Leading the world - Macleans.ca

Leading the world


Newsweek’s Sarah Kliff attempts to put the inactivity on Capitol Hill in perspective.

As snowmaggedon continues to wreak havoc on the Capitol, the House has suspended all votes through Friday. Congress taking an entire snow week is rife with opportunities to mock the government’s uncanny ability to use any and all excuses to justify inaction. One editorial cartoon, a drawing of our nation’s capital blanketed in snow, comes with the tagline: “where every day is a snow day.”

But if you want to talk about really egregious government shutdowns explained with implausible excuses, just take a look at our neighbors to the north (incidentally, this Gaggler’s home country): using the Olympics as a partial justification, the Canadian Parliament is in the middle of a two-month shutdown.


Leading the world

  1. Heh. Zing!

  2. I'll say…

  3. Aha, so the PM has been playing meteorology while the rest of us play checkers!

  4. Jack, why do you hate chess?

    • He doesnt hate chess, he just doesnt support the chess pieces.

    • Inquiring pawns want to know!

  5. In all fairness, it's difficult for Washington to deal with that much snow. whereas Canadians have been putting up with snowjobs for quite a few years.

    • In honour of Stephen Harper, we should rename it


  6. So is Harper going to get a snow-day on the isotopes issue again?

  7. Lets remember that the Olympic break was an ALL PARTY agreement….as was the Christmas Holiday.

    But never let a good foreign criticism go to waste, no matter how ill informed.

    • It's not really "foreign criticism". It's just criticism from a Canadian writer who blogs for Newsweek.

    • So you're saying it was an agreement with the socilists and the sepratists?

    • All party all the time.

  8. Wait, are you trying to say that all parties agreed to the proroguement?

    • No, all parties agreed to the Olympic break, which was on the sched, as was the Christmas Holiday, prior to "P"ing Parliament.

      So the criticism of not sitting during the Olympics is off target, unless you want to blame all parties, a fair point. Parliament did not sit for a week during the Calgary Olympics. While the session was on for the 76 games I dont know if they sat, I have my doubts.

      • I'll be honest – I wouldn't have much cared if Parliament took a break for the games, if MPs had shown up to work on January 25 as scheduled. But they didn't.

        I also believe there's a difference between a non-sitting legislature and a prorogued one.

  9. I was replying to VinceClortho's post above.

  10. I understood the implied criticism to be of the CPC's "Olympic" excuse for prorogation.

    • The excuse for P'ing is that there were only three weeks in between the previously agreed to breaks of Christmas and Olympics. I havent heard the Olympics themselves used as the excuse for P'ing. But I might be behind the curve on what the story is.

      My point has always been its the amount of time between sittings that really captured peoples attention. A short break would have made it hard for there to be any traction on a pretty routine action. Hard to be accused of running away if you are back in the house quickly…..but that didnt happen so the government got pasted, and now McGuinty is seeing what happend and will keep his P short. This is why I dont think we need more rules, I think the elecorate has made their feelings known and the effects are already being felt.

      • "its the amount of time between sittings that really captured peoples attention"

        For some, yes. But context is everything, and when you have a government flying multiple excuses up the flagpole (Olympics, market stability, recalibrate and consult, rebalance evil Senate, it's been done before…), proroguing in the face of a committee exploring uncomfortable issues, and killing the same crime legislation they claim the opposition is responsible for blocking, there's more to it for many of us.

        • If it was shorter they wouldnt have needed the lazy susan full of reasons. They made an error and they are paying for it.

          The suspected deeper reasons will either be confirmed or dispelled soon enough.

          • "If it was shorter they wouldnt have needed the lazy susan full of reasons"

            Or, if it was defensible. That they keep throwing excuses against the wall, in the hope that one sticks, suggests that it is not.

          • You missed the point. The length of time made it indefensible, not proragation It was the length of time they were off that they had to keep hauling the excuses out for.

