Layton makes the first move -

Layton makes the first move


The NDP has formally asked for an emergency debate on limiting the Prime Minister’s ability to request prorogation. The letter from Jack Layton to Speaker Peter Milliken is here.

Our system is one where the government exists because the Governor General decides it has the support of the House of Commons. It is therefore a fundamental character of our democracy that when a government is appointed, it is to be held directly accountable to the House of Commons. I submit to you that the recent advice of the Prime Minister to the Governor General to prorogue the second session proves we have a Prime Minister who believes the House of Commons should exist at the convenience of his government, and not the other way around. This is a fundamental breach of the Prime Minister’s duty to be accountable to the elected representatives of the Canadian people, and as such constitutes an urgent situation.

The rules and parameters for granting emergency debates are explained as so in the current guide to House of Commons procedure and practice.


Layton makes the first move

  1. Anyone know what kind of leeway the Speaker has in granting a debate like this? I know there was one on H1N1, which obviously is a different kettle of fish, but for instance, can the Speaker take into account the rallies etc, as an indication of how he deems the seriousness of the issue or request? Or are their strict rules buried in Marleau and Monpetit on it?

    • Link added.

      • Thanks Aaron.

        I disliked prorogation as much as anyone, but I find it tough to believe this debate will be granted. I don't see it falling into the same category as things such as strikes or most recently H1N1 from a time sensitive perspective.

    • Referring to Aaron's link…this issue I would think falls under the constitution and therefore would normally be set aside. There is also no urgency to the matter.

      Marleau and Monpetit says and I quote "Like the summoning and dissolution of Parliament, prorogation is a prerogative act of the Crown, taken on the advice of the Prime Minister. [105] Parliament is actually prorogued either by the Governor General (or Deputy of the Governor General) in the Senate Chamber, or by proclamation published in the Canada Gazette."

      #105 states and I quote…"Memorandum regarding certain of the functions of the Prime Minister”, which stated that recommendations (to the Crown) concerning the convocation and dissolution of Parliament are the “special prerogatives” of the Prime Minister."

      The ability to prorogue rests with the Crown under advice of the PM. It does not say when Parliament approves or under what conditions etc. If there is going to be a change in the perogatives of the Crown i.e. G.G. then a constitutional amendment would be required I would suspect. Of course I could be wrong but this is how I see it.

  2. Layton is exactly right. PM Harper's abuse of prorogation for crude partisan purposes simply can not stand as a precedent.

  3. I suspect the debate will be denied because nothing will come of it. The government will ignore it and prorogation is the sole perogative of the PM whether the opposition likes it or not. Unless the constitution defines under what circumstances prorogation can occur it would require a constitutional amendment to change it. I suspect the government will boycott the debate. We all know it is simply a publicity stunt of the opposition. Lets have Boob Rae stand up and talk about his time as Premier of Ontario and the number of times he prorogued that House.

    • There's a minor typo, with the spelling of Mr. Rae's first name, fyi.

      • No there isn't. I meant it.

        • Not sure that you care, but in some quarters you lose credibility when you do that.

    • "Unless the constitution defines under what circumstances prorogation can occur it would require a constitutional amendment to change it"

      This statement is illogical…unless you simply formulated it badly?

      • Sorry I guess I need to be very precise for some on this board. It would require a amendment to change the constitution to include when and under what circumstances prorogation can be used.

        • …and to some of us, it seems like such an amendment is desperately needed.

  4. I think it's an important issue and should be addressed but I don't see how a bunch of politicians getting together and making self-serving disingenuous speeches will help to do anything but further their own petty self interests.

    • Oh, come on: Layton must do something to stay in touch " with the facebook button pushing" crowd. He now touches buttons too…..see….push, push, push. push………the buttons. Modern day democracy at work.

      Can someone tell me directions to the real world?

  5. Here's hoping the Opposition parties have an agreement in place to eject Milliken instantaneously if he refuses the request. One Opposition candidate — I would suggest Paul Dewar — if they vote Milliken out, earnest desire to alter the situation, bingo, Parliamentary supremacy is BACK, baby.

