reason you're worried it will just die off – it's because you're afraid that nobody cares.

        • When you campaign that the previous government was corrupt, and vow to clean up government and make it accountable, it matters.
          The Conservative accountability and transparency pledge is as credible as the Liberal vow to eliminate the GST.
          While OLO, SH used the same bag of tricks as the Opposition does today – it's what the Opposition does. Why is it so bad when the Liberals do it?

          • it's what the Opposition does. Why is it so bad when the Liberals do it?

            You've lost me. I don't know what tricks you are talking about. If the opposition want to go on about a non-issue, then so be it, they can do so.
            But when you claim this is about accountability, you are making the assumption that there is an actual issue involved, which there isn't. There is nothing to hide, nor is there anything being hidden.

          • We're obviously not going to agree on this.

            The accepted opinion for proroguing is that SH is trying to change the channel on the Afghan controversy. If there is nothing to hide, why the smear, stonewalling, obfuscation, baiting and in Mr MacKay's case, outright lying? You can say there's nothing there, and all I can conclude is that we sit on opposite sides of the issue – fair enough. From this side, the government's actions subvert accountability. IMO this is not a singular case, but a general mode of behaviour.

            What did OLO Harper say when Chretien prorogued parliament?

            The Government will prorogue the house so that it will not be held accountable for it's shameful record
            He questioned their accountability, right? That is exactly what the Liberals are doing here. If this is howling at the moon, then it certainly is nothing new.

          • Well, I guess you're right that we will not agree. The one fact that I find most telling is the fact that this issue has existed since 2006. The rules were changed in 2007. So, I just don't see how it is evading accountability to take a 6 week break in 2010.

      • The cynical view is that Canadians don't mind being lied to (the McGuinty Rule), it is they don't like being ripped off.

        The "i will kill the GST" lie had no effect on Liberal success. "I am entitled to my entitlements" certainly did.

  27. Of course the adscam doings perpetrated by certain members of the Liberal party were bad. They weren't dastardly machinations of parliamentary norms, they were downright illegal activities which resulted in the only time a government has allowed itself to be investigated. Since illegal activities are already punishable under existing law, we don't need to amend parliamentary rules or procedures to fix it. YOu may as well say "Well conservatives like Mulroney shouldn't accept huge cash donations and conveniently forget to report them as required".

    Only an idiot or a child would fail to understand this. It bothers me that I need to type it out.

  28. All we can really do to evaluate calculated self-serving but permissible behaviour is to take it into account at the ballot box.

    Agreed Mike. But the electorate has to be paying attention AND discern the behaviour AND make it to the ballot box.
    It won't be by force (mandatory voting). It will have to become socially unacceptable to willfully ignore what our leaders are up to.

  29. I have no idea if it was a PC initiative or an LPC initiative or what (both?), but the requirement that every candidate have the blessing of the party leader or else be summarily executed has been the biggest factor in crushing the House of Commons.

    • How about a "Candidates Without A Party" party (CWAP) for all the rejects. Pray their never elected, though.

  30. Silence? That's surprising. Don't the Conbots just make it up?

    Anyway, I just find Coyne engaging in his usual political mischief rather tiresome.

  31. Well, only if the Liberals went to her. You don't believe that any more than I do, do you? It is quite obvious that she went to them. Yes, she got them to give her a cabinet seat, but that's good negotiating on Stronach's part.

  32. There also has to be someone to vote for besides "none of the above"

  33. I think Coyne is pretty well on the mark. I cringe that it is always–always–the Liberals who are expected to make the first move on anything, but maybe that's the price to pay for being the natural governing party. But then that would presuppose the Liberals are the Natural Governing Party, and I thought we weren't doing that anymore.

  34. If Stronach is in the top ten then the Libs are golden.

    Note Emerson crossing, even if there was no confidence vote at the time.

  35. Martin gave her a Cabinet seat for crossing the floor to beat a confidence vote – why would it matter if he, she or the Pope suggested the idea?

  36. Though there is no excuse for Adscam, tell me, how high would the tab be if we were in Iraq as well as Afghanistan? Remember SH's letter to the NY Times? Chretien did some things right.
    Stephen Harper has been eating free lunches on Adscam for a long time now. The weight of accountability will eventually be shifting to him; after all, he has been in power since 2006. The salad days of being able to blame the Liberals for Canada's woes while simultaneously warning that they would be worse if another Liberal government were elected are pretty much over.
    You can't have it both ways forever.

  37. Go ahead and justify the 2000 election call to me.

    They had 2 years left to govern. I have never seen a more oppourtunistic move in Canadian politics.
    (that includes Harpers early election call… which I hated)

    Are crass political moves that debase parliament only alright if the LPC does them?

    Be careful not to spin yourself into the ground.

  38. Actually Gomery continued, the pro-rogue meant that Martin faced the heat not Chretien, a fall that hurt the Libs more than the other guys.

    The 2000 election was dealt with above. It was a short call, but there WERE two new leaders in the house, at least one of whom had been calling for an election since he got there. P@@@@ off the Pope? Not hardly.

    I'm really genuinely interested in getting good answers here, I'm not shilling for the Libs.

  39. Don't be cute. It has never been the status quo to shut down Parliament to stifle debate or inquiry in matters of public interest.

    And shutting down Parliament when it was clear that the government is about to lose a confidence vote, regardless of whether you like the implications of that failed confidence vote, goes against everything responsible government is based on. Our government serves at the pleasure of Parliament, and must maintain confidence each and every day. I'll agree that the precedent that the government can shut down Parliament to run from a confidence vote it will lose is a far worse precedent than what has just happened.

  40. Conservatives have an enormous chip on their shoulder and victim complex.

  41. T-Ball!!! Just kidding princess :)

    I actually like Mr. Ignatieff's comments today, unlike Mr Jack's upcoming routine.

  42. Those problems with the political system in the US are due to bad campaign financing legislation. If corporation and union donations were banned, and individual donations limited to, say, $10,000, and spending limits were imposed for elections, I think you'd find that special interests lose a whole lot of their influence.

    • I think you are correct in identifying part of the problem, but there are lots of others : the complicated process by which bills become law, the two year election cycle, the lack of means by which to enforce party discipline, and there are many others. Also, even if you could ban corporations and unions from financing campaigns, nothing would stop them from bombarding U.S. airwaves with propaganda in an attempt to influence government policy, as they are doing now. We have our own example of this here in Canada – the 'stop the teevee tax' campaign.

  43. What about the 100s of millions that the Tories are spending on self-promotional government advertising? Where's that money going?

  44. I'm torn on that one no matter who started it. It also prevents local nomination meetings being hijacked by truly unsuitable candidates. Surely it's the kind of thing where a leader should have the power, but use it sparingly and have people evaluate how good an idea it was on a case by case basis.

    • If the people of the region want a "truly unsuitable" candidate, what perogative does the Party leader have of stopping them? Isn't that exactly part of democracy? We get what we deserve, good and bad.

      • Not necessarily. A few hundred party memberships can swing a nomination meeting.

        • And.. again.. that's part of democracy. Those who get involved make the decisions. If one potential candidate is better at getting people in the community involved, why should someone from outside the community have any say?

  45. And the 2008, "oh wait forget the law we passed ourselves!" is considerably worse, you will have to admit.

    Seriously, where are the examples of how bad the Libs are?

  46. I also struggle with this 'problem'. Perhaps the parties need to adopt (or be forced, would that be possible?) a quota that limits each leader to X% of total candidates rejections per election. That would allow the leader/party HQ to deal with hijacked local nominating meetings without making each and every MP already beholden to the leader before they even get to Ottawa.

    (I assume that the requirement to have party leader approval is something that both the LPC and CPC have built into their party constitutions, and isn't a power that comes to them through legislation related to Elections Canada.)