          • I suspect there was a lot of pent up anger from 1 year ago… except then the population was generally pissed at the politics in its entirety and frankly was caught off guard at how quickly the politicans could make a mess of things following an election.

            This year things happened slower and Harper's attempts to deflect the blame were lame.

          • The only commonality between the two situations was the anger at the perception of political gamesmanship. The swing population got angry at the coalition last year…..this year the swing vote got mad at the cons for perception of "unecessary games"….that is if you believe the polls.

            Hardcore cons, 30%, they crested at mid 40's at the height of the coalition crisis last year. This year the bottom out around 30-32. Once again the commonality is people blaming someone for the perception of games. Iggy's smartest move, not indicating he will move to defeat this Spring, it will serve him well in the medium term.

  11. There is a difference. And I agree, I dont think this would have been the issue if they prorogued just before the Olympics after sitting in the house for three weeks…Or altenratively, Prorogued to come back with a thrones speech Jan 25th.

    As you said, they didnt

    • " I dont think this would have been the issue if they prorogued just before the Olympics after sitting in the house for three weeks…Or altenatively, Prorogued to come back with a thrones speech Jan 25th and then a break for Olympics.. "

      That's because you actually buy into the excuses used by Harper.

      If, on the other hand, you didn't believe Harper's bullsh!t and understood that his sole purpose was to put a stop to the bloodletting caused by the Afghan mess, you'd understand that Harper could never have considered the timeline you are suggesting.

      Proroguing on December 30th and returning on March 3rd was a necessary and crucial timeline for the Chessmaster-in-Chief's overall strategy.

      • If he'd prorogued until January 25, the effect on the Afghanistan committee would have been much the same as proroguing until March, unless it was able to reconstitute itself in record time to have hearings during the Olympic break.

        • Not so because the A'stan issue wasn't just debated in the committee room, Style. You forget Question Period and the resulting media coverage.

          Again, if you understand that Harper's true motive was to silence the Opposition, you then understand that he needed to shut down all avenues for debate until after the Games. He needed radio silence up until the Game so that the media could focus on other things. He needed Games photo Ops to increase his standing with Canadians right on time for a Budget vote soon after the new session begins.

          In the Chessmaster-in-chief's head, Iggy would have been confronted with an even more popular PM just as he would have to decide what to do with the budget vote.

          Unfortunately for the Chessmaster-in-Chief, we the people aren't imbeciles. He didn't count on Canadians giving a damn about Parliament. Turns out that we do.

          • Maybe, but if he'd prorogued until the end of January, we'd be dealing with a Speech from the Throne debate for about a week. And Parliament would rise again this week for the Olympics, so it'd be a two-week Question Period window. Would that have cost him more poll points than giving Parliament a three month vacation? Not with his base…

          • On what planet do you see the Opp acting so docile after seeing Harper proroguing Parliament to avoid the Afghan debate? Iggy would have been doing scrum after scrum on this issue.

            Listen, your argument seems to be based on the erroneous belief that Canadians didn't care about the Afghan debate and that their only concern is the fact that MPs aren't working for two months.

            I don't agree with that. That's just a media line. It also ignores the fact that CAnadians are looking at a long list of such actions from Harper. The real issue behind so many Canadians turning their back on the CPC is the incessant partisan games that Harper pushes every minute of the day. Canadians do not trust him and for good reason.

            So prorogation under ANY form would have backfired.

          • Why did the Liberals stop running their "cover up" ads and start talking about the rules on prorogation instead?

          • Because they were following the media's lead. Why change the channel?

          • I agree with you that this is the question. We'll never know….but it sure looked like people were bothered by the length of time off. Partisans, on both sides may care for a specific issue, but prior to P all the news reports were about how the Detainee issue wasnt getting any traction at all.

            The hypothesis is that sitting in front of the house deflates most of the accountability argument for most of the swing voters that have moved.

      • I am not evaluating the reasons, what I am saying is that if the time was shorter the perception of hiding something wouldnt have gained ground simply because the cons could point to them being accountable in front of the house. Hard to say your hiding something when people would see that QP was operating.

