'We need clear rules' - Macleans.ca

‘We need clear rules’


The Liberal leader is presently explaining what his side hopes to do to limit the Prime Minister’s power to request prorogation. Here would seem to be the gist.

To prevent future abuses of prorogation, the Liberal Party of Canada will seek to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to:

•  Require at least 10 days written notice from the Prime Minister of his intention to seek to prorogue, together with his specific reasons for doing so;
•  Require the Prime Minister to bring the issue of prorogation before the House of Commons for a full debate;
•  Prevent a request for prorogation within the first year after a Speech from the Throne, unless the House consents;
•  Prevent a prorogation longer than one calendar month without the consent of the House;
•  Prevent a request for prorogation if a matter of confidence has been scheduled in the House unless the House consents; and,
•  Allow Parliamentary Committees to continue to function during the period when Parliament is prorogued until the start of the new session.


‘We need clear rules’

  1. * All rules subject to change in the event of a Liberal gov't.

    • I don't think that's entirely fair. Just because the Harper government has most of their democracy promises doesn't mean you can just say that Ignatieff will. If you're saying all politicians are liars, so we have to reopen the constitution on this issue, say that. If you think the NDP proposal (all-party resolution) would stop a majority government, you'd be wrong, but say that.

  2. Sounds utterly reasonable.

    And completely toothless, in the event of a majority parliament.

    • This is not utterly toothless in the event of a majority government. It still requires 10 days notice of intent to prorogue, a full debate in Parliament, and it prevents committees being shut down with this trick.

      Please let us know how it could be given more teeth without unduly restricting the valid use of prorogation?

    • The first two points limit majority parliaments as well.

  3. Considering that a majority parliament supposedly represents the majority of people in Canada.. why is this a bad thing?

    To me, the most important point is the last one. And that one doesn't care whether it's majority or minority parliament.. it means governance continues regardless.

  4. I agree with both herringchoker and LynnTO and would just add that partisans might think these suggestions are good but they do not address the bigger issue that MPs are wankers who always game the system, no matter the 'rules'.

    We need MPs who don't put party before country but they seem to be in short supply for the past decade or two.

    • Let me paraphrase:

      “The USSR should not abandon communism. All they need is to reform human nature to eliminate greed, laziness, selfishness and corruption.”

      • I partly agree with this but I would also argue Canadian MPs use to behave with more class and dignity while pilfering the treasury. That's all I ask: for MPs to give appearance that they take their profession/Parliament seriously and stop thinking about tactics/strategy all the frakin' time.

  5. Because you can get a majority parliament with less than 40% of the vote? Also because this is supposed to be about keeping the government accountable to parliament, rather than concentrating too much power in the PMO?

    • That’s an issue with our electoral system. Without changing that, you more or less need to accept that 50%+1 of the House represents the will of the people for most things. What other line can you draw? Government by plebiscite?

      • You could require a super-majority without changing our electoral system or going to plebiscite. But how much of a mess would that be?

  6. For the sake of brevity, allow me to sum up the response of the Conservatives (and members of the sock-puppet gallery):

    But the Liiiiibraaaallls did it first! It's entirely routine! Why do you hate the troops?

    … and so forth.

    Now that that's done, let's see if a reasonable discussion comes out of this. For example, just how binding could these proposed changes be? Harper has already ignored Parliament motions before- would there be anything to stop him or some later PM from ignoring it?

    • Indeed. I believe that this is all just grandstanding if there are not real criminal or civil penalties for the PM who breaks these rules.

      • I don't know if it's grandstanding– I think it's a decent enough idea. I just think that it has to be properly thought out. Jack's idea was a step in the right direction, but I think the result would have been the same as the fixed election non-law.

        On the surface, it seems Iggy's proposal seems reasonable and potentially useful. However, what are the repercussions of not obeying? What does it mean if it's part of the Standing Orders? (I ask because I really don't know… contempt of Parliament?)

    • I don't know, I'd say most of the comments above are pretty reasonable. Certainly not "partisan" by the standards of Macleans comments.

      I don't deny that a LOT of conservative supporters use the lines you're suggesting (especially the "it's not wrong because Jean Chretien used to do it" – classic) but I think as it relates to this thread that you've summed up comments that, for the most part, no one made.