  47. Stockwell Day must've been an even bigger idiot then I remember, which is saying something.

    I just remember being really upset that an election was called 3 years into a majority.

    Having new, weak leaders in opposition doesn't seem like a good justification for dissolving parliament early to me, but Harper did do the same to Dion. (Except for the Majority part)

    Anyhow I'm not going to try to convince you that Chretien was every bit as bare-knuckle a politician as Harper is.
    In my eyes they are much the same.

    If you want a solution, lets amend the constitution and elect a head-of -state, divy up some of the executive power.
    An elected, and fairly representative senate would be good too (or get rid of it).

    I hope someone, (Iggy?, Harper?, ???) can channel some of this energy to that cause, but of course they won't.
    No one probably ever will.

    • "I just remember being really upset that an election was called 3 years into a majority."

      And southern Manitoba was completely underwater, if I remember correctly.

      • Manitoba is in the West, not a concern of Liberals.
        Chretien was busy with those imaginery homeless friends.

    • I get very concerned when people talk about dissolving the Senate, but I agree it needs an overhaul. Right now it is the only check on the Prime Minister's power if there is a majority, and I dread to think what any Prime Minister, of any stripe, could/would do without a House of Sober Thought (supposedly). I believe that the Senate should have a longer term than the Parliament to prevent any waves of short term public sentiment from stacking both Houses, resulting in discriminatory or harsh laws from being pushed through.

  48. What other reason is there for proroguing Parliament? You don't actually need a Speech from the Throne to issue new mandate letters or shift the government's agenda. The point is that Parliament had demanded the release of sensitive government documents – an exertion of parliamentary power Canada has never seen before. An unprecedented exertion of Parliamentary power is inconsistent with Coyne's thesis that Parliament is increasingly pathetic.

    Last year, Dion pushed representative government a lot further than Canada had ever gone before – again inconsistent with Coyne;s thesis.

  49. I won't try to justify the 2000 election call; the needs of the country were not being served, only the desires of the LPC.

    I am finding it almost as difficult to justify the recent prorogation; it serves the needs of the CPC, not the needs of the country.

  50. The Liberals are going to change their ways?

    They've recently cleaned house in the Leader of the Opposition's Office and replaced them with …. the same people that helped run Chrétien's government, Donolo, Kinsella, their election warroom guy,…

    Does that look like a contrite Party that's turning a new leaf? Hardly.

    But thanks for a Friday evening laugh just the same.

  51. Actually you missed the big difference – Stronach is an idiot and Emerson wasn't. Aside from that it really wasn't that bad – Martin needed out of party support so he went out and got some from dissatisfied elements in the opposition. My genuine reaction on the day was "huh, slick move!" not "OMG democracy is failing!" The "he had the file before so it was OK" is a little weak, IMHO.

    • There seem to be two points to remember with the Stronach crossing:
      First, Martin needed opposition support at that moment because he'd lost the confidence of the House.
      Second, he got the support of a grand total of one opposition MP, and put her in Cabinet to get it.

      The Emerson case seems different because of the lack of immediate crisis and the credibility of having Emerson continue in international trade. But, as others have noted, your suggestion was that the Liberals have done nothing to undermine Parliament. What happened with Stronach was at least questionable.

      • Could there be a third point? Perhaps in the way Mr. Harper was handling Stronach. Maybe, he miscalculated something….

      • These points are minor at best, though, and certainly nowhere near as bad as the conservatives. I'm still squarely of my original opinion, that when Coyne says the Liberals have to take their share of the blame, that share is much much smaller.

  52. And except that Harper passed a law which purported to prevent doing exactly that.

    How long was it actually? It was three years and some months, right?

  53. ALMOST as difficult?

  54. In his defence it was pure rhetoric and he probably didn't think there would be one. In majorities (remember those?) it happens a lot, like being able to vote against confidence bills knowing the other side will pass them.

  55. So, here is the Liberal Call: "We will never-ever prorogue parliament ever again, ever. Any doubt the opposition has in us we will call a full investigation staffed by hundreds and hundreds of Toronto lawyers no matter what the cost , so that they can 'get to 'the bottom of things' like, in the Gomery Inquiry, or the investigation of Mr. Schreiber.

  56. Your argument does not address Coyne's thesis: that the centralization of power in the PMO is an outcome of years of parliamentary decline under successive governments, and indicates a real need for parliamentary reform.

  57. I don't believe anyone outside of your imagination has said this.

  58. That's some pretty slick doublethink you've got going on right there if the only time you consider The Economist as a reliable source of Canadian news is when they are not criticizing the governing party.

  59. Canada has seen formal coalitions before, if you include provincial governments. There have been informal coalitions at the federal level. Not terribly unprecedented, but uncommon, which is an artifact of first-past-the-post.

    It is also entirely and explicitly within Parliament's powers to demand the handover of government documents. This is not the first time this power has been used. I suspect it isn't often used, however, because governments usually just hand them over on request through AIRs, and don't try to lie, cover-up and stonewall these sorts of inquiries.

    • Coudl you give an example of the Canadian Parliament compelling the government to release sensitive documents?

      • Can you give an example of the Canadian Parliament refusing to hand over government documents to a committee for which it was entirely within their scope to request?

        • I couldn't give an example of a committee requesting government documents, could you? It's not the most newsworthy event and not likely to be opposed by a majority government that would control the actions of parliamentary committees.

          Did the Public Accounts Committee in 2004-05 request any documents from the government?

  60. I won't be trying to justify the prorogue. I hate the prorogue.
    I'm just trying to figure out the context, to see how mad I should be.

    I was still much more angry when the 2008 election call happened,
    but using the prorogue like this may be a more dangerous precedent.

    A lot of things bother me about Harper, but the alternatives are not compelling.

  61. Wow! Us Conservative supporters are sure taking a beating lately.

    I'm curious as to what would happen if Mr. Harper said, "Well, you want us back on Jan 25, we'll reverse the prorogue and get back to work. Michael and Jack, Call your people."

    Can he do that? Could he change the system in mid stream? Anybody can answer. Even a Liberal.

    Seems to me that would satisfy some people.
    Tanks much.

    • Unfortunately not, because what's killed is killed. They could certainly call the house back early from the proroguaton, but upon doing so, it's a new session, so committees need to be restruck, etc, which means all the prior work they've done is gone.

  62. We will make our commitment clear! We will never send our troops into complex and volatile situations again! Only when the other nations guarantee this (unless The Economist, and other clever scribes says otherwise) we will respond.

    We are a Soft Power!!!

  63. I gather that you would like to rid the country of Kinsella, and I would support you. Are there any CPC hacks that you would sacrifice? And I offer you this mechanism to help the country rid itself of Kinsella and his type. The idea might need some polishing.

    The LPC and the CPC should enter into a treaty of some sort, modeled on the cold war SALT treaty or prisoner exchange agreements that sometimes occur between warring groups. Call it BORT (Backroom Operative Reduction Talks). Each party would provide a list of political spin doctors, party hacks and so on from the opposing party. Then each <del>month</del> week Scott Feschuk would setup an online poll similar to his Monday Caption Challenge, and one person from each party would be voted out of any involvement in Canadian politics. Perhaps they could be banished to the Turks and Caicos.

  64. Also, like it or not, but Harper did not enjoy the confidence of the HoC in December 2008, but dismissed Parliament and held onto power anyway. That is far worse than any coalition could be. Would it have been acceptable for Martin, in late 2005, to have prorogued for three or four months on the eve of the confidence vote that brought down his government? I don't think you would find that acceptable, and I think you'd be right.

    • There was a genuine question over whether DIon truly enjoyed the confidence of the House either – given that his party had essentially just fired him. Proroguing gave the GG and Ignatieff a chance to wriggle out of that dilemma.

