How about "Somewhat benign, but sort of an a-hole"? -

How about “Somewhat benign, but sort of an a-hole”?


Historian Michael Behiels commences his Citizen op-ed on the present constitutional emergency by describing the prime minister as “our not-so-benign dictator”. Kind of a remarkable rhetorical ploy, that. I’m from the tribe of Westerners who used to gripe about the Liberal “benign dictatorship”, but I realized how and silly overwrought this sort of language was on the day the B.D. Himself was ousted by his own caucus without so much as a “Thanks for the customized golf balls”. Ever since then, my Zen answer to every kerfuffle, foofaraw, and flibberty-floo about Parliament and its powers has been the same, no matter who was in power. Parliament has just as much power as its members care to take. No more, no less.

But little did I realize what a favour I was doing the dictator of old by consenting to describe him as “benign”, despite actual ethical misgivings about several of his policies! The Tom Flanagans of the world felt the need to throw that word “benign” in there as a pre-emptive apology for their own excessiveness. But now Behiels–unashamed! Unflinching!–has upped the ante: Stephen Harper’s not just a dictator, he’s one of those evil dictators. McLuhan would weep to behold such mastery of figure-ground effects.


How about “Somewhat benign, but sort of an a-hole”?

  1. "How about “Somewhat benign, but sort of an a-hole”?"

    Yeah, but the "sort of" is kind of redundant. You're either an a-hole or you're not. Harper is clearly and, by all indications, proudly an a-hole.

    • So, paraphrasing Ayn Rand, you'd say A-hole is A-hole?

      • Yes, I guess, although I was thinking more along the lines of "you're either pregnant or you're not."

        • Colby might think Harper is just an a-hole when he wears blue.

    • I prefer to call our Dark Lord by his proper moniker – The Orifice of Evil!

    • I'd think of him as a proud Bastard, in the vein of that novel about Canadian Prime Ministers, Bastards and Boneheads.

      I'd think if it were expanded, Martin would be a bonehead and Harper would be a bastard.

      • Martin was, intellectually, one of the deepest prime ministers we've had. But there are other reasons to think you have him in the wrong box.

  2. You Know, My family came to canada b/c of a dictator(Stalin). Every time I hear these people in the media use this word it just makes my blood boil..

    Do some of these media people even understand what people went through under these regimes?

    I just shake my head at the insane hyperbole of some people…

    • There really are more and less benign dictators, and there may be no liberal democracies at all that do not reserve some last-ditch recourse to partial "dictatorship" in emergencies, but it's not really an apt word for "Someone who can be made to step down the minute a certain small number of people ask him to."

      • Exactly.

      • Cobly says..

        " but it's not really an apt word for "Someone who can be made to step down the minute a certain small number of people ask him to."

        That is why I hate the word dictator. Harper can be defeated at any time. It may not be pretty, but the democracy that we have now is unlike any we have had in a long time(minority government).

        Whatever, the people will decide the fate of this government in a election. And we should all be thankful b/c of that.

    • What about when people throw around the term "anti-Semitic?" Does that make your blood boil too?

      Incidentally, don't kid yourself. If it were not for the minority parliament, we would be sitting only for two to three weeks a year, enough for El Presidente to get his budgets passed.

      • Anon..

        Comparing Harper to a dictator is insane in my book. You can try to spin the argument all you want. But when I hear dictator I think Stalin. You will not change my opinion, with mis direction and lame talking points.

        If you hate Harper fine, thats's great, but GTOH that he is a dictator. Sure you can bash PM Harper on alot of things, but once you start calling him a dictator, you are reaching..

        Have a good new year…

      • Bemusingly, it's EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE. Since majority PMs face substantially tame Parliaments (notwithstanding Colby's point that Parliament has exactly as much power as it chooses to take), majority leaders sit for as long as they want, facing no substantial risks to their government.

        It's a bit weird that Canada has evolved a much more whipped House of Commons than the UK. But of course the point of Parliament and democracy is not so much any guarantee that you'll get the best (or even good) leaders as part of the process: it's that, when circumstances are aggravating enough, the Benign Dictator du Jour can be made to leave, courtesy the ballot box.

