Use v. abuse -

Use v. abuse


Speaking to reporters in Dartmouth, Michael Ignatieff promises something that is not quite a solution of any sort.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff won’t rule out proroguing Parliament if he were prime minister, but says he wouldn’t use it as a way out when the going gets tough. “Prorogation is part of our constitutional system, but to use it every time you’re in a tight spot seems to me a flagrant abuse of a constitutional power,” Mr. Ignatieff said this morning after speaking with Nova Scotia Community College students in Dartmouth.


Use v. abuse

  1. Surely it's acceptable to prorogue the House when all of its legislation is passed, etc. …

    • Or when ever there is a Liberal government in power.

      • amen.

  2. Looks like Tim Powers' question has finally been answered. Iggy supports prorogation as part of our constitutional system. He just thinks it should be used properly (like when Chretien used it to kill the Somalia inquiry).

    • Yes, that's exactly what he said.

      • It's almost as if we're both being sarcastic.

    • I grasp your sarcasm, but in fairness that's not what Iggy said. Of course, one may not believe him.

      Why not just say that this is one Viceregal power we're going to insist that the Crown not take advice on? I.e. the GG will prorogue only when the legislative agenda outlined in the SFT that she herself gave has been completed? That's a nice neutral benchmark.

      Honestly, will Iggy please get it together?

      • Or we could just give legislative and executive powers back to the monarchy altogether, then we never have to worry about voting in scoundrels.

      • That's a worthy idea, and I'd be interested to see what constitutional experts think of it. From my layman's perspective, it seems like it would give a lot of actual (rather than ceremonial) power to our appointed GG instead of our elected PM.

        • Thanks!

          Well, effectively control of when Parliament's business would be finished would still be in the hands of the PM / Government, since they write the SFT. You could just say, "When all Government bills have received Royal Assent or been dustbinned." As long as it doesn't require a judgment call on the part of the GG, the Crown wouldn't be acting politically.

          • "When all Government bills have received Royal Assent or been dustbinned"

            This seems quite restrictive (I think Government bills have always been killed by previous prorogations, even the non-controversial ones) . However, I think you're on to something here with your suggestion to limit the PM's power to prorogue in situations where the legislative agenda is far from being completed.

          • They could make up for it with shorter Speeches from the Throne. Unless that's an invitation to Governments to have miniscule SFT's and thus frequent prorogations of arbitrary length.

            To counter this, one could have the GG require that the House reconfirm its support for the Government at the end of every sitting.

            The more I think about it, the more the basic problem seems to me to be that we have a foreign head of state and thus a representative of the Crown (GG) who lacks the personal and moral authority to learn and assert constitutional principles.

    • That's a bit much even for you.

    • Chretien did not use prorogation to kill the Somalia inquiry. He just shut it down. Harper has proroged parliament more days in four years than Chretien/Martin did in 13.

      • Chretien prorogued to hang the Adscam albatross around Martin's neck.
        And that was 13 months after his previous prorogation.

    • You have your Conservative talking points mixed up. You're mad at Chretien for proroguing to avoid other things, but prorogation had nothing to do with ending the Somalia Inquiry.

      • 'to avoid other things'

        that other thing would be the AGs report on Adscam

        • Actually, that prorogation was to transfer from the Chretien to Martin governments. The AG report (which the Chretien government asked for, it should be noted) only related to the question of timing, not whether the prorogation would happen at all. Depending on which version of Liberal history you believe, Chretien either timed the prorogation to toss the bomb at Martin and hit the road, or he timed the prorogation at Martin's request so he could take the lead on fixing it and be Mad as Hell (TM) and what not.

  3. Hooray.

    • I definitely having a brain-fade kinda day, and I can't tell if you're being understated, ironic, or silly.

      • Safe to go with all three…that's what i did…after i read your comment of course.

        • Mournful and resigned. The Liberals are buying ads about a policy they wouldn't, in substance, change. Capturing the all-importance "nuance voter," I suppose.