      • And that genuine question should have been put to a vote, Duh.

  65. In all fairness to Coyne, the NDP and the Bloc would have to dig pretty deep into their wishful-thinking book before they could come up with legitimate examples of them abusing the system while acting as the government of Canada.

  66. Kinsella is not part of the OLO. I know he is your favourite bogeyman, but he's as much a part of the OLO as Tom Flanagan is part of the PMO.

    • He's running their warroom in the next election, hand-picked by Iggy himself. Mr. Wells reaffirmed the connection in this most recent article in Macleans. So let's not split hairs Andrew.

  67. S'okay. He sees his recent call for a mock parliament as something completely different.

  68. Prorogation itself is not the problem, anymore than a gun alone is not responsible for murder. It's when you use (or, in my opinion, abuse) a convention of Parliament to suit your own partisan needs that you are doing our system of government, which you incidentally were elected to uphold, a grave disservice. For the record, this stands for any party that misuses their powers, be it Chretien's Liberals or Harper's Conservatives.

  69. What word or would you recommend instead of almost?

    • "considerably more"

  70. I'm not greatly upset by the prorogue, although I am also far, far from pleased. One reason that I'm only moderately upset is that there isn't anything that is ultimately lost – eg: the opposition parties will ultimately be able to restart their inquires around the Afghan detainee issue, worthwhile legislation that has been effectively scrapped can be re-introduced. But again, I am not at all happy about the effort that has been wasted in getting those ~33 pieces of legislation to the stages they are at, and I don't accept the delays are good for the country.

    A somewhat related question that comes to mind, a question that I don't have an answer to, is what if the prorogation had been for 70 days instead of ~35, or 135 days? At what point would I be picketing outside of my MPs office? At what point would even the ultimate CPC partisan throw up his or her hands and say "ENOUGH!"?

  71. Obviously, Levant you can take right away, though I guess he's not worth much. If we can include MPs, I'll give van Loan for Holland, straight up, and Baird for Jennings and that NDP guy who plays with puppets at press conferences. Baird must be good for two!
    In no time at all we'll chop down to respectful and decent members and a much less crowded parliamentary restaurant. Good thing for those extended EI premiums, I can't imagine where else Baird could find work.

    • Baird, man of principle, would not accept EI, because all that the people who do use the service do is spend the money on drugs and shoot up.

  72. Yes, Levant would get quite a number of votes I'm sure (in Ezra's world anything to his left seems to be THE PENDING END OF THE WORLD). On the occasions that I have been able to make myself listen to Levant I have thought "Take away 97% of the bluster and this guy could actually make some very convincing arguments". And I'm on board with most of the rest as well. I've heard a lot about Holland, but for some reason I can't actually picture him, so I will make a mental note to listen for his name.

  73. No, you two are BOTH missing the point.

    The point is it is senseless to argue which one is WORSE. Are we in competition for second last?
    The point is they are both TERRIBLE. They are BOTH symptomatic of a terribly sick Parliamentary system. And neither should happen. If we just keep pointing fingers in the future saying the last guys were worse, so everything is justified, we will continue down this slippery slope of the emasculation of Parliament.

  74. Yes, we should get back to the more "democratic days" with a divided right and a consequent majority lock on power by the Liberal party for decades on end,

    with the likes of the ever pure Chretien, calling an election mid majority, engaging in Shwanigate (which the press gave an "awe shucks that zany Chretien") or Martin ignoring confidence motions just long enough to bribe a member to jump sides with the offer of a cabinet post. We call all those moves "just politics", in an otherwise stellar democratic era. Oh an prorogation? That wasn't even on the radar.

    Now, in a minority hold on power no less, a simple prorogue is an end to the democratic process as we know it.

    Our left leaning media desperate to get the "correct" party back in power, but which party has nominated another complete lame duck,

    has gone completely off the deep end, and dropped even the pretense of objectivity.

    • Your post proves Andrew’s point.

    • My post in not addressed to Andrew's point per se,

      but the endless gut wrenching on this by the media.

      You see such gut wrenching comes when conservatives are in power. It's all part of the hyping process. It's never just a procedure (as when Liberals do it – attack ads, prorogue, party switching) which may or may not get some mention in the press as it being "political ploys", even accompanied by an analysis of the strategy as if its just part of a game.

      With conservatives it always has to be so, so much more. A pooping cartoon was analysed to the hilt for gods sake. Resembling something darker, more sinister, going deeper that what may appear at first blush.

      Why? Because journalists are progressives, and the truly believe -as to the partisans here – that EVERYTHING conservatives do, have more sinister overtones, broader negative implications, etc.

      It's why the press, in overhyping every issue on Harper's watch, have lost all credibility.

    • Well, biff. The Conservatives have adopted the same ARROGANCE even though they have given less at the polls (a minority government)) in 2006 & 2008. They have taken a combative approach when they PROMISED cooperation. How can we trust them when they continually break promises and do not live up tp their OWN ideology for political convenience ? At least Chretien HAD a MAJORITY. Harper has yet to EARN that.

  75. I also agree. And as a bonus it would certainly echo the recent buck-stoppin' of a certain American politician Ignatieff often seems to emulate…

  76. Well we're deciding proportions of blame so degree is pretty paramount.

  77. Let us remember that what has happened is precisely what a conservative MP indicated: democracy is suspended.

    The House represents the people. The people hold the government to account. Harper has dismissed us, the people, and our elected representatives, for now. We are not relevant. Why? He is not ready. He needs more time. He wants a legislative do-over.

    Like his tardy photo-opportunity, he never misses an opportunity to make a bad impression when it serves to obscure what he'd rather not reveal. Because he knows that we'll take the bait.

  78. I've asked for examples above, and aside from one idiot there's been a telling silence.

  79. And….Emerson a few days after being elected by Liberals.

  80. I do read the Economist and recognize it for what it is worth. But also cringe when I read Canadian content, and think would some trust this as a source of knowledge for other nations/regions – it is a magazine.

  81. But Chretien called for prorogue to avoid Gomery doesn't strike you as egregious?

    It was nothing compared to the early election, (with a majority mandate already), call in 2000.
    That was truly one that would piss off the pope.

    I don't support Harper continuing these tactics, but your rose coloured glasses view of history makes me wonder if you would ever accept that Chretien was about the biggest scumball when it came to tactics.

    He wrote the playbook. Harper has been an attentive student.

    The hate of Chretien helped to unite the right (after too long), perhaps the lefts hatred of Harper will someday cause the left to do the same.

    That would be a great legacy for Canada.

  82. And many in the US are crying for public financing (don't tell Coyne).

  83. Sure Chretien pulled our butt out of the fire on Iraq, but that's good policy not sticking to high minded procedure.

    • my reply was to Biff's assertion that Canadians will continue to withhold support for the party of Adscam.
      It is my contention that JC will be remembered for more than just Adscam, and that the weight of accountability for his Conservative governance will eventually settle on SH's shoulders.

      I'm not really certain what point you are addressing.

  84. Stockwell Day asked for an election?

    Besides, Chretien made no promises about fixed election dates. Harper did, passed legislation to that effect, crowed about that legislation, then explicitly broke his promise and went against the spirit of that law.

  85. Oh Biff, you've returned to your old ways.

    I preferred the Biff who briefly showed himself about a week ago, the thoughtful Biff. I hope he returns soon.

  86. See above.

  87. So let me get this straight – a candidate who isn't a good fit with the many elements of a party comes to the other side and says "I want to be with you guys instead", the other leader has to say "no, because there is a confidence vote scheduled and we may lose if you don't". Really? Seems a stretch.

    It's mitigated a great deal because I could see her being uncomfortable with a lot of CPC policy. It ain't like it was Myron Thomson angling for advancement. As for any reward of a post, since Emerson happened soon after its all even.