        • not that weird that Canada has evolved a much more whipped House of Commons than the UK. there are a number of structural features and institutions that make this lend to this (e.g., UK House much larger means that its governments have many more members on backbenches that know will never make minister rank and are less likely to pull party line uniformly).

    • "Do some of these media people even understand what people went through under these regimes?"

      Yes, that's why we're extremely vigilant about it and consider the merest indication of abuse of power as the warning signs of dictatorship.

      It can happen here, you know. By the way, your heritage doesn't give you any extra power to determine how other people think or express themselves. That's awfully authoritarian.

      • Good plan posting that nonsense anonymously

  3. The media is really going bonkers this time. Each time you think they can't be more superficial, they prove you wrong, and it takes someone who hasn't lost his mind, like Cosh, to point out that

    dictatorship is not really an apt word for "Someone who can be made to step down the minute a certain small number of people ask him to."

    You'd think this would be obvious to our enlightened media. But then, they'd have to be even-handed to see it, I guess.

    • Shouldn't you be outside scanning the skies for the Global Warming New World Order's black helicopters?

    • For better or worse, SH has become the one annointed to lead Conservatives to the "promised land" of majority government. The question that prevents many from supporting his party is…what will they do once they get there? If he can maintain the strict party discipline he has thus far imposed, he has a chance at succesive majority governments, and will continue to move our governance model to the right…although perhaps not quite so "incrementally". However, it's entirely conceivable that once the Conservatives reach the "promised land", there will be a LOT of internal party pressure to make more "extreme" changes; this is where Conservatives have historically turned upon themselves resulting in divisive factions or even formally splitting the party (Bloc, Reform). Personally, I don't think SH could keep a majority caucus united and in line, not because of his "failings", but because of the "rugged individualist" leanings of many who subscribe to Conservative ideologies.

    • The "loony bin" to be opened will be the Conservative/Reform caucus. Right now SH is able to keep a tight muzzle on the more extremist elements of his party(NOT all Conservatives, btw!) with the stark reality that if they DO express themselves freely, the Conservatives will likely NEVER get a majority government; Canadians are typically centrist, not hard right or hard left. SH is doing a fairly good job of moving our society incrementally to the right (a position I'm not really in favour of) while maintaining the party itself in a more centrist position that many Conservatives would really like.

      • He's doing a terrible job of moving us to the right! On which fiscal conservative arenas has Prime Minister Harper moved us even a slight step in the "right" direction?

        • "fiscal conservative"– none.. But I said he's moving our society to the right, not our fiscal practices. While the economy may be the "engine" of our society, that doesn't mean that it gets to steer, as well! Be patient; you will only gain permanent and lasting change if Harper can win the hearts and minds of the average Canadian through reasoned and practical policies that don't fundamentally undermine Canadiand values. THEN he can drop the axe on expenditures.

  4. You'd have some measure of credibility on this, Cosh, if you'd even once stepped up to the plate and said the same thing in that fevered swamp you used to work at. But since you didn't nobody cares if someone calling Harper a dictator upsets your delicate sensibilities now. Now wipe the tears from your eyes and have a Happy New Year.

    • You sure showed him, Bobby Mac! He'll never recover from that one! Happy New Year, RM! Happy New Year to you too, Colby, from all the shut-ins and ships at sea!

      • I'm still reeling from the zinger Bobby Mac sent in my direction. Ouch! Happy New Year.

        • Happy New Year!

    • Nothing starts off a New Year better than being set upon by the MacLean's right winger bloggers' den mothers, does it?

      When was the last time those two went after Jarrid or Biff?

  5. … The bottom line is that Mr. Harper's move merely expedites the inevitable- allowing a clean sweep of the Liberal's irrelevant obstructionism to the capacity of our elected government to do their job.
    … This is not merely Mr. Harper's victory. This is a victory for all Canadians.