          • It seems to me a Prime Minister will always have the ability to violate certain minimum standards, if he or she chooses. I just don't get that a rule change for proroguements would address the larger issue of Parliament's increasing diminishment in general, and the particular problem of our current Prime Minister's disinclination to work with our various structures and institutions for anything outside of his own political survival.

            I think there's worse strategies than promising not to be as completely self-serving as Mr. Harper, particularly when the best retort the Conservatives can muster is to compare themselves to three Liberal leaders back.

  4. The correct answer to the question for a leader is to say of course one cannot rule out ever using prorogation. The real issue is why one would use it, and how long Parliament would be suspended.

    Instead, Iggy's response is akin to: "Here, let me say something simple that can easily be used out of context to undermine those who support my party's position."

    What a disaster he is.

  5. Any word on why Heard's solution — no prorogation without consent of a majority of the Commons — is unacceptable?

    [Not that I disagree with Ignatieff's answer, really — prorogation is the PM's prerogative. But if it's so terrible now, why not change the rules?]

    • "But if it's so terrible now, why not change the rules?"

      For the same reason that fixed election dates was a well-meaning idea, but ultimately stupid.

      There's a neo-con inclination to approach the pragmatic difficulties of governence with rules and procedures (I think it's because they assume their own dickish dishonourable ways are shared by all.) The problem is, even the most comprehensive sets of rules still require maturity and trust to work for us.

      Consdider the various provinces that have enacted balanced budget laws – again, it's a childish attempt to handcuff future governments, and it's a rule waiting to be broken when reality intervenes.

      We miss the point if we think changing the rules will fix anything, and in fact it will give future governments licence to govern badly so long as there's no explicit rule covering their particular actions.

      The problem isn't the ability to prorogue. It's the contempt for government and its institutions. And you cannot legislate respect.

  6. Too bad Iggy wouldn't have used the opportunity to propose new regulations on prorogation, either maximum length Parliament can be prorogued, or to institute a more consultative process for it with the House. Or as Richard noted above, given the historical reasons for prorogation, have there be a maximum number of government bills on the order paper in order for prorogation to occur. We're probably getting into some Constitutional matters somewhere there though. Hopefully this is just buying time and Liberals really will come forward with something, but I'm not holding my breath.

    • It's a big country to cross. Give him time. If I had to guess, he's going to wait until his tour hits Toronto before coming out with something big and newsworthy/

  7. Prorogation if necessary but not necessarily prorogation?

    • Beauty!!!!!!!

      • Actually iIt isn't …funny Mike yes…but Ignatieff's answer was perfectly reasonable…i hope he doesn't suggest a load of complicated rule changes…if PM's honoured at least the spirit of the law or covention we woldn't be in this mess.

        • Well, his answer was reasonable, since, of course, no government will remove the option of prorogation from its toolkit. I also think, of course, that the current decision to prorogue parliament was reasonable and well within the bounds of previous parliamentary practice – so what do I know?

  8. Now you've done it.

  9. I think Iggy provided an intellectually honest answer. Of course, Harper would have said something like "No," knowing full well he would break it at the first opportunity.

    • Glad to know you can mind read, Anon.

  10. I'm guessing what will happen is that by the time Iggy gets to day 2 or 3 of his tour he will have dampened any lingering protest over this issue, and given the conservative war room a few more quotes to use in their next round of attack ads.

    Liberals: Call your leadership contest now; you have nothing to lose but a total drubbing in the next campaign.

  11. yes…almost.

    sorry ;)

  12. omg, Wherry made a post where he's almost critical of someone other than Harper. There's hope yet?

    In fact, it should be a disappointment to anyone currently screaming and hollering about prorogue that Iggy isn't offering some kind of substantive change.

    If you believe that the power of prorogation is open to abuse, then you have to offer an alternative. Otherwise, we have only Iggy's word that he'll be different if ever give power. And his track record doesn't exactly bode well, since he's sidestepped democracy to get where he is today. Right?

    • "Since he's sidestepped democracy to get where he is today."