  88. Yeesh, now you're going after Sir John A?

  89. Right, because if an MP wants to cross the floor on a point of principle, you obviously need to put her in Cabinet immediately. And continuing in your ministerial portfolio is exactly like crossing the floor, changing files and joining Cabinet the day before a confidence vote. Inducing an opposition MP's support in a crisis by elevating them to Cabinet is not good government.

  90. I don't think we even need to amend the Constitution. All we need do is hold our politicians up to our standards. To put it another way, Canadians need to tell our politicians what standards we expect of them. It isn't good enough to call an election (or to get an election called) just because you are up in the polls. And if it takes not having polls to have them stop obsessing about them, that doesn't require a Constitutional amendment.

    All we need do is tell them we expect them to govern, or oppose as the case may be, until such time as an election is required. If that be because of a non-confidence motion, or because the governing party feels the need to renew their mandate, let it be because of running the country, not because some poll says this is an opportune time for the party (whatever party that may be).

  91. Were the apple nibblers in the Garden of Eden Conservative or Liberal?

  92. I would love it!

    I would love to see the government smack the opposition over this.

    Does "F***G Usal Dosangh want to throw the military under the bus – Oh, excuse me, how rude! he is only questioning Peter Mackay.

    Oh the environment, lets dismantle Alberta to show the world how much we love them!

    Go back to Parliament, and fight! (oh no, true Parliament isn't like that)

    Fuck your dreams of majority and fuck the media –

    Fight for Canada

  93. I wonder if there isn't yet a deeper problem? [ ibittson referenced the general malaise in other parliaments] Where are our elders steeped in the lore of Parliament, convention and tradition…where are the Knowles and Forseys? Not a good sign when you have to go to an academic with no experience in Parliament for a ruling…worse if you have to head to court. Respect isn't simply lost in the blink of an eye…it's a generational thing…consequently it isn't restored overnight either. A viable culture is a precious thing to lose…we have some hard work ahead of us…soonest best start.

    • I think it's called negative advertising – not to mention outrageous personal attacks. I think the worst result of these is to keep voters away.

  94. Not really, but this constant going back by the Cons is way past it's due date and we call make notes like Wilson and biff to point out every little bit of gotcha

  95. It's frustrating to read great pieces by Ibbitson and Coyne on the blight that affects our Parliament – pieces seeking to bring attention and galvanize action – and then read the human garbage that passes for thought in this comments section.

    Truly, everything I need to know about life as an adult I learned in kindergarden.

    The lot of you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, flinging your feces at each other like a bunch of chimps.

    If there is no hope for our Parliament, it's because you're hopeless.

    • Obviously, you have never passed beyond potty-talk that you learned in kindergarten. Please don't degrade this discussion. When you have something to say, we'll be happy to listen.

  96. The majority opposition watered down the AA.

    If Canadians want some real changes in accountability,
    Harper needs a majority.

    • Prove it.

    • Poor guy. He apparently can't get the work done without a majority (should try to kill fewer of his own bills, maybe), and he can't quite get a majority. I wonder why he can't get that majority.

  97. Sorry but… Didn't Ibbitson write a column last week referring to Harper's prorogation as "clever?"

  98. Coyne, you are dreaming if you think that prorogygate is or will be more than a partisan LibDipper attack on Harper.
    Parliament has degraded to nothing more than MPs using immunity to score cheap points.

    Your Wherry and their Kady are on the payroll just for that reason,
    use QP to attack Cons and the evil Harper.

    So take some of the responsibility for Parliament turning into an ineffective cheap theatre YOURSELF.

  99. Just who do you think got the feces flying in the first place?

    My observation is it started right here,
    and the Opps following the media lead, are taking full partisan advantage.

  100. We should never, ever vote Con again. After all, Defienbaker cancelled Avro and well, there's Mulroney.

    I don't think current politicians should be held responsible for past politicians.

  101. NDP

  102. Dear Jarrid –

    Last time I looked – that amounted to 64% of those who voted!
    "Your" team can't seem to win the confidence of more than 35%…
    And that 40% does seem like the proverbial will-o-the-whisp doesn't it?
    Just saying!

    • that amounted to 64% of those who voted

      Well, your math is rather poor, or you need some eyeglasses. And if you think 62% would change their vote over this issue, then good for you, but I'd have to disagree, I suspect that not a single individual would change their vote over a procedural matter.

      Just saying.

      • not a single individual would change their vote

        I know that I probably would be surprised by the issues that do and do not cause some voters to change their vote.

  103. Paranoid irrelevant 'political ploys' like repeating PMO talking points on every forum, biff?

  104. Wilson proves to the rest of Canada why Conservatives cannot be trusted with majority power. For them, everything is viewed through a partisan lens. The constitution, democratic institutions, fiscal responsibility, even the tenets of their own ideology mean nothing to them : for the Conservatives, it is all about power at any cost, including destroying our democracy.

  105. For a watered down AA, the Conservatives sure puffed their chest out about it.

  106. The reason why the polls get closer in between elections (recall Harper and Dion were "neck and neck") is that complaining about government in the abstract will cause the reflexive "dissatisfaction", of the sort where I'm "dissatisfied" with my wife mixing up my laundry.

    Leaving my wife for that, is of course, and entirely different matter.

    To suggest that prorogue will be an issue that will cause voters to change parties, in the context of Harper leading us out of the recession, in perhaps the strongest position in the world – people vote with their wallet, on bread and butter issues – and hand the keys to Iggy?

    Iggy who's "policies" are nothing more than a changing rag tag basket of reactionary responses to whatever headline of the day has caused him to take a position, on this matter or the next?

    There will be a spring election.

    And there will be Conservative majority government.

    • There will be yet another Conservative minority government, and the House can get right back to subpoenaing the appropriate documents and witnesses on this detainee issue.

    • "And there will be Conservative majority government."

      I seem to recall someone around here — "Kodeen" or "Kojack" or something — making a prediction like that in October 2008,

      absurd as it seemed at the time,

      staking his credibility 110%,

      and he was never heard from again.

      • At least.. not under that alias.

      • biff has been saying this for a long time now. He was going on and on about it before the last election on certain liberal blogs. He disappeared from those blogs after the results came in.

        • Maybe Missus biff had him doing his own damn laundry.

          And past time I'd say.

    • God help us all!

  107. Oh puleeeese, give it a rest Mulletaur,
    let go of that devine right to govern thing.
    Iffy was appointed, not elected, Liberal democracy at it's finest..
    Liberals were caught red handed laundering taxpayer money and putting back into party coffers. Hands off the cheque book!!

    Here, a new poll today, on who do Canadians trust to run the country ,
    and it ain't LibDippers!!

    http://www.visioncritical.com/wp-content/uploads/

    • That poll is so …… irrelevant.

      • That Stephen Harper is the choice of Canadians to handle the tough stuff,
        and Iffy is the choice for book of the month club…..irrelevant , until the voting booths open

        • And people want to have a beer with Layton.

          Yes – irrelevant. But I guess you need to desperately cling to something in these dark days…

    • So because more Canadians would rather have a beer with Layton than Iggy, and because some Gagliano-connected Liberals siphoned sponsorhip funds, and because Iggy replaced Dion at the urging of the Liberal caucus…. then Harper is right to prorogue Parliament. I like you logic Wilson!

      There's a sale on tuna at my local grocery store, so I'm going to change into a different sweater. See, anything can be related if you follow your own special logic! :^)

  108. I have never posted anywhere other than by my last name, wilson.
    Unlike yourself, who presents themself as a cartoon charactor, very fitting I might add.

    And I did not vote Conservative in 2008, so how likely is it I am on Dimitri's speed dial?