    • Now this place is DEFINITELY getting the feel of the Nat-Post…

  6. This is revisionist nonsense.
    The Tom Flanagans and yes Colby Coshes of the world would have never used the disclaimer "benign".
    That was a term used by the eastern liberal loving media elite like ummm oh yeah, Jeffery Simpson who wrote, yes, the book on it.
    As a Calgarian I heard and read far far stronger language then that from people like Ezra Levant, Tom Flanagan and Stephan Harper. I imagine a google search of Mr Cosh woud reveal some interesting comments but lets not buy this pure innocent crap for a second. these guys have so debased our political discourse it is sewer level and then to run around going J'accuse is absurd.

    • Speaking of absurd revisionist nonsense and before you write again that Tom Flanagan would never have used the disclaimer "benign" you may be interested to read the 1997 article written by Tom Flanagan and Stephen Harper titled "Our benign dictatorship". And in case you try to claim that they did not come up with the title, it is in their text as well, which is available here:

      • Good lord! There's enough irony in that piece to sustain a politician for a lifetime. As recently as a decade ago SH supported the concept of reforming our political system, and reducing the power of the leader…my my my, i wonder where he stands now he's top dog? Somewhat benign dictatorship anyone?

  7. Wait here is Mr Cosh calling Maurice Strong a mass murderer
    that took two minutes, can you imagine if I could find old Alberta Report on line!!

    • That is a stretch, to use a pun with Mao's name does not necessarily call him a mass murderer… more like a commie than anything else. Then again he is a commie so no big deal.

  8. So does the junior man get blog duty on New Year's Eve? Like some others here, I think Colby's splitting hairs. Both Michael Behiels and Harper/Flanagon clearly use the term dictatorship figuratively. Still, I seem to remember conservatives (many of them from Alberta!) referring to Canada as a one-party state for no other reason than that the Liberals had a majority–three majorities in a row, to be exact. Since they must have known that the liberals could be defeated in an election, one must assume that they weren't speaking literally.

  9. I don't know. I once had a small benign tumour, and it still hurt like a bugger when it was surgically excised.
    Yeah, benign works.

  10. Harper is far from benign. I am not as concerned as most about this prorogation. What really gets me is the method used by Harper to appoint Senators: in exchange for a promise to vote according to the dictates of the prime minister on Senate reform. Yes, that is how dictators operate.

    Posters who were still in diapers during the Chrétien and Martin claim that they operated in the same fashion. Far from it. Chrétien appointed men like Jean-Robert Gauthier who would never, ever, have taken his seat in the Senate if he'd had to promise to vote as Chrétien was telling him to! NEVER. The man as a liberal MP voted against the patriation of the Constitution. He was a strong-willed man who always put his principles ahead of his party and publicly stated so ad nauseum. Martin appointed Hugh Segal knowing that Segal would sit on the Conservative side.

    Liberals were not afraid of appointing persons to the Senate who would oppose them if they felt they should – and they often did….

    • The Senate has always been a place to reward good old Party loyalists. That worked well until 4 years ago. Harper is on record that he is in favor of a more democratic senate (equal, elected, effective ). The first step to reform is for the Senate to vote in favor of change. Change is bad. Harper must be stopped.

    • During the Martin? Who could remember that? Wasn't he prime Minister for 20 minutes or some such?

    • Oh, you mean people like Mac Harb who was appointed by a liberal. He has been charged with fraud. He “retired” so that he could retain his pension rather than be thrown out. He dropped all law suits against the Senate when he retired.

  11. A few examples of Liberal majority in the Senate doing its role and opposing the Liberal majority in the House:

    The Clarity Act – The Liberal Senate refused to pass the Liberal government's bill, a cornerstone of its electoral platform. Chrétien had to name four additional Senators to make it pass.

    The bill on cruelty to animals which went back and forth between the liberal majority HoC and the liberal majority Senate FOR EIGHT YEARS!!!!

    These Senators were not yes-men appointed on the promise that they vote as they are told to do by the prime minister.

    • "Chrétien had to name four additional Senators to make it pass"

      Ummm….a little less hypocrisy please!