      This is maybe the most absurd thing you've ever written. And with your track record, that's really saying something. Or did I miss something, and he actually usurped the seat for Etobicoke-Lakeshore from its rightful owner?

      • Let's see, he didn't undergo one of the most important democratic processes in becoming a leader of a major political party, which is to undergo an actual leadership race.

        If that isn't undemocratic, especially for the leader of the official opposition, whose powers are limited and can only be judged on these rare big ticket items, then what in the world is?

        I also recall that he even sidestepped a fair nomination race in the very riding which you cite. Yeah, that bodes well if ever given real power.

        I'll take your characterization of my posts as a compliment, by the way. It just means you have no ability to respond coherently. Thanks.

        • I'll agree with RSA above and state that this is dumb. Rae and LeBlanc dropped out of the race. Harper won his leadership for the combined party against mini-mes like Clement and Belinda after MacKay and Prentice had dropped out.

          • Harper underwent a democratic race for the leadership — your personal characterization aside — didn't he?

            Ignatieff could have easily invited all comers to participate in a democratic race for the leadership. In fact, he could have refused the leadership unless there was a race. He would have looked great doing it. Instead, he used crisis to insert himself into a position of power, which is exactly what he says Harper does, and he won't do if ever given power.

            It's so funny watching some on here resent the fact that their very own politicians don't even come close to living up to their own rhetoric.

            Iggy has a record. I didn't make it up. Why shouldn't we hold him to it?

          • Dennis this is silly. Every one of Iggy's competitors dropped out of the leadership race…mostly because the Liberals had screwed themselves so badly with the coalition under Dion that they simply couldn't afford to have an "interim" leader for 5 more months; they needed a permanent leader that very day. I can't entirely blame Ignatieff because the Liberals caucus essentially picked him and the other 2 dropped out of the race for what at the time looked like the good of the party.

          • So, when democracy is the difficult, you don't blame Iggy for doing the easy thing and sidestepping democracy. Interesting.

            I know you think that people challenging you is silly, but I'm glad this is a democracy. Maybe you aren't. I don't know.

            Even if you believe that Iggy had nothing to do with forcing people out of the race, which is a big load to swallow, he could have easily shown leadership and championed a race when it was most difficult to do. His credential on democratic reform would have been cast in stone. Instead, he went for direct power.

          • The assumption you're making is that legitimacy only flows from a leadership convention, and, while a convention certainly gives authority to a leader, it is not the only method by which the party faithful make their support known. The easiest variable you can use here is party donations. As I understand it, the LPC has seen a considerable improvement in its fundraising efforts since Ignatieff took over as leader. Clearly, despite the fact that they did not get to vote for/against the man, Liberal supporters are happy enough with him that they keep giving the party their money. If you doubt that donations matter, look back no further than Stephane Dion's futile attempts at campaigning at the helm of a bankrupt party.

            Not that I think any of this will get through; I merely wanted to make the argument.

        • You must have been outraged when the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party "won" his position by agreeing in writing with another candidate to refuse a merger with CRAP and then allowed a flood of new right wing members to take over his party in exchange for a position of influence in the new party.

    • The alternative is we elect somebody better than harper.

      • In other words, instead of commenting on Iggy's position on prorogue, or the need to offer alternatives to trusting him with the power of prorogue if ever given power, you just decide to throw yet another egg at someone you clearly despise.

        Then you get mad when he fights back against this. Unbelievable.

  13. Methinks somebody needs a primer on the definition of "undemocratic".

    (hint: it's not me)

  14. Are you EVER going to respond to me with substance? Geez. I guess I win this one again. Next.

    • No, you don't win. You obviously are trying desperately to score some partisan points by stating that the manner in which Ignatieff became leader of his party is undemocratic. It's wasn't. The naming of party leaders has never been democratic. We don't have open primaries like in the United States (but you know this, like I said – you're just trying to score cheap partisan points).

      You *might* be able to argue that his leadership was "anti-democratic"…but only to rank and file Liberals. Are you really trying to tell everyone that you care deeply about the nomination process for the party you would never support? Please.