  109. Leave me outa this Biff.

    Signed

    Your Wife

  110. Oh, it was clever. There's no doubt. Clever doesn't always mean correct.

  111. I wouldn't leave my wife for laundry mishaps either Biff, but if she

    • And a whole whack of University Professors too!!!

  112. Jeffrey Simpson in today's Globe on proroguing Parliament:

    "Sure, some people are upset, but they are mostly the ones who would never vote Conservative."

    As the comments on this blog confirms in spades.

    • Good thing those naughty 'leftwingers' from the Economist don't get a vote… But unfortunately, neither do the hawks at Fox.

    • I oppose prorogation and am a Tory. Only 23% of Canadians in the recent Angus Reid poll supported the move.

  113. I find it highly entertaining how our Conservative friends here are trying mightily to dismiss this issue as something that will only resonate with "LibDippers" and how that means it's worthy of derision. Of course what they're forgetting, is that these are precisely the people the Liberals need to bring back into the fold. .I mean take Ontario for example, in the last election the Conservatives gained 11 seats over 2006, but they actually flatlined in terms of votes – they benefitted tremendously from about 500,000 Liberal votes that just stayed home (the NDP also remained relatively flat in terms of votes). Rallying the base is something they need to do.

    So even if their premise is true, which I sorta doubt, it's still bad news for them.

  114. I thought Mackay was handling Stronach…

  115. You make a good point, since Dion lost much of "the base" the last time around.

    The problem for the Liberals, as I see it, is that they previously occupied the "mushy middle". I would say the detainee issue, moreso than proroque would move "the left base" back to the liberal fold.

    But these issues will not let them retake the middle, which they need to regain power. Indeed, the detainee issue is likely causing some conservative leaning Liberals to stay at home – or worse, vote for the CPC.

  116. True, it will take all parties to clean up this disfunctional mess. I find it laughable and completely implausible however that anyone could see that the central problem stems from the aims of the braintrust of the Conservative party, which has deemed change only possible through disruptive attack, covert games and planned irrelevency. No matter how you thought Chretien, Mulroney and Trudeau treated the institution, they never treated it like a house of ill repute.

  117. Ah Wilson, that 'woe is we!' bellowing of the CON gamesters will never get old. One more chorus of 'Give it to the Left-wing media!'…

  118. It's not just that this issue isn't hurting the CPC (in any material sense beyond "dissatisfaction" when the issue is put to people).

    There's an opportunity cost for the Liberals.

    They only have so much time to establish themselves as the true party worthy of governing.

    Focusing on politically esoteric/inside baseball issues like prorogue, and far left fringe issues like Afghan detainees, the Liberals are squandering any chances of selling themselves to the middle of the political bell curve.

    The impetus for their doing so is that it is very easy to jump on this headline or the next. Developing sound strategy to capture the imagination and trust of the middle, much, much more difficult.

    • The Afghan detainee issue is not a "far left fringe issue," it's related to respecting the Geneva conventions and respecting Canada's own support for human rights.

      • Iffy says the detainee issue is about the conduct of our troops in the field.
        He said that, yes.
        On CBC

  119. "Indeed, the detainee issue is likely causing some conservative leaning Liberals to stay at home – or worse, vote for the CPC"

    What are you basing this on, other than wishful thinking?

  120. No, the GG needs to consider whether the opposition can establish a stable government once the House votes – she would've been in an untenable position, and Harper may have consulted with Ignatieff before the prorogation to assure her there was an alternative solution.

    • you're making it up as you go along…same as Harper.

      • Not at all – I'm waiting until March before I make anything up, same as Ignatieff.

    • Also ridiculous. Patently so.

      • "In light of the recent events, it has become clear that many Canadians are unfamiliar with some of the basic rules of our constitutional democracy. …When the general election does not return a majority of seats to any one party, the governor general will then have to appoint as prime minister a Member of Parliament who is able to gather enough support to *sustain the confidence of the House for a reasonable period of time*."

        Given Dion's speedy departure, it's obvious he couldn't sustain the confidence of his party, never mind parliament.

  121. If the Liberals' behaviour has done so little to undermine Parliament, it can't be in such bad shape after all and we can ignore Coyne's entire post.

  122. So I see that facebook group passed Stephen Taylor's litmus test of 127,000 members. So I guess it's legitimate now right?

    • Uh no.. apparently Taylor moved the goalposts.. NOW the FB #s dont matter.. they have to get 20K out to rallies like his for it to be legit.

      • Getting 15% of Canadian university students to click a mouse is the easy part.
        Will they share their lunch money with the LPC is the real test?

  123. Few countries can claim such a pathetic media…

  124. The Conservatives are slipping to the extent that they are letting the Liberals take control of the narrative on prorogation. (Or maybe it's intentional?) It's not about avoiding committee processes in Parliament as Coyne and alnost everyone else suggests; it's about getting control of the Senate and its committees. That's where the real story is, and almost everyone is missing it for the sake of pursuing a partisan red herring.

    • Actually, that is only what Harper said it was about – and even then he backed away from that.

      He is about to have a majority in the Senate. He did not need to prorogue the House to get it.

    • This has nothing to with the Senate and everything to do with weasling out from under the microscope on the detainee issue.

  125. Gna Gna wilson – or william or whoever you are in this appearance.
    Is that the best that Dimitri is offering this morning…?

  126. But was either maneover appropriate? I think that we are both saying that neither was justifiable, that both were done solely for the advantage of the political party that initiated the maneover, not for the good of the country that they are supposed to be governing.

    I'm not sure that it really matters which move was more egregious. The point is that LPC supporters have had the ability and opportunity to influence the LPC to do better and CPC supporters now have a similar opportunity; will they take it?

    • Hooookay, hopefully for the last time:

      Chretien stacked the deck against Day by calling an election some months (possibly many months) before an election was necessary or was usually called. The reason was almost certainly to highlight the unsuitability of his opponent before it could be camouflaged.

      Harper stacked the deck again and called an election after even fewer months (although, yes, it was a minority). This after claiming Chretien's actions were so bad that he purported to pass a law that no one, including himself, could ever do it again! Here, the reason was almost certainly to avoid an election during a recession – a recession he spent the entire campaign denying would come to pass.

      I can see how somebody could be upset with both. I cannot for the life of me see how somebody could say the second is not considerably more reprehensible than the first. Or that it doesn't matter which is worse, unless you want to make the conservatives look better than they are.

      • Hooookay…ultimately I could hardly care less which was worse, and believe me, it has got nothing to do with trying to make the CPC look good.

        I'm interested in supporting a political party that is interested in making 'things' better, things being the country and the way government / Parliament operates. I judge political parties by many factors, one of the factors is what efforts is the party making to improve its own 'house' and another factor is what type of person seems to become a supporter of that party. Your arguments are not convincing me to support the LPC.

  127. More degradation and dysfunction from the US Senate: http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2010/0

    Is this really the path we want to follow with our Parliament? Empowering individual MPs sounds like a great idea until you see how that empowerment might be wielded…

    • Surely there is a middle ground somewhere between what we have now (MPs as 'trained seals') and the situation described in your link, where a single 'loose cannon' can obstruct the will of the other 307 MPs because there are no consequences.

      • Hopefully – but it raises questions about whether Canada's parliament is really the most dysfunctional in the English speaking world.

        • Yeah, I try not to get hung up on the hyperbole and END OF THE WORLD characterizations, about ths topic or any other for that matter. But still, there is room for our Parliament to improve, and giving MPs more independence – or getting them to reclaim the independence that they already have? – while trying to be aware of unintended consequences is worth some effort.

  128. Rex Murphy gets tossed from the G&M
    because he wouldn't 'hide the decline'…..
    Yup,
    and the media thinks Parliament has muzzling issues
    free speech anyone?