        Now before you get all upset yes I recognize that the committee wouldnt have been fully operational but from a public perspective that wouldnt matter in the short run. Why they did it? dont know, seems likely to be about the confusion around the detainee issue. Less than month from now the Oppos get to thunder away at it all….this is back to my theory that the government was beginning to find they werent being told the whole story by DND…..whether calling a time out was right or not is another question but trying to find out what ground they were really on is likely the motivation.

        • "whether calling a time out was right or not is another question but trying to find out what ground they were really on is likely the motivation. "

          With all due respect, Vince, if you really believe this, you are as naive as it gets and definitely fit the stereotype that Harper has of the average voter.

          As for not evaluating the reasons, that makes no sense. Of course you evaluate the reasons. Harper shut down Parliament on December 30th and you are not going to evaluate the reasons?!?

          • What I am trying to distill here, regardless of motivation is the why the P word caused them a problem with the public, when it apparently wasnt an issue with Canadians before, and I will bet wont be in the future. What people were upset about, outside of partisans, is that the length of time the house was off. So the thought experiement is if they had either started with a new session such that the time without the house was only one of the previously agreed to holidays then there wouldnt have been the storm, and they wouldnt have had to find different reasons.

            The motivation for P was about the senate comittees for sure, might even be about getting another seat or chairmanship on House committess (they got two seats they didnt have at last count). Afghan Detainee issue, for sure….the why is where we disagree….you seem ready to call quorum for Nuremberg, I think the government didnt know the full story. Point is we will start to find out in less than month…I am as curious as you are certain. The political issue is once the house is sitting, it makes the argument that the government isnt being acocuntable a more difficult line of attack..

  12. This is so perfect that I love it. I can imagine Obama takin a break sneaking outside in the snow to have a smoke and thinking to himself .. man harper can drive his own agenda and control the schedule I only wish I could pro-rogue congress JUST ONCE! – maybe I could get something done. I wonder how he manages to govern that country all this time from a minority position and get called a dictator by his detractors when the guy can only exist from one confidence motion to another – quite remarkable really I will have to keep an eye on this guy!

    • Except Harper can prorogue whenever he’s facing a confidence vote he’s going to lose. And he can do it for up to a year. That’s precedent for you. Now every PM will be able to run away from Parliament for a few months in the hopes that whatever brouhaha blows over in the mean time, meanwhile handling all the levers of power without any parliamentary oversight and indeed without democratic legitimacy. Strip the partisanry out of it and it’s pretty clearly a bad and dangerous precedent. And now we’re stuck with it.

  13. “I probably don’t spend enough time watching Parliament actually. I’d like to be more interesting. Every so often someone says something inflammatory or mildly compelling, but what I’ve seen of House debates has always seemed rather perfunctory and scripted. And it’s tough to get excited about debates for which the result is already known. ” – Aaron Wherry

    For a guy who doesn’t think much of Parliament, Mr. Wherry sure has a bee in his bonnet about prorogation. It’s a couple of weeks, people! Democracy will survive.

    • Actually, Ezra Klein is the very first American "cool kid" who has demonstrated any sort of awareness about the prorogation of Canada's Parliament. One of the Canadian "cool kids" must have tipped him off!

      (By the way, doesn't it grate on you that all these American writers go with the "Oh, Canada?" motif whenever they deign to write about Canada?)

      • Actually I've seen it mentioned in a few spots. The small number who care to understand it, don't.
        And it's usually in the context of why a 59-41 majority is a mandate for nothing… a majority that
        can't govern and a minority that won't … comparing the incomparable.

        • Even highly educated Americans know next to nothing about other political systems; God having blessed them with the best of all possible constitutions etc. It's one thing for them to be ignorant of our news, but I've known political science graduate students in the USA who weren't aware the British Cabinet was drawn from Parliament (which at least they didn't, like Ezra Klein, call "Congress"). If they weren't so huge, they'd be the most provincial nation on earth.