      You're point is so brazenly absurd that it defies logic.


      • omg, now you're drawing a distinction between the words "undemocratic" and "anti-democratic?" Are you serious? lol

        Who cares what my political perspective is? Leadership races are supposed to be acts of democracy within a party, and Iggy chose to sidestep it. Right?

        Not only that, but he used the crisis of coalition and prorogue to insert himself into a position of power, which of course indicates future trends if given more power, wouldn't it?

        I know it's uncomfortable for some of you to look in the mirror. It's easier to throw eggs at people you resent in politics. But the facts are the facts. I didn't create Iggy's political history. It's on the record, for crying out loud.

        • No, you don't create the facts, you bend them to suit your political prism.

          I'm glad you take such umbrage with how Ignatieff gained the leadership of the Liberals. I gather you won't be voting for them anyhow. Furthermore, if you really think past behaviours are predictive of future actions, then I suggest you should take a closer look at M. Harper.

          • Name one fact that I've bent? There you go again.

            I care about how Ignatieff would act because he's wanted to be our prime minister ever since coming back to Canada. Geez. Why shouldn't he be held up to scrutiny? And if my criticisms can't be handled, what in the world can we hope from him when given real responsibilities?

            Harper has a track record. That is what I judge him on. And it is my firm belief that proroguing Parliament for five weeks, especially when the only thing that the opposition wants to do is use the word "torture" as much as possible for that time, isn't the end of the world.

            Now, would I like to see a more relevant Parliament, as Mr. Coyne has suggested? Yes, but I don't think it'll come from the Liberals, nor do I think that the media lifts one finger to accept its own responsibility in making Parliament as futile as it's become. They love the theatrics, and MP's provide just that.

          • "There you go again"

            Sir, you aren't even a Ronnie Reagan.

            See what you think you're getting away with is defining the argument on your terms. You are positing that leadership nominations MUST be democratic, and from that starting point the rest of your argument flows. It rests solely on that premise. I'm reminding you that no, they don't have to be democratic, and historically they haven't. How a party selects it's leader is entirely up to the party in a parliamentary system. If a party wants to select its leader by means of a race around the world it's their prerogative. Just like it's your prerogative to vote for them or not. Your second assertion – that his ascension to the post of leader is somehow indicative of how he'll behave as Prime Minister is equally laughable as you clearly have no problem squaring the words and actions of "Stephen Harper Reformer" with "Stephen Harper Prime Minister."

            You're not as clever as you think you are.

          • OK, just as prorogation is the prerogative of the prime minister, you're saying that internal party democracy is the prerogative of theleader, and that Iggy decided to sidestep it. Thank you for making my argument for me. That wasn't hard, was it?

          • Are you sure you're not the same person as Jarrid? He's always Harping about how the Liberal caucus picked Iggy as leader as opposed to convention delegates selected from riding associations.

            Along the same lines heh heh Harper's whole party is anti-democratic and illegitimate because Peter Mackay betrayed his promise to David Orchard not to merge with the Reformers. Harper is the leader of a betrayed party! Undemocratic!

            Same type of strawman argument.

          • Your skill at knocking down strawmen is a thing of beauty.

  15. No wonder our politics lie in shambles. Whenever a leader gives an intellectually honest answer, journos jump down their throat.

    No one has ever suggested that the act of prorogation is in itself wrong. Whats wrong is shutting down parliament for three months to avoid a politically embarassing development.

    When Chretien did it, it was wrong. When Harper did it, it is also wrong. Liberals of present day cannot be responsible for things that happened nearly 18 years ago. We dont hold Harper to the standard of Brian Mulroney (lucky for him). Each individual must face the music for his or her own actions.

    • Iffy used the prorogation time that stopped the coalition to execute a takeover.
      He didn't seem to mind that prorogation one bit..