    • Did he get tossed or did he leave? Isn't he at the National Post now?

      • '…So, “climate change denial” is widely rumored to have been the last straw. Perhaps sensing the loquacious Newfoundlander would prompt unneeded bad PR if sacked;
        I'm told Stackhouse offered to move him to Mondays. As evidenced by the quick decampment to the National Post, it seems that went over like a tonne of bricks with Murphy…'

        They made him an offer he had to refuse,
        Rex refused to Hide the Decline and got tossed.

        The champions of freedom of speech silenced one of the good ones.
        I will be asking all contributors to the Globe and Mail if they have to swear on the climate change bible, if they will Hide the Decline

  129. Times are different now. The BLOC makes a majority near impossible.
    The Cons have no natural allies so have to bargain with at least one party for every vote, so have to work much harder (game play) at it.
    Where as the Libs had a dependency on the Dippers, a consistant easy appeasement. Such a dependency that Dusanj and Rae are front row Libs now.

  130. The Liberal attempt to differentiate themselves from the Conservatives,
    lands them on Jack Layton's ice.
    The price yah pay for riding the fence for 15 years, someday, you have to jump off.
    That day was December 1, 2008

  131. Wow. Just when I thought our host had calmed down over his Cromwellian "Parliament will Fight!" and his call to start the civil war (I thought he had calmed down after reading his thought-provoking piece on the politics of climate change post-Copenhagen), now he goes off again. I am almost nostalgic for the old Andrew Coyne and Canada should make an extradition request to Germany and get Karl-Heinz Schreiber returned so we can once again read those magnificent columns on "what's at stake" in the vilification of Brian Mulroney.

    The media is so un-serious I don't know what to think anymore. Prorogation is procedural trivia. Harper must be thinking "that's the best they got?" He breezed through Copenhagen (climate change being the Conservative's "achilles heel" as I recall) without a scratch. I had thought his release of economic report card in a plane over Siberia was the great insult to Parliament? Or the "unprecedented" rebuke by the Chinese PM was the great insult to Canadian pride on the international stage?

    Meanwhile we have just learned that the US and world intelligence services failed utterly to stop the underwear bomber even when they knew all the facts necessary to stop a terrorist attack from happening. Next month the Vancouver Olympics start , a beautiful, fat terrorist target if ever there was one. A demonstration of such catastrophic and staggering incompetence that I would expect the Government to be now working flat out to ensure that the Games are safe and nothing bad happens, because I am not sure we can accept the "intelligence community" reassurances that they know what they are doing. This is a huge story for Canadian media but they are wasting my time and theirs on arcane trivia because they seem to get their jollies out of being able to criticize Harper.

    I want the Canadian media to get real, please, I beg you.

    • Getting real? Not our national media.
      They all live in the Enchanted Forest, where terrorists can be rehabilitated with group hugs, and pretending climategate doesn't exist means it doesn't exist.

    • Yep, the underwear bomber TOTALLY justifies Harper's disrespect of parliamentary democracy. Thanks for getting so real for us here Orval.

  132. The key word should be pathetic parliament. When people rage about Harper (or Chretien) they miss the cause. Our institutions encourage bad behaviour and must be reformed… or perhaps REFOOOOOOOOOOOOORMED!

    • Preston Manning was a decade too early.
      Slow learners in the East.

  133. Andrew Coyne, I quiver at the realization that you and I are on the same page. I am not a partisan, but a grassroots activist who has been concerned about the deterioration of our democratic structures over the past couple of decades.

    I've seen the democracy I have lived in my whole life, change. I've seen politicians come and go. I've seen movements come and go. But this, this one seems different. It is definitely non-partisan. Yes, Iffy's trying to ride the wave, but he lacks compassion and sincerity and the capacity to lead such a movement. Jack's hanging back until his after his caucus retreat, but he says they may have to "get creative" — whatever that means! May is too far on the fringe to be of any use to any of us. And Gilles, well, there's that whole Quebecois thing.

    So, my point is, who do we have who can take this energy and move it forward into a real pro-democracy movement? That is what we so desperately lack in this country. And that, my new-found friend, is what we need — a real leader. Perhaps that someone will arise from the fledgling movement. I live in hope.

  134. The problem with the crocodile tears being shed by people for our 'tattered democracy' is that the objections are falling squarely on party lines. People aren't annoyed because of what has happened, they are annoyed because they don't like Harper. Had the Liberals been in power the same thing would have happened. Those opposed to the Liberals would have objected, those that support them would not.

    I think it is naive for anyone to think that for the first time in Canadian history the Canadian public is somehow annoyed at the house being prorogued.

    Are they annoyed? Sure.

    However, this is all about Harper, and has nothing to do with the house or prorogation. Opponents of the Tories are making political hay out of this, as I would expect the Tories to do if they were on the opposition benches.

    Let's not make this out to be more than it is. It's just another partisan issue, no different than the last, and no different from the next.

    • On the same note, the only people saying "It's all just partisan politics" are Harper supporters.

    • That'd be a great point, if only it were true.

      There's a large portion of conservative supporters who are very angry at this move, and a number I've seen who've decided they can no longer vote for a conservative party being lead by Harper.

      Will they, en masse, vote Liberal? Doubtful.

      But we've seen last election what happens when party supporters just stay home.

      • Conservatives also have a habit of forming protest parties when they feel they are not represented by their party of choice. See: Reform, Wild Rose.

  135. Since 1990, we have had MPs seated in our national Parliament, the House of Commons, who are dedicated to the break-up and dismemberment of our country. How do we react to such disloyalty? We pay them, give them budgets and taxpayer subsidies, grant them pensions, and listen respectively to them while they mock our country and do everything in their power to tear Canada up!

    I can't thing of anything that has been more destructive of the "dignity" of Parliament. .There are many members there who want fervently for Canada to fail, not to succeed.

    When Louis Riel was elected MP for Provencher with a price on his head, he had to sneak into Parliament in the middle of the night to sign the Register of the Clerk of the House before vanishing back into exile in the US, knowing if he was caught in Canada he would have been arrested. He never would have been able to sit Parliament and speak treason against Canada.

    If Canadians are prepared to accept separatist MPs in the House of Commons year after year, then they are not going to "rise up" because a PM prorogued Parliament for a few weeks.

    As Rene Levesque was (purportedly) fond of saying "take a valium"

    • Liberals signed a coalition government agreement with the seppies, for the sake of seizing power.
      Never forget.

      • Indeed. One that would have prevented the "seppies" from wielding any power for a couple of years. Too bad you guys had to spoil it.

    • If Canadians are prepared to accept separatist MPs in the House of Commons year after year, then they are not going to "rise up" because a PM prorogued Parliament for a few weeks.

      I don't follow why Canadians in general would link those two ideas together the same way that you appear to connect them.

  136. Thanks for making my point! :-) Even in the discussion about this subject, people are STILL trying to make it a partisan issue. You can call it what you will, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it's a duck.

    The issue of prorogation is partisan politics.

    Just like it was partisan politics for the issues of the cheques with MPs names on them, or the issue where Harper was 63 seconds late for a photo at the G20, or the issue where he was accused of pocketing a communion wafer and so on. It's the JOB of partisans to pick on these issues and try and make political hay out of them. I would expect no less of the Tories to do the same. That's what politics is about.

    The problem is that the public is tired of these partisan politics, and their attention span is short. So mark my words, this story will be buried by Olympic coverage, and you won't be able to buy a news story about this once the Olympics start.

    • But within the neverending whirligig of partisan sniping, some lines can't be crossed. For example, arresting your opponents, or setting the dogs on them (Baird doesn't count), or . . . suspending Parliament and governing without the consent of the governed.