  12. When I read Behiels article yesterday it made me think of what ideologues think of each other.

    Right wingers think lefties are idjits/naive/misinformed/earnest/idealists, while left wingers are convinced that right wingers are evil who need to stomped on as much as possible.

    Also, I was less than surprised to be reading an overwrought article, written by a university prof of course, about evil Harper and how he needs to be stopped even tho he has done nothing particularly egregious, like ignore confidence motions or shut down inquiries before they complete their work.

    • Consider the source. A university prof at the U of Ottawa whose president was a liberal MP responsible for the gun registry and for stopping conservative Americans from speaking at the university.

  13. dictator – a person who behaves in a tyrannical manner; "my boss is a dictator who makes everyone work overtime"
    Big Brother – an authoritarian leader and invader of privacy
    disciplinarian, martinet, moralist – someone who demands exact conformity to rules and forms
    oppressor – a person of authority who subjects others to undue pressures

    ….fit any one of these descriptions – you are a dictator.

  14. Or, perhaps:

    Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed: "A totalitarian regime crushes all autonomous institutions in its drive to seize the human soul" .


    1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) an adherent or practitioner of fascism
    2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) any person regarded as having right-wing authoritarian views

    Hey, a rose by any other name is still a rose.

  15. Benign. Hardly. Gentle? Kindly? A non-malignant tumour is benign.

  16. The funny thing is that the opposition has had so many chances to vote down this intolerable government, but has not done so. If the Liberals, Bloc and NDP believe that the Harper government is too corrupt to be allowed to stay in power, then they should vote it down the first chance they get (which now will be the March budget).

    • I begin to detest this argument because it faults Parliament for being a plurality.

      • The easiest way to solve the terrible dilemma of all opposition parties needing to have rational self-interest in a successful non-confidence vote before they actually do so is to elect a majority government.

        • “What a lovely tail! Woof! Woof! Chase it some more! Woof! Woof!”Sent from my iPod

  17. I don't get it…Because Cosh used fatuous hyperbole no careful writer does in the past, no one else gets to now?

    These rules are awfully complicated, particularly the ones involving the right wing's political correctness.

  18. So what you're saying is that one of our political parties has co-opted national symbolism, diminished Parliament's power, presidentialized our government, and created a repulsive personality cult around its leader? I could have sworn we were seeing in 2010 last night, not 1970.

    • I was only 10 years old in 1970, and wasn't really involved in politics at the time (I was too busy collecting baseball cards and chewing Ton-O-Gum), so I don't have much knowledge of the Trudeau era.

      From what I've read, Trudeau didn't muzzle his ministers, didn't tightly control journalists or elaborately script his photo opportunities, didn't create out-of-season attack ads, and seemed to be actually trying to implement legislation that benefited the country rather than just the Liberals. (Whether he actually did this or not is a whole other question, of course.)

      Even if what you say about Trudeau's Liberals is true (which I don't necessarily agree with), that still leaves the totalitarian score (as it were) as 2010 Conservatives 8, 1970 Liberals 4.

      And saying "But, but… the Liberals did it too!" is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Conservatives' way of governing. Recall that the Conservatives were elected because they promised to be more open and transparent than their predecessors – a promise that they pretty much shredded on Day 1 of taking office. If the best that you can say about the Tories is that they are no worse than the other guys, that's not exactly saying much, is it?

      • Trudeau had a majority (for many years), which makes the totalitarian scare:
        2010 Conservatives 1, 1970 Liberals 20

        • More name calling…now you go to some other site and whine about someone's lack of courtesy towards you. You really ought to adopt a baby avatar…oops, you already did.

      • "The Liberals did it forty years ago" is, in fact, a perfectly decisive argument against being frightened by novel "trappings" of "totalitarianism", whether or not the features you're talking about are desirable. If we are already "totalitarian" now then let's apportion the blame correctly before they march us off to the Gulag.

