'It is time ... for Parliament to be restored to its position as the ultimate sovereign body for Canada' - Macleans.ca

‘It is time … for Parliament to be restored to its position as the ultimate sovereign body for Canada’


The Globe editorial board calls for reform.

It is time the rules governing prorogation changed. Canada’s Parliament has shown itself vulnerable to an excessive concentration of power, and hence is hampered in fulfilling its role as the “ultimate sovereign body.” The prorogation of 2008 has now been followed by another, this time simply for partisan tactical convenience. The Prime Minister is misusing the power to shut down Parliament, and in the process destabilizing Canada’s democracy. For that reason, prorogation should be made subject to legislative controls.


‘It is time … for Parliament to be restored to its position as the ultimate sovereign body for Canada’

  1. The prorogation of 2008 has now been followed by another, this time simply for partisan tactical convenience. The Prime Minister is misusing the power to shut down Parliament, and in the process destabilizing Canada's democracy

    This should be enough reason for anyone to attend a rally today
    Get out and enjoy two different kinds of fresh air

  2. People have a hard time understanding that Parliament serves at the pleasure of the people. Government serves at the pleasure of Parliament. This ability to shutdown the people's house is simply anti democratic. The rule that it was based on from a time that has no bearing on our times. We need to change the rule into a constitutional amendmant so that no future want to be dictators can circumvent democracy for the sake of holding onto power .

  3. Stephen Harper is the ultimate sovereign of Canada.

    • Then off with his head. He is a traitor!

  4. One can only hope that the country's media, academics and pundits will turn a similar eye to the parliamentary practices of our provincial legislatures.

    • Second that. The withering away of provincial houses has gone entirely unreported.

      • Most of the checks on power which have withered in Parliament have disappeared altogether in the provincial legislatures. With no second chamber, no standing committees, and nowhere near as many comparable officers of Parliament, most are arguably in a much, much worse state of disrepair. The lack of media attention (national or otherwise) only compounds the problem.

  5. Prorogation can and does serve a purpose when used properly. Mr. Harper is abusing the process and using it in a way that was never intended.

    Parliament is, perhaps, the ultimate symbol of our Democracy. The fact that one man, on a whim if he so chooses, can shutdown Parliament with a single phone call should concern us all.

  6. If some kind of controls are not put in to place, what would stop a future (or even this) Prime Minister to prorogue a couple of days after an election and not reconvene until just before the next election?

    Can a PM prorogue the House for as long as he wants?

    • According to section 20 of the 1867 Constitution, “There shall be a Session of the Parliament of Canada once at least in every Year, so that Twelve Months shall not intervene between the last Sitting of the Parliament in one Session and its first Sitting in the next Session.”

      In the 1982 Constitution, that section was repealed and replaced by section 5 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “There shall be a sitting of Parliament and of each legislature at least once every twelve months.”

  7. No, there are certain limits to what a government can do in terms of its exercise of executive authority in the absence of passing budget bills, which require Parliamentary debate and sanction.

    Someone more knowledgeable than me with a better explanation will come along shortly, I hope.

  8. I'm not more knowledgeable than Mark, but I do know Parliament is constitutionally required to sit at least once per year. I think how long that sitting must be is not spelled out. So, as I understand it, a Prime Minister could theoretically call a Parliamentary session shortly after becoming PM, pass the necessary money bills, then prorogue for the rest of the year. He could call a new session toward the end of the next year–subject to the money bills, of course.

  9. Some early turnout estimates for some of the rallies today:

    Ottawa: 3,500 (CBC)
    Toronto: 2,000 (CTV)
    Halifax: 500 (CBC)
    Montreal: 400 (CTV)

    • See, I'm holding off until later on deciding about the Toronto size. I can't imagine it was really this big (I'm stuck working today) but I've seen an estimate at cbc.ca of 7,000.

      • There were 2000 people in my high school. The Toronto rally was waaaaay bigger than my high school.

          • I really wish we could figure out a way to accurately account for the size of crowds.

            "More than 3000 attended the Toronto rally" is about as useful as "There are more than 20 million people in Canada".

          • Updated estimates from CTV:

            In Toronto, thousands people gathered at Yonge-Dundas square for a rally in the city's downtown, police said. Some estimates put the crowd at 3,000 while others put the crowd at as high as 7,000.


          • CTV Toronto says the police estimate is 5000.

            For everyone's interest when looking at pictures, police say that Dundas Square can hold 8000 people.

          • Thanks, I'll go with the police estimate for T.O. Here's my list of media estimates for rally attendance, compiled from various articles:

            Toronto 5000
            Ottawa 3500
            Vancouver 1000-2000
            London 500
            Waterloo 500
            Halifax 500
            Montreal 400
            Winnipeg 300
            Edmonton 200-300
            St. John's 200
            Thunder Bay 150
            Kelowna 100
            Prince Rupert 25

  10. I couldn't care less which political party governs Canada. To me they're all a bunch of incompetents and crooks.
    Still: A minority government that is constantly under siege by all the opposition parties whoso only goal is POWER!, has little option but to take some drastic steps at times. Those claiming that proroguing parliament is "undemocratic" might like to explain how blocking the government in its attempts to deal with domestic and foreign legislation, especially during this world recession, "serves the Canadian people".
    Opposition parties here in Canada have shown absolutely no interest in the value of any legislation proposed by the government. As far as they are concerned, "if it is proposed by the government – it is bad" – period. This is obviously crap.
    I, for one, can see that good, needed legislation can be impossible to enact when irresponsible members of the opposition put their own selfish desire for power ahead of the well-being of Canadians. This would be true no matter which party is in government. It is one of the glaring failures of our particular form of government.
    Again, I SUPPORT NO POLITICAL PARTY. I am, if anything, completely against having political parties at all.