  7. Or a minority Parliament where the governing party manages to work productively with a majority of members.

  8. How about prevent proroguation if if covers the period when reports are due from officers of Parliament like the Auditor General.

  9. Logic exercise:
    Given: Keeping government accountable to parliament means government does what parliament wants.
    Given: What parliament wants is determined by a majority vote of parliament, with over half the members voicing their preference.

    Question: If over half the members of parliament voice that they want parliament to prorogue, is the government being unaccountable if it does so?

    Follow-up: If so, how many members of parliament should it take to determine what parliament wants?

  10. And as soon as you come up with some solutions to the latter, we can skip the suggestions.

    Until then, however…

  11. Hey John, 2006 called, it's tired of you.

  12. "Until then, however…"

    Indeed. The only solution I have is for people to stop voting Lib or Con and vote for fringe parties. MPs might get the message that way but if majority of people are going to continually vote for those two parties regardless of what they do or how they behave than this type of governance continues.

    I think of MPs from Libs and Cons as TorMapleLeafs – Leaf fans continue to support them despite being a dire team which means they have no incentive to improve. The same dynamic is occurring with our major political parties.

  13. "the bigger issue that MPs are wankers who always game the system, no matter the 'rules'. "

    I do agree. The rules are so loose that we could play an endless game of cat-and-mouse as various politicians find new ways to abuse their discretionary authority. Nevertheless, if an abuse of authority becomes the new SOP, I think we have to respond with a fix of the rules.

    The real solution is an electorate that pays attention and politicians who are either too respectful of our democracy (the optimist's view) or too afraid of voter outrage (the pessimistic and probably realistic view) to abuse their authority.

  14. The only solution I have is for people to stop voting Lib or Con and vote for fringe parties

    Like the BQ?…..Once again Quebec leads the nation.

  15. What demogogic nonsense. The best way to ensure that the power to prorogue is not abused is to get better politicians. Nobody believes that any Prime Minister would give up his or her power to prorogue. Sillyness.

    • Be reasonable M. Where are we going to get better pols on such short notice – UK? It'' be a hell of a lot easier to reign in the PM and perhaps as importantly the PMO. First things first. If we build it [ better parliament] they will come [better MPS] And if they don't then we take a flame thrower to this place.[ channeling Pacino today:)]

  16. Thwim it's not my fault that the media in our country are asleep at the switch "when the Liberals do it too".

    The only time we can have these discussions is when it's the Conservatives commiting the atrocity of the day. So if we are agreed that it's just as bad when the Liberals do it too, then surely you don't object to putting in measures to prevent the abuses they committed…do you?

  17. Great!
    Rules for a minority government.
    Here are 2 more suggestions:

    ” no party can form a coalition government without EXPRESSLY campaigning on that possibility……”

    " the WINNER of a minority government has the choice of a coaliition partner"

    (that's how other countries do it)

    • You cannot limit the ability of the majority of the house to govern in a coalition after the loss of confidence in the house. Demanding a promise not to form a coalition during a campaign would have this effect. Effectively you would change the rules of minority govt, meaing essentially lose a vote of confidence go to an election. This is not to say a promise to not form a coaltion once made during an election, and then broken, would not have later consequences[ as it did for Dion] In any case this is no serous proposal to improve parliament . Merely one to benefit your choice of party.

    • Just to be clear, the winner of a minority government here ALREADY has the choice of a coalition partner. The problem for the Tories is not that they're not allowed to form a stable coalition representing more then 50% of MPS, it's that no other party in the Houseof Commons will enter into a coalition with them.

  18. Actually, I just get annoyed at your fake concern. You've made it abundantly clear by now that your only problem with something is if the Liberals did it, not with the actions themselves, so I find your attempts at being sanctimonious just a little bit nauseating.

    And to be honest, given that the reports weren't killed at all, merely delayed until parliament was back in session, I don't really see it as an abuse at all. I mean, sure, it doesn't fit *your* personal sense of conservative timing, but that doesn't mean it's not getting done.

    This is the key difference. The worst you can say about Chretien's proroguation is that it delayed a report. Terribly sorry you're impatient, but your personal failings are no big deal when it comes to governance.

    The worst you can say about Harper's report is that it ends the committee work entirely.