        In general you are making an awful lot of statements that can't help but raise giggles. Trudeau didn't manipulate journalists? "Totalitarian" behaviour is okay as long as you're "actually trying to benefit the country"? Political attack ads didn't exist before 2006? Someone who was alive for the Flag Debate is suddenly getting worried about manoeuvres to conflate party and country?? Honestly, this goes beyond naivete into chain-yanking.

        And while you're adding up the "totalitarianism points" for the government of 1970, did you just forget to leave room on the ledger for suspending habeas corpus and throwing political undesirables in jail without a charge?

        • Heh! You still hung over Colby? i was around and paying attention for some of the later trudeau years. It was a different era, and there was certainly less of the scripted, control the media message stuff we see nowadays…Trudeau did use the media to his advantage…but manipulate…well he did avoid the MSM in later years…i'd bet that's where Harper picked up the idea ? He also ran a far more collegial style of govt than Harper.
          Political attack adds outside of the writ certainly did not exist back then.
          As for the flag debate – this was not Trudeau of course – i hope you're not referring to that musty old chestnut of the libs picking the colours…never happened.
          As for the WMA. Well i really can't believe you're that credulous…the context was far more nuanced than evil old Pierre rounding up the the good folks of La Belle provence on a whim. Please tell me that's not what you meant…you are a pro, a journalist, right! I must have missed the irony, sarcasm or something.

          • Oops…sorry bout the hung over crack…i thought it witty at the time, it's not.

    • Jeez Colby that's a real mature position for a journo to take…they did it first and worst…spoken more like an expostie don't ya think?
      Besides which as ponted out below there are a host of counter arguements to your assertion…even more besides…Trudeau actually explained his policies…even morer besides…Trudeau actually had a personality worth turning into a cult.

      • Jeez Colby that's a real mature position for a journo to take…they did it first and worst…spoken more like an expostie don't ya think?

        Why is he obligated to be charitable enough to ignore obvious rebuttals to a ridiculous and historically ignorant argument, exactly?

        • What the hell would you know about ridiculous and historically ignorant arguements…you rarely have anything to offer except sour and dyspeptic distain for the views of those you disagree with.

          Just about any irony would burn a full blown cynic such as yourself ; yet you fail to detect the intended irony.

    • And did you think it was right in 1970?

  19. As I read the tripe from the left about Dr. Evil aka Stephen Harper interspersed with tid bits about Canadian Olympic Hockey team hopes and plans, I am reminded of the Canada Soviet showdown of 72. (when all classes at my high school were stopped so we could watch the games in the cafeteria)

    I quit watching hockey after the millionaires went on strike gainst the billionaires (or the billionaires locked out the millionaires or whatever) so I am not current, but i seem to recall a guy named Bobby Clarke becoming a national hero for the brutal slash on Valerie Kharmalov's ankle that put the Soviets best player on the bench and greatly aided Canada's final triumph.

    So here's my question. If Clarke's a hero for "pushing the envelope", why is Mr Harper a goat? Is a questionable tactic in pursuit of victory always bad, or just when it suits your preference?

    May the new year bring some wisdom and understanding to the MSM and the half-witted political bloggers you share space with Colby.

    • Is a questionable tactic in pursuit of victory always bad, or just when it suits your preference?

      The answer is obvious. Chretien wrote the book on dirty politics. Harper watched and learned. Chretien was praised for his tactics, and is still praised today for his ability to win by pushing the envelope with questionable tactics.

      • The diffference is that Chretien served in many different capacities over a 40 year span, and had a really good working knowledge of how government works. Lessee, he was Justice Minister, DIAND Minister, Minister of Finance, and Deputy Prime Minister before he became Prime Minister. His "tactics" were based on a thorough understanding of government, which I would argue Stephen Harper doesnt' have. In fact, JC was capable of long term strategy that informed his "tactics"; there's little evidence that SH is, which is why his own "tactics" are so transparently clumsy and inept. JC worked "with" the civil service; SH works without them, because he's never respected the expertise that we, the taxpayers, are providing him.

        • I fail to see how your point has any bearing (and I fail to agree that JC knew more about government than SH, do you realize how long Harper has been involved in federal politics? Probably not – the answer is 25 years).

