How to go about this (II) - Macleans.ca
 

How to go about this (II)


 

Lorne Sossin passes along his thoughts.

While the optics of the NDP proposal strike me as appealing, I do not think such legislation would be enforceable nor do I think it is the optimal solution. A vote to prorogue seems to me to some extent redundant—the opposition parties can bring down the government if they have lost confidence, and otherwise, if they continue to have confidence in the governmentt, they must live with some degree of executive prerogative. In my view, the better accountability mechanism is a Governor General who exercises discretion with respect to granting or denying requests to prorogue with the public interest in mind, and makes public her or his reasons for granting or denying such requests. The Governor General should make clear that prorogation will not be granted so as to avoid a vote of confidence, or for ulterior or improper purposes.


 

How to go about this (II)

  1. That sounds about right.

  2. But, wouldn't you need to reform the manner in which the GG is appointed so that they are more accountable? Otherwise, wouldn't the PM just appoint an agreeable person?

    • Let MPs elect the GG after each election. Parties would nominate their candidate during the campaign.

      • No no no no no… turning GG into an explicitly partisan position, especially one that becomes part of an election campaign, is the opposite of the right direction IMHO. I think elected by a secret ballot of MPs is a good way to go, but nomination should be by Cabinet. Either by a one nomination and then approve/disapprove ballot, repeat as necessary; or by a nomination of a few candidates with preferential or exhaustive balloting. Admittedly nomination by Cabinet is partisan, but in a minority parliament they would be forced to pick a fair or compromise choice, it would not be a confidence matter and could be repeated until they got it right (with some mechanism if needed to avoid filibustering I guess – good faith would be ideal but it seems to be in short supply these days). This would also keep it out of election campaigns where it doesn't belong. In the case of a majority government they would obviously get whomever they wanted, but this is the same effect as a parliamentary vote on prorogation itself.

  3. Indeed. Give real discretionary power to the GG, and the GG will become a pet of the PM even moreso. And as if discretionary power for the GG is less controversial than letting Parliament decide when it is to be dissolved.

    Since when is it a reasonable degree of executive prerogative to allow the executive to shut down the legislature at a whim.

  4. So wishing aloud about what the GG might or might not do is more effective than a vote in parliament? Seems we have more to fix than to prorogue or not to prorogue.

    • That's what i was thinking too.

      " In my view, the better accountability mechanism is a Governor General who exercises discretion with respect to granting or denying requests to prorogue with the public interest in mind, and makes public her or his reasons for granting or denying such requests"

      Hmmm, i thought we already had that?

      The final thought might help, unless someone can provide a good reason why not. Out with the secrecy! I f we have to put up with a symbolic figure giving the final seal of approval, then the minimum we should demand is that the reasons given be public. I know some have nuanced concerns about publicity, but we live in the age of [t least the desire for]greater accountability. Let the reasons be public. Let the people decide if they pass the smell test.

    • How is wishing aloud about the behviour of one GG any less effective than wishing aloud about the behaviour of MPs?

      If you think the solution to Parliament's malaise is found within the current crop of Parliamentarians, then I think you're in denial about how we got to where we are.

      Remember – our MPs already have legitimate means at their disposal to shut Stephen Harper down, They've chosen not to use it.

      Legitmizing the GG's use of discretion to curb his (or any other PM's) abusive behaviour seems a reasonable suggestion.

      • What are these legitimate means? Other than forcing an election – which they might well lose. Shouldn't there be somewhere on the parliamentary dial between zero and ten? I know there is the Coyne solution…play the Harper's game better[ perhaps the Wells solution too?] than he does…raise more money, join the smear and drive- by add game, and just concede a gun to the head IS what parliament is all about in the end.. I can see the attraction. But isn't that ceding all the high ground to Harper, and declaring parliament a fight club with no rules? Perhaps it always was/is…i really don't know.

        h

      • So why have MP's or a parliament if their only role is to be elected and then sit back and see what the winner decides to do and when? It's like you want your MP to be as powerless as you are and speak only when spoken to (during elections).

        • " be elected and then sit back and see what the winner decides"

          Who suggested that?

  5. I was waiting for someone to bring reason to the issue.

    While I was upset by the prorogation, it was never an "affront to democracy" that many seemed to make it out to be. Prorogation is not bad – it is indeed a useful government tool (and the Liberals would agree, which is why the NDP bill will go nowhere). Equally, the issue isn't so much that we are prorogued, and it is not a vacation (as some seem to mention). And we certainly don't need to vote on it.

    The democracy reform I would have liked to see, however, regards the process. At present the GG is only required to hear arguement from the Government to grant prorogation. This seems odd – shouldn't the GG be equally required to consult the leaders of the opposition parties to hear the counter-argument before making her/his decision? Feel free to "phone it in" Harper, but expect to wait up to a week while the opposition's opinion on the matter is reviewed.

    The other comment I read somewhere was that the governments reasoning made to the GG should be on public-record. This would prevent to ever-changing post-rationale we keep hearing. If you have a good reason, it shouldn't need to be hidden and it certainly shouldn't be changing.

    I think if we had this, even if I may not have agreed with the rationale and the GG's decision, I could at least respect the process and all parties/persons involved.

    • One would have hoped the GG would already take into accout the opposition's views – however informally. I presume the idea is not to drag the office of the GG into the political arena…arguably this is already happening. Is there a non constitutional way to have the GG listen to the view of the house and not simply be a rubber stamp for the PM? I guess that's what we are here for?
      In my view simply saying the govt has the confidence of the house because they voted for the throne speech, budget measures and any other confidence measure the Pm sees fit to throw out there is not sufficient at the time of the request to prorgue – it's a bit of a cop out…as most certainly the oft heard excuse:" You can vote on it when we get back"!