    So kindly bugger off, would you? Let people who actually worry about governance, as opposed to politics, have a thread for once.

  19. Do they really have a law requiring parties expressly campaign on a coalition possibility? Really?
    Please cite.

  20. You're boring.

  21. Maybe it should be worded that the governing party plus one opposition party have to agree.
    That would have stopped Chretien avoiding the rath of Adscam.

  22. What if a prime minister simply ignored these rules and advised the GG to prorogue anyway?

  23. I don't know,
    but the first is a given when the second is the rule.

    LIbDippers want rules that affect only minority governments,
    let's have that discussion.

    Canadians would have accepted a coalition Dec 2008,
    they knew they were voting for that possibility,
    and if
    the winner chose a partner, instead of the 3 losers trying to execute a coup.

  24. Don't be trotting out the next election's talking points just yet.

  25. Yah, wouldn't want the unelected leader of the opposition to have to answer questions before the thinkers conference.

    And those are this Albertan's talking points.
    I thought them up all by myself!!!

  26. Right. Because the committees will never restart again and won't pick up where they left off too. That never happens.

    And when they do, then I'll be able to the exact same excuse for Harper's prorogue that you are using to excuse Chretien's. It just delayed a report. What's the big deal?

    Well, Chretien prorogued to delay a committee report into Adscam. He prorogued to delay the AG report into Adscam. And then Martin dissovled Parliament and called an election the day before Jean Brault was to testify at the Parliamentary committee that had just been put back together to investigate Adscam.

    So if we are having a legitimate discussion about when to limit the power of government to abuse process, I want to make sure these things don't remain forgotten. If you want to fix the problem, then fix it so that all previous abuses are accounted for. That's governance…what you are doing is politics.

    • Perhaps you're unaware, but when Parliament prorogues, the committees are dissolved.
      This means they need to be restruck.

      Do you honestly believe that Harper will restrike the committee? Considering that the conservative members didn't even show up at the last meeting? And even if he does, will he put the same conservative members on it, or will it be a whole different set of members on it meaning any work that was already done needs to be duplicated to get them up to speed?

      Sorry, john.. that's gotta be a load that's tough for even you to swallow.

  27. Like the Harper Government,
    beginning their 5th year of governing a minority parliament.

  28. This is sarcasm right? It's demagogic to propose rules, but your alternative is "to get better politicians?" How will we know they are better? How will we keep them "better?"

    Your proposal sounds like an instruction manual for a demagogue treadmill. I'd prefer constructive limits on the authority of the PM and the PMO to create a robust system of parliamentary accountability, and I believe it would attract better politicians, rather than opportunists who just want their fingers on money and influence.

  29. My point is as Style notes, that one can have a majority parliament without a majority of the popular vote. This is one place where I think a super-majority in the House should be required, such that "consent of the house" equals the support of a majority of the members of the house of commons who together represent a majority of the electorate (or somesuch).

  30. 308 Garth Turners…

  31. Partisan survival and productive governance aren't the same thing. Which I suspect Canadians are beginning to realize.

    This may surprise you, but many of us don't approach politics as some sort of sporting contest. Rather, we'd like to pass on the country to our kids in better shape than we inherited it.

  32. Harold Ballard broke my heart. He prorogued the Leafs in 1968, and they haven't been back since.

  33. You do realize that it's the Liberals' leader who's facilitating these town hall meetings, not your own?

  34. Maybe there should be no minority governments.

    Winner picks a coalition partner.
    That would certainly leave the BLOC high and dry!!!

    Why vote Bloc then?

    • And if nobody wants to be in a coalition with the winner, they MUST be?

      There is nothing right now that stops the winner of a minority from forming a coalition. What you seem to be proposing is forcing a coalition, and seem to be under the impression that nobody would pick the Bloc. In the case of the first part, that's pretty undemocratic.

      For the second, you must remember that the Bloc was already picked for a coalition in the past. (And no, it wasn't in 2008!)

  35. I get the urge to facepalm every time someone feels the urge to codify things we all (supposedly) learned in kindergarten:

    Play nice in the sandbox
    Share your grapes
    Fingerpaint is messy
    Treat the books and toys gently so that everyone can enjoy them

    • I don't remember learning "don't run the country as if you're the only one with any ideas or input"

      What kindergarten did you go to?