      Even as we speak, the PM is passing on OiC's to Mme. Jean for her signature. That's how the country is governed, not with legislation. Why is Harper allowed to sit in Langevin? Only because the People allow him to. But he has given the People — or rather the People's only representatives — an enforced holiday.

      To do that is to pass well beyond the usual partisan sniping.

      • So the first 100 prorogations, mostly by Liberal governments, was okey dokey with you Jack?

        It's just when Harper uses a power exercised by Prime Ministers before him, all hell breaks loose?

        Stephen Harper won a mandate from the people, twice. ACCEPT it.
        Stephen Harper is afforded every lever of power afforded those before him, ACCEPT it.
        Stephen Harper is heads above the last 2 Lib leaders, and will remain PM until the Libs can earn back Canadians trust, ACCEPT it.

        Note to Donolo,
        every time Iffy calls PM Harper 'the guy', he entrenches in Canadian's brains what a 'my shit don't stink' kinda guy he is.
        Carry on.

  137. Our host definitely needs some time away from Ottawa to regain his perspective. If he is truly interested in dysfunctional politics and the struggle for democracy, I hope he will relocate to Tehran or Moscow and report from there and try to make a real difference.

  138. "weaker and more irrelevant than the U.S. Congress or the parliaments of Britain, Australia or New Zealand."

    I have no opinion about US/AUS/NZ but UK parliament is about as weak as it's possible to be since more than 70% of all new laws MPs pass originate from Brussels.

    All UK MPs do now is act as rubber stamp for Belgian bureaucrats.

  139. That's another way of endorsing Iranian or Russian authoritarianism.

  140. Now the detainee issue IS about the troops,
    Iffy finally admitted it:

    '..Liberals want to examine documents “whether Canada complied with International law and whether it has respected human rights – and a document about the conduct of our troops in the field”..

    You can hear him say it here at the 16:55 mark

    http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Politics/ID=138040

    • And your point is, wilson? We're attacking the troops because we want to examine those documents?

      For someone who claims not to have voted Conservative in 2008, you sure do say their attack lines well, if not better.

      • Iffy wants to scrutinize 'a document about the conduct of our troops in the field'

        I just can't make it anymore simple for yah Scott.
        The troops in the field make the decisions,
        following guidelines set out for them by the Generals, Cabinet and NATO.

        • Or by the UN. As in the Geneva Conventions. As in *against* the guidelines set out for them by the Generals and Cabinet.

          Wanting to examine the document about the conduct of our troops in the field would simply be to add proof to the point that the Conservative government left our troops in the field hanging with the choice to obey the orders from a Cabinet that was too weak, too slow, or too incompetent to change a bad agreement once information had gotten back to them, or to obey their own upstanding moral code and go against those orders and not transfer detainees into a situation where there was a known, high liklihood that they'd be totured.

      • She's in overdrive. She always is when Harper is on the defensive.

        Personally I think she has a crush on him.

    • Detainee stuff

      Now it seems to me, and I'm not any historian on this, but if the Liberals sent the troops to Afghanistan when in power there must have been some captured detainees during that period before losing to the Conservatives.

      Well, I'll ask did the troops hand over anybody before the Conservatives won the next election? Were the Liberals as concerned about today's “false bravado” in those early days of our military men and women's methods?

      So, if some more informed person than I could answer, I'd be appreciating it muchly.

      Thanks ahead.

      • They handed captured detainees over to the US troops. The government decided to work out an agreement with the Afghan government for transfer of detainees to the Afghans instead. They were also concerned about torture so they made sure that agreement contained safe-guards to protect the detainees.

        It was only after Harper won the election and was Prime Minister that it became known the safe guards were inadequate and the detainees being handed over were at risk for torture. Approximately 18 months after learning this, when they were under considerable pressure from the opposition, the Harper government finally reworked that agreement.

      • I should also note the original agreement was negotiated and signed in December of 2005. Harper won the election a couple weeks later.

  141. He had too many wackos in tow, who were there just to blow off steam. It was only when his party realised power was possible and desirable that they agreed to be muzzled (by Harper).

    You can't reform this country from the outside. There are too many entrenched interests.

    • As well as having too many wackos in tow, the Reform Party jettisoned too many of the Good Ideas that they had and held onto too many of the Bad Ideas.

      • Be specific Phil
        Canada needs elected Senators and referendums, Reform ideas are not dead.
        Killing the Gun Registry is now a reality.
        And the choice for CWB growers is still in the works.
        Ending/revamping the Indian Act is on the horizon.
        Special Interest groups are being defunded.,

        • I liked the Reform ideas around Senate reform, referendums, free votes, recall and so on, with the understanding that some of those ideas needed some refining; the general intent was good. Yet, I don't see much real evidence that those ideas have survived the process of becoming the CPC.

          Killing the gun registry is an example of a Bad Idea that continues to live on. I'm not totally convinced of the registry's merits, but the huge bulk of the money was spent years ago, so killing it now is mostly about emotion. Btw, does the legislation to eliminate the registry survive the prorogation?

          Not sure which special interest groups you are talking about, but the one that comes to mind is the Court Challenges Program; I didn't see the problem it. For my reference, do you have a list of Special Interest Groups that have been defunded and a list of Special Interest Groups that are still receiving funding?

          As for the other items in your list, in general I am supportive of revamping the Indian Act and I am skeptical about changes to the CWB.

          • Btw, does the legislation to eliminate the registry survive the prorogation?

            No, it's dead, dead, dead. Along with much, much else.

            I can't find a list of the dead bills but here are the Government's and the Private Members' bills in toto. The long gun registry was to have been scrapped via Bill 391 (a Private Member's bill).

          • Somewhere, within the last few days, I have a vague memory of reading a post that indicated that Private Member's bills live on, and I did recall that the registry was being eliminated by a Private Member's bill.

          • Oh, really? That's interesting; and could be a factor in the Spring, eh?

          • I understand that to be correct, however because Parliament was prorogued, that bill will now be delayed and will not have the opportunity to see the light of day until late 2010, or early 2011.

            In the meantime, I predict we will still see the CPC using that bill for fundraising, while at the same time blaming the liberals for the delay.

  142. You seem to be assuming that I approve of the stoppage, and by extention that I am a Conservative partisan, when in actual fact I didn't think there was any real need for a prolonged prorogation. He could have prorogued and come back on the same day the house was supposed to have resumed sitting, and it would have accomplished the same thing.

    With that said, the whole issue of prorogation is a big 'meh' to many people, facebook members notwithstanding. The Angus-Reid poll clearly showed that objections to this rest firmly on party lines. I would expect no different had the Liberals been in power.

    The 'faux outrage' over prorogation will be replaced when the next issue comes along. Come talk to me after the Olympics and see if people (regardless of their political stripe) are still interested in this. It's the flavour of the moment, and just another partisan issue to may hay out of until something else comes along.

    • Well, I for one would have been just as outraged had Martin or Chretien suspended Parliament. I honestly don't see how you can class this with wafergate or what have you — whatever the unwashed masses may think (or not think, more precisely).

      • But Chretien prorogued the house 4 times when he was PM. Heck, this is Canada's 143rd birthday this year and we've had 105 prorogations. On average that is one every 16 months. Yet why is it *now* – out of over a hundred prorogations – are people anoyed? Simple answer is that partisans are making political hay out of this and people are eating it up. It's political theatre at its finest, and I give full credit to the opposition for drumming up their support. This is really the first of the many non-stories that they have tried to get traction on that has actually gotten them more than a passing 'meh'.

        The Afghan detaineee issue was the last issue that the opposition tried to get traction on, and their talking points were nearly identical. Outrage and blustering over something that people really didn't care about. (which the polls showed)

        • The polls are irrelevant unless you don't have the courage to argue one side or the other, i.e. are a complete relativist. If the only things that mattered were things 80% of the population agreed were important, nothing would matter at all. Since things do matter, polls don't. Also, pretending to be the wise hands-off "Aye, weel, that's life for ye" sage is per se ridiculous.