      • I view the GG's role similar to the role of the Speaker of the House in this case. I am asking the GG to make a reasoned decision based on arguments (not votes!).

        First you would not want the decision to be solely based on votes. That would mean that every majority government could prorogue at will. In a minority government it would lead to deadlock (unless you make it a confidence vote, but I don't think you want to go there).

        As for hoping that the GG informally listens to the opposition, that is wishful thinking. I still remember in 2008 where the opposition was explicitly denied audience with the GG – she made her decision based on a discussion with Harper alone and to this day we have no record or understanding as to what the arguments where that persuaded her. So I say that the rules should change to require (REQUIRE) the GG to hold audience with the leaders of all elected federal parties.

        • Don't see any way to top a majority govt anyway, and i don't see how it could lead to deadlock in a minority. The PM couls ignore the house, but at least the GG would have a guideline of sorts…your last point could be workable, something needs to tighten up…there being no gentlemen politicians anymore.:)

  6. So now we have advocates of constitutional amendment on the run! And all in the aftermath of the non-event of prorogation which, if so heinous a misdemeanour, surely will enable the opposition parties easily to defeat the government in a non-confidence motion immediately on parliament's recall on March 4th. So go ahead, do it.

    • i got an idea. Why don't we ask the people if holding an election just to find out if the PM's desire to shut down parliament for [ what's the official reason right now? They're sticking with recalibrate are they?] his own reasons, is at all what they wont to see happening? Hold the presses…rallies all over the country, online petitions, a big drop in the govt's polling numbers. I think you have your answer…no need for an election. The people are speaking right now!

  7. The Governor General should make clear that prorogation will not be granted so as to avoid a vote of confidence, or for ulterior or improper purposes.

    This is where the system fails. We have a weak GG who gave in to Harper in December 2008 and offered no public reason why she came to the decision she did. Ditto in December 2009.

    Harper is gaming the system and the GG is complicit.

    • It isn't a matter of a weak or strong governor general. In a constitutiional monarchy the monarch reigns, she does not rule. She has the right to listen and to advise, within reason, but she must not exercise her discretionary powers in opposition to the will of the people. So long as the Prime Minister has the confidence of the people, as expressed through their parliament, the Queen, through her representative, must take his advice when she exercises her powers. It is a fundamental misreading of her position and the duties of the crown to suggest she should revert to the position of someone who rules and who has independent power that can be exercised contrary to the will of the Commons.
      The only reason a Governor General can ever give for exercising her discretionary powers is that she received advice to do so by a prime minister who had the confidence of the Commons and who asked her to do something that was constitutionally within her powers. No other explanation is warranted or appropriate.

      • This is a pretty gross misunderstanding of the GG's role.

        At the very very very least, she should have required Stephen Harper in 2008 to show the confidence of the House with a vote.

        • In what way is it a misunderstanding? And Mr. Harper returned to the commons and received his vote of confidence. After what turned out to be a sensible pause so people could come to their senses. So what's the problem?

          The Governor General's job is to exercise the powers of the Crown on the advice of her government. The one that has the confidence of the House of Commons. She has no right to do anything else. And hasn't since 1689.

        • Frankly, neither of you have it right.

          But don't worry so does Sossin. Do we really want an appointed (i.e., not elected), even if accomplished, Canadian determining unto her or his self what is in the 'public interest' and exercising her role accordingly (whether she makes her reasoning public or not)? In a word: No. It is one thing to enforce commonly accepted conventions. It is quite another to determine unilaterally, with no democratic corrective orrecall mechanism in place, decide what is best for Canadians.

  8. Other thoughts Re: Layton…

    The NDP are very willing to get in front of the populist wave without any thought as to whether their policy choices will actually work. Nothing new here.

    • The liberals should do what they have always done best…steal the ideas of the NDP [ sometimes the cons] and add a dash of pragmatism, and voila. You have a cake that everyone says they hate but grudgingly eats anyway, since it's at least half baked, rather than totally indigestable. Hmmm, i think i need breakfast. :)

    • Great moments in "getting in front of the populist wave without any thought as to whether their policy choices wil actually work"

      2008 nominees
      Cutting the GST and creating a structural deficit of that exact amount
      Those bad bureacurats are stopping isotope production, let's force them to restart CANDU!

      2009 nominees
      Cut off subsidies to political parties (oops, didn't think it would piss them off that much)
      Tax credits for home renovations, that'll employ people

      • More NDP great moments in "getting in front of the populist wave without any thought as to whether their policy choices wil actually work"

        2006
        NDP support the Conservative's double taxation of Income Trusts based on the assertion that Income Trusts pay no tax. When the Conservative provide no evidence that Icome Trust tax leakage exists the NDP still support the Conservatives.

  9. I'm not sure what should or can be done on this issue, but I know one thing. If we don't do something, within 24 months we'll be talking about how Parliament was just prorogued in response to a text message from the PM to the GG.

    GG – Prrg Plmt.

  10. CANDU should be Chalk River

  11. If we are going to give power to the GG, then the GG needs to be elected by the Canadian people.

  12. The power to bring down a government is the opposite of the power to resist prorogation – the latter is what's needed if the majority in parliament wishes to continue parliament's activities against the wishes of the prime minister. The two are not interchangeable. The notion that we should rely on the G-G to exercise discretion is highly problematic as it is widely understood that the G-G's role is largely ceremonial and any discretion is only to be used in the most extreme of circumstances.