    • With respect, Prime Minister Harper has killed more Conservative Bills than the opposition has. You'd think from listening to Tory partisans that the Senate alone was holding up half of the government's agenda. The reality is, when Parliament was prorogued there were only 3 government bills even in front of the Senate, while the government had yet to even introduce 17 of it's long awaited bills.

      If we're going to point fingers regarding who's getting in the way of the government's legislative agenda, perhaps we should look first to the man who has killed the government's crime legislation three times already – one Stephen Harper.

  11. The more people abandon political parties, the more certain it becomes that they will be controlled by their least desirable adherents.

    • That is true, and it is why I have joined a political party, and then gotten involved with said political party. Even though I love the idea of doing away with political parties. At the very least I would love to do away with the extraordinary powers of the political parties, such as party whips other than confidence motions, candidate selection, and the like. If we leave it up to the guys that have been in charge thus far, things will never really change.

      • Now that we have a permanent voters' list, and a public system of subsidizing parties, then those parties should be forced to have their nomination processes subject to Elections Canada regulation. I am convinced that would solve half of our problems, at least on the non-Parliamentary side.

    • That video shows only a very small portion of the march.

      • I saw your post elsewhere with your estimate from on the ground of 6-8 thousand, so THAT I trust. I guess the 7,000 CBC estimate was pretty accurate then! I'd say 7,000 people in Toronto and 3,500 in Ottawa is pretty impressive even ignoring the dozens of rallies in smaller locales.

  12. Mark,
    All attempts to respond to your reply to my comment have failed. I'll try posting this as a new comment.

    We ALREADY have the "least desirable" adherents running things. To offer them my support would turn my stomach. I consider my vote to be valuable. I cannot award it to some fools whose only aim is POWER. I see no political party here in Canada that aims to truly represent the needs and desires of Canadians. What I do see is parties playing games to frustrate the "in" party and/or to gain power for themselves. None of this is helpful to me or my fellow citizens.
    In light of this, on what basis do you suggest that I "support" any of them? Should I chose the "least bad" of them? Should I hold my nose and "pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey"?
    All of them believe that they have buffaloed the Canadian electorate with their bafflegab. By and large they are right, but the diminishing numbers of those who vote ought to be a warning to them that we, the citizens, are becoming fed up with their shenanigans.
    Politicians, seeking to hide from us the numbers of disaffected citizens, refuse to allow a NOTA option on our ballots at election time. We have no other option but to vote with our feet.

    • Stop choosing from parties. Choose from the candidates.
      Choose the candidate who best represents your position, even if there's no chance in hell they'll be elected.

      Why? Because short of actually getting involved, which you've indicated you don't want to do, it's the only way we can send a message to them.

      Not voting doesn't send a message other than that you didn't vote. The reason could be anything from you're quite satisfied with the current government to that you're incapable of shutting off reality TV shows or whatever. Not voting is the *worst* vote you can make, because the system truly doesn't need your vote.

      • Exactly!!
        This is why we need the NOTA option on our ballots. That option makes it clear that one DID go to the polling station, DID accept a ballot, DID fill out that ballot and DID perform the citizen's duty to take an interest in how his country is governed. So long as our only option is to "vote with our feet" it can be construed as "not caring" by those who don't want there to be any means of them being criticized for their foul governance and unacceptable policies.

        • That's childish. Vote for the individual candidate who most appeals to you, or the one who least repels you. Failing that, encourage someone better to run, or run yourself.

  13. What are you talking about? You have always had the right to write in "none of the above" or "when pigs fly" or any number of other things on your ballot. Perhaps you should get out to a polling station one time to find that out.

    • I can indeed "write in" anything I wish to on the ballot -IF i'm prepared to have it declare "spoiled". Why do you think so many ballots get that designation? I have acted as a scrutineer in a number of elections. The ONLY thing that can be legally "written in" is an unlisted candidate's name.

      • You could go to the station and refuse your ballot too. Ballots that voters "refuse" and return are counted separately from "spoiled" ballots, and I've always considered refusing one's ballot to be a superior form of protest to spoiling one's ballot.

      • Okay, good. My apologies for assuming otherwise. But I think we all know what it means when a ballot is spoiled. Why do you want to formalize it? Why take away creative expression? I mean, what is the point?

  14. Comrade tobyornottoby reporting in from the Winnipeg rally.

    Many earnest young people. More smokers than I remember at rallies — possible indicator a different group than the usual suspects. Fewer of those than I expected (I used to be one). My estimate was 350 or 400 in wet snowfall. Free Press said 300. Rally at U of W and short march to Manitoba Legislature.