      • That was a decision by the party, he didn't force it one them– it was far more that the Liberal caucus dumped Dion and felt Iggy was the right replacement, rather than Iggy triggering some kind of coup. For god's sake, shall we say Harper is an illegitimate leader because the "DRC" (Deb Grey, Strahl etc) dumped Day back in the day and the Reform membership didn't vote on it? Tit for tat dude.

  16. There's prorogation and there's abusing prorogation. This case is clearly the latter. That's why a lot of Canadians are pissed.

    • The ONLY way for a government to install new Senators or new leaders, is prorogation.
      Chretien installed a new Lib leader, Harper installs new Senators…….

      Your Lib leader did not find prorogation to stop the coalition abusive,
      he used the move as a way to stage a coup, and took over as Lib leader.

      • That's funny wilson, I could have sworn the last Conservative Senators were appointed when the Parliament wasn't prorogued. There wasn't anything stopping Harper from appointing this new batch last fall.

        Regarding Ignatieff, claiming that he wouldn't find the last case of prorogation as odious as this one is hilarious.

        Finally, Canadians who vote Liberal aren't the only ones pissed about the current prorogation (look at the recent polls), quite a few Conservative voters (like half of them) are pretty freakin' annoyed with it as well. As they should be.

      • Lie.

        Not bad.. out of four statements, one had some truth to it.

        You're getting better.

  17. Iggy had a very easy answer: "The rules on the use of the power of prorogation need to be changed in order to prevent its abuse. Here is my proposed change, and I will be presenting this to parliament when it returns. "

    Why does Iggy think he is being politically smart to talk in this mealy mouthed way?

    • Yes, because changes in the rules certainly stopped the abuse of the PM choosing the election date..

      ..oh wait.

      The only thing that can prevent the abuse of prorogation is having a person as the PM who respects parliament and our government systems. Harper does not, and never has.

  18. Because you want to know, Jan 23 rally update:

    4 out of 10 provinces participating;
    14 sites schedualled for rallies,
    11 in Ontario, 1 in each BC Que NS

    So the Lib leader must think that the prorogation to stop the coalition was legitimate, eh.
    Someone should ask him that too…….

    • Um…you aren't so good at the counting are you?

      BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Yukon. That's Six.

      19 events. 12 in Ontario, 3 in BC, 1 in each of the rest.

      Is your problem with counting the *real* reason why you sneer at education?

    • All that democracy, all those people getting involved about an issue they're passionate about, standing up and making their voices head. It's so lame, isn't it wilson?

      • I think it's exciting Jeff.
        But your leader just burst the bubble, and said, yah, I'd do it.

        If we could just get Canadians as riled up about the undemocratic unelected Senate and my fav, referendums,
        as Libs and their media can about a commonly used constitutional power afforded ever PM from the begining of time!!

        • That he would prorogue parliament at the end of a legislative session? Quell horror! It's the abuse that's wrong, not the tool. The Conservatives rallied against calling elections early to suit the governing party. Was their answer to ban calling elections, ever? No, of course not. They introduced fixed date legislation (which they then ignored to call an election when it suited their timing, but I digress.)

          I posted this comment a little earlier, I think it's on point:

          I wonder if my Conservative friends would make the obvious analogy to gun control: "Hey, you oppose shooting people to death, so if you don't want to ban guns, you're a flaming hypocrite.!" I'm sure they'd counter guns are only dangerous if they're abused, and used responsibility they're an important tool for safety and protection.

          And so is prorogation. It is a normal parliamentary procedure. Just don't shoot me in the head with it please.

  19. I think we can now safely close the chapter on this prorogue debate.

    Iggy'd prorogue too, if given the chance. Let's move on and talk about the economy maybe? Let's live this prorogue business to the perpetually angry univeristy professor set.

    Speaking of which, I hear the PM was on BNN today and is announcing something with the premier of Quebec tomorrow in Riviere-du-Loup.

    • Whether Iggy would do it is irrelevant to the points many are making about the need for Parliamentary reform.