    • Can that be done? I'd love it. I like Milliken, but he's past his prime as it were as Speaker. I do doubt the Liberals would sandbag him like that though, he's been around for 22 years.

    • OMG a deal with the separatists!!!

      • Why do you hate our separatists, Mike T.?

    • How could one party eject Milliken as the Speaker? He was elected by parliament. I assume you were being facetious.

      • Read much?

        • You really are an insulting p.ick. See I can call names as well.

    • Jack,

      Actually, from what I understand, the phrase Parliamentary Supremacy does not mean what I think you mean. Parliamentary Supremacy/Sovereignty means that Parliament is the last word. Its laws are not subject to review etc… We have a Supreme Court. It can decide laws are unconstitutional.

      Now, if I read you correctly, you mean the House of Commons is in a position to exert the power its majority has to hold the Government to account. That's Responsible Government. It was a fairly key objective of the Founding Fathers and a cornerstone of our Parliament.

      Sorry to quibble.

  6. The opposition parties have at least offered some ideas/solutions for dealing with the question: is Parliament in fact sovereign in itself, or only when the Pm allows it to be? So, where's AC's column castigating the gov't for not showing any interest in restoring Pariament's independence?

    • The opposition can propose "solutions" until the cows come home. The fact remains prorogation is the sole perogative of the PM within the constitution which does not say when and under what circumstances it can be used. Parliament is not prevented from doing its job. It may be delayed as in this case 5 weeks is hardly an assault on democracy as all the hypocrites are want to scream. Ask Boob Rae about the 4x times he prorogued Ontario for 4 mos at a time if it was an assault on democracy.
      Change the constitution but Harper is not going to reduce his powers or those of any future PM. Prorogation is a legitimate tool for the PM to use.

      • Silly. And preposterously so. When the heck is a subordinate ordinate?

  7. The Speaker isn't going to grant this request. What's the "urgent" nature of it? Is Layton afraid that Harper's going to prorogue again, before his budget or the estimates are passed.

    • I agree. There is nothing urgent about this issue and the fact that there is nothing that can be done about it makes it a useless exercise other than for partisan purposes. There are too many other issues needing to be dealt with i.e. economy and jobs.

      Prorogation is a perogative of the PM and the constitution does not say when and how it is to be used. End of story. If real change is to take place a constitutional amendment needs to be passed and good luck with that.

      • So Iguess a coalition is out of the question. Don't fuss, do fuss.

  8. Also, why doesn't Layton support our troops athletes?

    • LOL
      Facetiousness can be difficult in blogs.

  9. Why not propose a constitutional amendment and perhaps a UN Security Council resolution too? Friggin' lefties and their panic-driven ahistorical hysterical overcompensatory incident-specific legislation…

    • Why do you hate our democracy?

      • On The Job doesn't hate democracy: he's trying to spell out what democracy is not!!!!!!!I

        It's all one big gongshow. That's what it is.

    • Did you get a permit for that last renovation you f*cked up?

  10. This problem could have been avoided if the Governor-General had taken a creative initiative with the first (December 2008) prorogation request, and required a price to be paid to prorogue under such partisan circumstances as avoiding a non-confidence vote. My suggestion would be that the PM must resign his seat if prorogation were to be granted in those circumstances. Now there's a precedent that would represent the seriousness of the situation.

    • Prorogation is a perorgative of the PM covered in the constitution. There are no circumstances sighted which say when and under what circumstances it is to be used. Tradition be damned. If the lefties want changes then change the constitution. However, the debate will go nowhere but the opposition will get their jollies off by debating it in the House. Then it will business as usual.

      Its absolutely amazing the hypocrisy of critics including the media who have watched prorogation take place 105 times since confederation with one of the worst examples being Jean Chretien who prorogued to avoid adscam and then one Harper does it for whatever the reason for an extra 5 weeks it is like the country is under assault.

      Harper prorogued in 2008 to save the country from the coalition of idiots and that was a service to the country.

      • Your cheeks are brown . . . you are so full of sh*t. Rent a brain dude. Those free ones, courtesy of the CPoC are worthless.