    • That's great!

      Waterloo Region's rally was a lot of fun–virtually no smoking smokers (I'm a smoker, but didn't smoke in the crowd), a great mix from little kids, young adults, older adults, and a whole lot of seniors–I was amazed at the number of walkers and canes. The estimate I heard and can believe is around 500. Beautiful day, sunny and not too cold. The speakers were good, most of the signs were good (one Stephen Hitler sign that was rather frowned on by most) and no troubles at all.

  15. Prorogation is as hallowed as British parliamentary democracy itself. What's your problem?

    • Did you even read the G&M editorial Aaron provided the link to?
      Is the G&M too much of a "lefty rag" for you to even consider reading the editorial?

  16. Lord K O,
    Ever try that? Hahahahahaha!

    I want to formalize that so that it will be counted as that when the results are shown. Those numbers will warn political parties and politicians when they are, none of them, "doin' it right" in the eyes of the electorate. As things stand they ignore the up to 40% of eligible voters who "vote with their feet" and thus imply that the party elected had broad support; and that the rest of us don't count.
    I do not expect you to support this, of course, party minions & members don't give a hoot unless one is likely to vote for their party. All the blather about, "vote for anyone you like – just vote" is intended to encourage people to take part in a seriously flawed process. Once they do, they cannot, psychologically, openly speak of or recognize its failings without being open to being asked, "Well, if it's so flawed, why do you get involved by voting?" Catch 22.
    Some of us have been around for long enough, Jenn, to be easily able to recognize such puerile trickery.

    • The only way I can see what you're saying is if you make voting mandatory. Is that what you're suggesting? I struggle with this concept myself, waffling back and forth, so I'm not dismissing the idea.

      I speak for myself, of course, but this party minion does give a hoot about her democracy, and voting is our one tangible expression of said democratic rights. I take voting very seriously, and reasons why people don't vote, or voting's failures. (Like, why do we only get to vote for a representative without getting to tell him/her where we stand on an issue? This may not need to be questions on the ballot, but some formal and transparent, legitimate feedback at the riding level. Sure, you can write a letter, but seriously!)

    • Actually, no, I've never tried it, though I do understand that it may well (and has) thrown poll workers in to a hissy fit as they aren't prepared for it. Nevertheless, it is a valid option, ill-prepared poll workers notwithstanding (which is also, I hasten to add, not meant as a slag against poll volunteers, who are wonderful, but really need to be given better and more comprehensive training).

    • If a party encourages indifference in order to capitalize on the clout of their faithful base, then people who don't vote play right into their hands. What then?

      • That, danby, is one of the reasons why I originally said that the party system sucks. The "voters" get the blame when things go wrong – and the parties just do as they wish to do when elected knowing that voters can then be said to "have freely elected them to office" to do just that.

    • Fascinating take on things. I'm not sure I follow to your conclusion, though. Just because Prime Minister B doesn't use the convention established by Prime Minister A, does it follow that the convention goes away? Could Prime Minister C not reach back to the convention established by Prime Minister A?

      • You mean like how the Tories have reached past Martin to Chretien in their attempts to justify the latest prorogation?


        Once a precedent (convention) has been established, it isn't disestablished simply because a particular future PM decides not to follow it. If Harper can get away with X, then all future Prime Ministers can get away with X, unless Parliament subsequently intervenes. Given the last two prorogations, I can't imagine a scenario in which a future GG could justify refusing a Prime Ministerial request to prorogue. If a PM can prorogue Parliament to avoid a confidence vote in the House that he is guaranteed to lose, when on Earth can a PM NOT prorogue???

      • Once a convention is established, it's established

        To establish a convention (according to Mr. Justice Shore's decison, there must be a precedent, all significant actors must have agreed to it (in this case, the party leaders and the GG) and there must be a reason for the convention.

        • Except all significant actors in this looks to be the PM and the GG. THe rest don't get a say. That's the problem.

          • If you read the decision, you'll see that's not correct.

  17. Excellent points!!

  18. What in hell id wrong with this shitty "comments" program? Am I to be required to log in for every doggone comment?!!
    If so this is my last……. (only in Canada eh?)

  19. Then I'll "delete" the administrator. And this whole site……Bye asshole!

  20. Mark,
    I have treated you with the respect due to a fellow person even though I disagree with your opinion.
    Your failure to reciprocate in kind indicates a clear inability to carry on a civilized conversation. It also does nothing good for your position. I'll continue to talk to you only when you mature past the point of name calling.

    • Not sure what brought that on. Replace the world "childish" with "unproductive" if the former offends your sensitivities.

      But I happen to think that debating the technical points of a better way to spoil one's ballot as a response to fixing what's wrong with parliament makes for an infantile discussion. That's an honestly held view with which you are entitled to differ. It wasn't a personal slag of any sort. I'm also of the view that "civilized conversation", as you describe it, doesn't accept as a starting point that every individual in the history of your lifetime that put their name on a ballot is by definition, a scoundrel. Again, youcan believe otherwise if you so wish.