          Anyway, regardless of how experienced Chretien was, his tactics were questionable and dirty. This has nothing to do with experience.

          • The bearing to my point involves the distinction between strategy and tactics. Tactics are short-term, designed to forward a longer term strategy. Tactics without strategy is mere gamemanship. SH seems to have a prediliction for employing tactics that work against his (presumed) strategy of branding the Conservative Party as capable and trustworthy guardians of the public interest ("kinder and gentler", if you will). An example is the 2008 budget cutting public funding for political parties. This move was unnecessary AT THAT TIME. He galvanized the opposition (admittedly self-interested) and generated concern about his commitment to electoral "fairness". It doesn't really matter where you stand on that issue, it was a clumsy move. He could have waited to do it when he had achieved a majority, but his gamesmanship clouded his judgement, and it cost him.

          • All of this stuff has no bearing on the original topic of discussion.

          • "Is a questionable tactic in pursuit of victory always bad, or just when it suits your preference?"

            A "questionable tactic" is always assessed on its effectiveness- usually in support of a strategy. If it works, it may still be questionable, but not "bad". Tactics that don't support a strategy are, as I said above, mere gamesmanship. Tactics that work against one's strategies are by definition "bad".

            I would argue that although both Chretien and Harper played "dirty politics", Chretien did it better a) due to his greater expertise in federal government as a minister and b) because his tactics supported his strategy, while Harper's apparently do not. I don't know if that is something Chretien(or his supporters) would necessarily be proud of. As you said, he wrote the book, but if Harper read it, he must have missed something.

          • I claim no inside knowledge, but the strategic goal seems clear to me. Majority. I think the CPC brain trust likes their chances against Iggy for the brass ring. That said, as a CPC supporter, since the founding dinner in Vancouver in 03 (and a an Alliance fan prior to that) the goals have always seemed clear to me at least. A casual review of Mr. Harper's actual beliefs (not the hooey floating around but the actual texts he wrote and/or helped draft) gives a pretty clear idea of where he stands on most issues.

            That said, as the old saying goes, "When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's easy to forget that your original intention was to drain the swamp." I think it would be fair to describe most parliamentary committees as alligator country lately…I'm inclined to think that the CPC has earned the right to a majority government and the right to control the agenda a la Chretien, in fact I'll give personal time and treasure to try and make it happen.

          • Surely you're not trying to tell me that Harper has had 25 years of elected experience? I think it's important to make a distinction between involvement with a federal PARTY and involvement with the federal GOVERNMENT. The internal dynamics of parties, and the skills needed to manage them, are significantly different from those of government.

            Internal party politics are often nasty, brutish, and terribly mean-spirited, which is why I personally have no stomach for involvement. "Rah, rah, my party right or wrong" is also unappealing to anyone with a working brain. Applying the tactics of internal party politics to national government is, to me, inappropriate as it demeans legitimate process.

          • Harper had 16 years of elected experience before becoming PM.

            Secondly, everything you've said applies to Chretien as well as Harper.

  20. your analysis is lacking objectivity and logic, to put it mildly. To put it less mildly, you're crazy.

  21. Excellent question.

    If Clarke's a hero for slashing his opponents ankles why is Mr Harper a goat?

    • Short answer
      Because (too many) Canadians consider hockey supremacy to be a birthright and willingly overlook anything, as long as we win – there is a sense of unity on this issue.
      Politics? We never agree and we love to argue.

    • I'm not so sure that Clarke was ever considered a hero. He's long been reviled as the most hated man in hockey…not that it seems to bother him much.

  22. Wait here is Mr Cosh calling Maurice Strong a mass murderer
    that took two minutes, can you imagine if I could find old Alberta Report on line!!- Happeningfish

    Clicked it, read it… you are a liar.

  23. Ummmm No Eric, He calls him Mao. Mao is a mass murderer. Not sure how you could claim in any way that is a lie.
    More like the truth is you are telling fibs to defend Cosh. If I was a liar why woud I have put in the link?
    Cripes Eric your foolish

    • Well, I read that too, and if you're not a liar, then you're an idiot.