    • … and if the PM knew how to walk and chew gum at the same time, he could've not prorogued and gone and made the announcement with Charest tomorrow anyway. This chapter will only be closed once Parliament has returned, at which point the focus will shift back to House committees subpoenaing of documents and witnesses related to the torture issue.

  20. I wonder if my Conservative friends would make the obvious analogy to gun control: "Hey, you oppose shooting people to death, so if you don't want to ban guns, you're a flaming hypocrite.!" I'm sure they'd counter guns are only dangerous if they're abused, and used responsibility they're an important tool for safety and protection.

    And so is prorogation. It is a normal parliamentary procedure. Just don't shoot me in the head with it please.

    • As long as PMs have the unfettered power to prorogue Parliament at their convenience, PMs will use that power to their political advantage. The "abuse" of prorogation is just a question of degree.

  21. Lots of things are a matter of degree. And we know abuse when we see it.

  22. He's right, as Harper was when he said floor crossing can't always be ruled out.

  23. My Goodness …. the things I had to read to get here ….. Who cares what Mr. Ukrainian hating, carpetbagger Iggy has to say… the real question is:

    "Why did he not go to offer the GG an alternative coalition of MP's with which he could govern the country until there was a reason to call the next election"?

    He did not do so and he could not do so because he did not have the confidence if opposition MPs.

    The sheep can bleat all they want but the fact remains that any leader opposite Harper could have formed a government with the support of the other leaders and the carpetbagger either couldn't or wouldn't do that.

    End of story.

    • You were present i liberal caucus when the issues were discussed…thought not…hating people you're never likely to meet is probably a neurosis you know.

    • How? With no opposition days to provide a vote of non-confidence, and parliament now prorogued, there is no way for the House of Parliament to show that it has lost confidence in Harper.

      Perhaps you should learn the tiniest bit about how our system of government works before exposing your ignorance.. least then you'd know why you get called an idiot.

      • Thwin …. it's the "idiot" responding TO YOU …. in a MINORITY government, at any time, for absolutely no reason whatsoever other then an ability to prove to the Governor General of Canada that the leader of any party now has the CONFIDENCE of the MAJORITY of the members of the House, the Governor General of Canada has the OPTION the to ask that leader to form a government …. perhaps you should learn something about the powers of the Monarch (as represented by the GG). Have a nice day!

        KCM please be advised that I read carpetbagger Igg's book …. in that book he identified himself, first, as a Russian aristocrat and second, as an American – nowhere in that book does he claim to be a proud Canadian. And no, I do not attend the caucus or any sort of meetings of any political party …. I vote (in my judgement) exclusively for the best person running for that office and NOT along any inflexible party lines … that is what an independent observer does.
        Neurosis … probably got a few, so what! I choose not to run for office!

  24. Post Script:

    37 government bills died on the Order paper …. some of them pure crap ….. a lot of them will not be re-introduced and the Commons will get a second chance to amend them …. what's wrong with that?

    • How much did we pay to have those 37 bills go through the first time?
      And now we have to do it again.

      How much work had the committees done?
      Now they'll have to be restruck and start from scratch.. and we have to pay them while they get up to speed.

      Tell you what.. you foot the bill for these shenanigans out of your tax dollar. I don't see why mine should support your idiocy.

      • Thwin …. it's the "idiot" responding again …. I, for one, am very happy to see that some of those 37 Bills may now NEVER pass the House … Some of Harper's work should have been flushed down the toilet, like Bill C-60 (which allows US law enforcement and a division of the US military, full policing powers within Canada). Iggy did not make any opposition to the contents of that bill (so far as I am able to discover) and it was best lost off the Order paper …. seems to me that you support all of the 37 Bills which were on the Order paper (if you have any awareness of what any of them were in the first place).

        Government tries to govern … good citizens try to limit the amount of government that effects them. For instance, in 2001, the Canada Shipping Act had 24 Regulations, as of now, the Canada Shipping Act has 56 Regulations.

        The less government we are subjected to, the better we all will be. Only my opinion of course, but I never wanted to own a black (or any other colour) shirt and a pair of jackboots.

        Have a nice day.