          AFAIK, only one of Chretien's prorogations is relevant (and it's quite relevant): the time he prorogued to avoid taking heat on Adscam. That's about 75% relevant, IMO, since he had a majority and could not be accused of proroguing in order to avoid a potential confidence vote; also, the very issue on which Mackay is taking such heat is whether or not he misled the House, i.e. treated Parliament with unforgiveable contempt.

          Still, Chretien's prorogation in 2003 (?) was scandalous, and if Maclean's and its comment boards had existed in them days he'd have been witheringly attacked from the pro-Parliament camp, no question. But public opinion was much less vigorous in 2003 or whenever it was: all we had was letters to the editor and the odd pompous Globe editorial. Not so today. Arguments from the "Well, here's what you would have said" are both disingenous and presumptuous.

          As to the other 104 prorogations, we can consult the scholars to see if any of them were as underhanded as Chretien in 2003 or (a new low) Harper's second one, but rather doubt it. You're surely aware that prorogation is supposed to be a normal part of Parliamentary procedure and is normally used as such; it's the way the PM is now using it as a tactical nuke that's exceptional and highly scandalous.

          • But you don't think Chretien was the first to utilize prorogation as a tool to 'turn down the heat' now do you? I don't have a list of all the prorogations at hand, but I don't think it is irresponsible to suggest that if one looked through them all we would find plenty of other examples where this 'parliamentary proceedure' was used to benefit the sitting government in some manner.

            As for that there were no 'comment pages' when Chretien did it, why should that matter? Does 'outrage' need to be attached to a particular social medium?

            In the end it's all partisan politics at its finest. It doesn't matter what side one is on to see that this would have played out completely differently had the parties in power been reversed.

        • "Yet why is it *now* – out of over a hundred prorogations – are people anoyed?"

          Because he used the power to prorogue as a means to avoid accountability for lying about the Afghan detainee issue. What is it about that you have a hard time understanding?

          • Yeah and Chretien prorogues to avoid accountability for adscam. I would suggest that both are in the same 'ball park' as far as accountability goes, and while there was the usual partisan howls of 'outrage' from the Tories, you didn't see the kind of annoyance then – lest those dastardly Conservatives sweep to power.

            Like I said, this is all about partisan politics, and if it was Chretien still in power we would not be seeing the same outrage from these people who purport to be 'offended' by the actions of Harper.

            Let's be clear here. I never said that I approve of this prorogation. I simply suggested that the bulk of the 'outrage' is crocodile tears being shed by partisans who would be silent had the Liberals been in power. What's more, I think the Liberals would be fools if they *didn't* try and capitalize on this, since if the tables were turned I know the Tories would.

          • Probably because Harper did the same thing for the same reason 12 months ago. That time he got away with it without much upset.

            I would respectfully suggest that if Chetien had done that twice in a year for the same reason you might have a point.

          • I think you're missing my point though. The fact that Chretien did it before doesn't make it right for Harper to do the same thing. My point is that the 'outrage' back then was partisan in nature, just as it is now.

            Do people honestly think that if the parties were reversed, and the circumstances identical, that the same people would be complaining? That's not point here. It's not about the leaders, it's about the partisans who are crying crocodile tears when they know full well had the shoe been on the other foot they would be defending the Liberals for the exact same thing.

            I think this is why so many people don't want an election right now is since they know that they will get the same partisan politics regardless of the party they vote for.

          • You hope it is partisan in nature.

            Time will tell.

        • That's two, con-boy!

      • It's funny since people mistakenly believe that just because it is a hot issue amongst those with an interest in politics that everyone in Canada is aware of it. The polls show barely half of Canadians are even following this story. The Angus Reid poll had 65% of people either not following the story closely, or not following it at all. A similar Ekos result had that number at 48%.

        Like it or hate it, this is just not the big deal people make it out to be.

        In the end the problem with trying to make every issue (the cheques MPs signed, the communion wafer, late to a photo op, afghan detainees etc) into an 'outrage' is much like the boy who cried "wolf" – pretty soon the public will tune it out since it becomes background noise.

  143. I voted Indy in 2008.
    Liberals are such sensitive beasts, everything is an attack!

  144. I am becoming increasingly disappointed with Andrew's latest efforts. His tongue in cheek article about the relevance of Parliament was a weak effort and not nearly far enough in his cheek so that a great many idiots out there will actually take him seriously and begin a movement to install a benevolent dictator a la Trudeau (his "Hero"). That was bad enough but when he comments that some bad actors in the scientific community have tarred the reputations of all scientists he goes to far. Are all writers to be condemned because they are not all honest and above board? Of course not!
    Come on Andrew as that other hero of yours, Brian Mulroney once famously said "You can do better!

  145. “Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognised as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile. Once a nation parts with control of its credit, it matters not who makes the nation's laws…Usury once in control will wreck any nation.”
    William Lyon Mackenzie King, former PM

  146. Please tell us HOW the opposition is supposed to take back parliament.

    People talk as if Ignatieff was never popular. In fact, he was soaring in the polls until he threatened to bring down the government last summer. The approval rating of Ignatieff and the Liberal party suddenly plummeted, and he is only just now crawling back out of that hole.

    A coalition government is a widely used parliamentary device in a situation like this, only Harper has conned Canadians into believing that it's undemocratic. I have even heard them (on CBC radio) refer to last year's coalition as a "coup d'etat".

    Sometimes we can't rely on our representatives to solve things. Sometimes we have to stand up and take charge.

  147. OK after a few days of people trying, there's nothing showing the last Liberal regime was anywhere as bad as the Harper guys. Now granted it was farther in the past and people might have forgotten stuff, but if so it shows that we as a people forgive and that change isn't really necessary.

    Mr. Coyne, I invite you to update your article to point out that while the Liberals might do well to admit past culpabilities, the lion's share of bad behaviour has been shown over the much shorter Harper regime, and that more blame should lie there as well.

  148. Mr. Coyne

    You should be promoted to the job of hostng CTV's Question Period. Craig Oliver almost sounded like he was getting soft on Ignatieff there for a few seconds on todays episode. He needs to be replaced ASAP. Can't think of anyone who who has his head up Harper's Ass further than you. That seems to be the main criteria for hiring for CTV so you are a natural.
    Come on . . . at least . . . could you pretend to have some objectivety.

    The problem with our parliamentary system is just what I described above. There is no objective media anymore to keep these political jokers in check. You guys sold out your journalistic morals and jumped into bed with the political partys. Much akin to being a dirty cop on the take from the mob – you sir are a "dirty" journalist! Time for you to get some backbone if you really have an ounce of journalistic credibilty left in you and that you actually believe in fixing what you guys broke!

  149. I disagree that any partisan response to this is invalid. Consider this scenario: we have an election in March-April, and Harper wins a minority or majority government. What will that mean? It will mean that the precedent is set. He can claim that an election was fought on the issue of prorogation and the public supported it.

    The opposition parties have so little money at the moment, compared to the Conservatives, that it seems likely that the Conservatives will win. Therefore, to oppose prorogation we should all be giving money to the nonCon party of our choice.

    It is true that I want Harper to be unseated, but part of the reason I feel so strongly that we must get rid of him is that he is doing great harm to our democracy. Sure, Chretien did a lot of damage, but Harper has taken this to a whole new level. Chretien's prorogations were not nearly as political as Harper's have been.

  150. remember king byng or am i the only one? gg to harper you want to shut down parliament fine with me go back to the legislature and introduce that motion-hello to coyne and ibbitson and simpson-we have a history and precedent use if now now now

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