        • Of course you can't debate in a civilized manner you have to resort to a peronal attack. Typical of the left wing crowd in this country.

          • Great stuff, hollinm. And indeed, when there is no possibility of counter arguments to yours, then the empty talk speaks volumes, again, and again, and again. Who needs this?

      • ". . . covered in the constitution"

        Uh, where? You're talking about the unwritten part, based entirely on convention. How do you change the unwritten constitution? By taking action.

        • This is from Marleau and Montpetit….prorogation is a prerogative act of the Crown, taken on the advice of the Prime Minister. [105] Parliament is actually prorogued either by the Governor General (or Deputy of the Governor General) in the Senate Chamber, or by proclamation published in the Canada Gazette.

          As you can see prorogation is a prerogative act of the Crown through the Governor General. To change the way the GG operates would require a constitutional amendment as I understand it.

          #105 in the quote above says the following:

          Memorandum regarding certain of the functions of the Prime Minister”, which stated that recommendations (to the Crown) concerning the convocation and dissolution of Parliament are the “special prerogatives” of the Prime Minister.

          It does not say when Parliament agrees or when the opposition parties agree with the reasons. Prorogation is vested in the Crown on the advice of the PM.

          This is why I think a constitutional amendment may be required.

          • You are mistaken, hollinm, there is no constitutional amendment because the unwritten constitution cannot be amended as such, it can only be altered by consensus. This might take the form of a written, signed, sworn proclamation by the GG (on the Advice of the PM, with the approval of Parliament); but it would not involve the dreaded constitutional amending formula, fed-prov gridlock, "betrayal," and all that. They key point is that any change remain consistent with the fundamental principles of our constitution, which are that the PM is the GG's sold constitutional Advisor; that Parliament is supreme (i.e. that the Crown won't start trying to govern heedless of Parliament). The question here is whether prorogation, in all circumstances, lies inside or outside the sphere of those matters on which the GG is bound to take the PM's Advice, i.e. whether, at present, its status as something on which she is bound to take his Advice is consistent with Parliamentary supremacy, which trumps everything. As I'm sure you agree, the Crown cannot govern without Parliament, that is tyranny.

          • If you are right and I don't necessarily agree then the discussion is mute because Harper is not going to allow his perorogatives as PM or any future PM to be reduced. He will not advise the GG to agree to anything which negatively affects the ability to prorogue parliament so the opposition is wasting its time.

            Jack for the life of me I cannot understand the so called "outrage" by some in this country. He did not declare himself king, he did not disband the opposition parties and he certainly didn't muzzle the media. He did not do anything that previous PM's have done and I could recite the examples. Why the double standard? McGuinty is in trouble as we speak, has prorogued to reorganizde and hardly a peep.

            What this is all about is partisan games. The opposition and the media thought they had Harper on the run over the detainee issue and have now lost the perceived momentum because of the extra delay. That's it in a nutshell. This thing that he is avoiding the detainee issue is silly. Yes he has delayed it but if the issue has any relevance it will pick up where it left off. How undemocratic to prorogue and come back with a new Throne Speech and a budget. Right?


  11. hollinm continued….

    However, while they are arguing about this constitutional, inside the beltway stuff, many Canadians are shaking their heads wondering why they are not discussing the important issues of the day. There have been some very good columns about important issues that are going to impact the country

    • The problem is that it looks very much like Peter MacKay misled the House and the cover-up (if that's what this is) is to cover that up.

      I couldn't care less if that's "inside the Queensway" stuff that most Canadians don't care about. It's important, it's vitally important that ministers suffer terrible consequences for misleading the House, because the obligation to tell the truth (however weaselishly) is the rock upon which accountability to Parliament is based. Remove that and you do indeed have a PM who has declared himself king. The detainee thing is only tangentially about torture now, or rather the MacKay tangent has taken over and converted it from a question of national honour (we don't cooperate with torture regimes) to a question of national integrity (we don't accept outright lying by ministers). That is an issue FAR MORE IMPORTANT than anything that is conceivably going to impact the country economically in the next six months. Without a government based on truth we don't even have a country.