      The entirety of the "Mao" reference is the title "Some people call me Mao-rice" in reference to Strong's working at a university in China.

      You know, a mall near me has a store selling Chinese vases with Mao's image printed on the side. Mass-murder-vases?

      Not every Mao reference is an attempt to represent the subject as a murderer, you know?

      • Hitler! Hitler! Hitler!

        • No, no.. pompotous, darn it…

  24. In truth, the NDP could have ended the Harper regime this past fall, and the opposition has the power to end it again once the next federal budget is presented, after the Olympics. One could argue that when Prime Ministers take measures to avoid confidence votes, as Paul Martin and Stephen Harper have done, it is an abuse of power. Perhaps this should be reformed. However, as long as Jack Layton continues to keep him in office, it is Parliament that is permitting Stephen Harper to rule in this manner.

  25. At least one commenter is blaming Layton.

    It's Harper's fault!
    No, wait, it's Layton's fault!
    No, wait, it's the system's fault! No, wait, I lost track…

    I'll play devil's advocate: The PM prorogued because he has the right to prorogue. Should we blame the PM for proroguing? Or should we blame the system for allowing prorogation?

    IMO, the latter is the important question. Why allow the PM to prorogue whenever he feels like it? When prorogation was allowed many years ago, did everyone naively believe "well, the PM will only prorogue for very important matters, not for partisan purporses, so allowing him to prorogue whenever he wants is perfectly legitimate." (excluding the GG's role, of course, which has been reduced to mere symbolism)

    • I suspect that when the concept of prorogation was first developed (probably in England, not here, but I don't know for sure) partisan politics was a lot less developed than it has become, ESPECIALLY in Canada where the PMO's powers seem to increase every time there's an election, and votes are rigourously whipped.

      Probably around the same time that we adopted the convention of referring to MP's as "Honourable Members…"

    • There was a time when voters were involved with their politics. When use of proroguation to avoid Parliament would have been signing the death warrant of the leader (if not the entire party). Proroguation was a technique whereby parliament could say, "Yeah, there's nothing important going on right now, lets get out to our constituencies, and see what the people are thinking is important."

      As the citizenry has become less involved and reduced to sound-bite politics through the media, the natural consequences expected by the founders of the system have changed or disappeared entirely.

  26. Some of the opposition should pretend they are in exile – just to further confuse/enrage the media.

    I believe Iggy's already out of the country, since we haven't heard from him through all of this

  27. Proroguation was a technique whereby parliament could say

    Parliament? Or the Prime Minister? I think you're mistaken, but I could be wrong.

    Assuming I'm right: This is what I find most troubling. At some point, the founders of our system thought it would be a swell idea if the PM, with the consent of the GG, could unilaterally close down parliament and reconvene it whenever he wants. This seems absurd and idiotic to me, considering the founders went out of their way to create the most accountable, responsible, democratic system of government, then added this bonehead idea to undermine their entire efforts.

    I wouldn't fault Harper for doing everything in his power to play partisan politics, to his advantage. The rules allow it, so he's free to do it. If we don't like it, let's change the system. We can grumble about Harper, not vote for him next election, but we're only skirting the real issue, which is this flaw in the system. Let's address that instead.

  28. That's because you're thinking in terms of today, when the Governor General has become just a rubber stamp, and no longer is an actual authority — with a connection to the Crown and the armies thereof — and MPs are no longer responsible to their constituents, but to their particular party.

    It used to be that the party was responsible to the members and to the MPs, because they were the only way that the messaging could get through. These days though, the messaging doesn't need the MPs, which is why you could run a dead cow in Calgary under the conservative banner and see it elected.

    I completely agree with your last statement that we need to change the system, I just don't think it's fair to think of the founders as boneheads. The majority of the system indicates they were anything but. But the technologies of communication — of policitics — have changed drastically since the system was devised, and our systems haven't changed to reflect that yet.