  36. The Prime Minister in the United Kingdom Parliament has precisely the same powers to prorogue Parliament as the Prime Minister of Canada does, and yet never abuses his or her power in doing so. Ever ask yourself why ?

    • Perhaps it's partially because the PM of the UK has literally dozens and dozens of backbenchers who'll never get a sniff at a cabinet post (and know it), and therefore aren't the least concerned about telling the PM to go fly a kite when he asks them to do something they don't agree with. I don't think the UK is the best comparison here, as our Parliament has 308 MPs and theirs has over 640.

  37. As I write elsewhere: But time is a factor, especially for a volatile minority government. This prorogation will result in – what, maybe a 6-9 month delay in the Afghan detainee investigation? Anything could happen in that time, including an election. You understand – this prorogation could enable Harper to enter the next election without having to reveal his past actions to Canadians.

    And if – god forbid – he wins a majority, he may never be held accountable for this.

    You can't ignore the damage a simple delay could do. Damage that Chretien did not cause with his prorogation.

  38. Because he rightly thinks he'd be hung, drawn, & quartered if he tried it? In the absence of that threat, why shouldn't our Parliament arrogate control of itself to itself?

  39. So who should the Conservatives pick as their Coalition partner?

  40. Yup. We're heading down a path that endorses the neo-con belief that governments and politicians are essentially corrupt and without altruistic honour.

  41. I could probably do without prorogation even though the opp. parties would now be gearing up for Question Period, reviewing their notes from Oct. and Nov. and asking the same questions over and over again and receiving the same answers.

    The problem would be if there was not the prorogation tool we could now be into the 13th month of a dysfunctional coalition gov`t that would probably have the country reeling from a shambled economy and constitunional wars. Can you imagine a PM Dion having his strings pulled by Layton and Duceppe. Unfortunately a potentially disasterous situation like the proposed coalition of Dec. 2007 requires a gov`t to request a cooling of period that proroguing gives.

  42. "The problem would be if there was not the prorogation tool we could now be into the 13th month of a dysfunctional coalition gov`t that would probably have the country reeling from a shambled economy and constitunional wars."

    And if your aunt had balls…

  43. They had their cooling period.

    Then, when the questions became too tough, again, they requested another cooling period, in the belief that "Canadians don't care" and that we'll soon forget this transgression.

    The government's response to "fight or flight" when difficult issues arise tells me they're not equipped to really lead this country through the challenges that face us. Governments don't get to run away and join the circus when difficult issues arise, nor should it be permitted that they become one.

    Things have got to change. MPs have to step up. Canadians must hold them all to account.

  44. While Garth Turner may not be the best example possible, it is true that when an MP stands up for what he or his constituents believe in, they end up sitting as an independent. And that means they lose a lot of stuff–expense money but I don't know what exactly–and become sort of a second-class citizen of MP. This needs to be changed such that an independent MP can be just as effective as a regular MP (by which I mean the opportunity to sit on committees, the expense budget the other guys have, whatever).

    So, if we want to elect principled, honourable MPs, we have to give them the incentive not to be sheep.

  45. You understand – this prorogation could enable Harper to enter the next election without having to reveal his past actions to Canadians.

    Yes I do understand; having witnessed Paul Martin promise not to call the 2004 election during the Adscam committee testimony (which had just been restarted after Chretien prorogued in 2003), then breaking his promise the day before Jean Brault was to testify at that committee, I understand all too well.

    We've already fought a whole election knowing that something stunk about Adscam but not being allowed to know how bad it was because our media let the Liberals get away with not one, not two, but 3 attempts to delay, deceive, and subvert the will of Parliament. I don't want that to happen again under anybody's watch.

    So now that Harper is in charge, they want to have the discussion. Fine. But since they were asleep at the switch back then, let's have the whole discussion now. That's all I want.

  46. Don't you think that would assure the liberals of winning every election? They are the only party that can work with either the NDP or the Conservatives.

    Come to think of it, that is not a bad idea!

  47. The government survived the most recent confidence vote by extending EI benefits for non-seasonal workers. The details of the reforms suggest a basis for even more sensible EI reforms. Doesn't that improve the country?

  48. That makes sense – as Norm Spector says you can't look at prorogation in isolation. The December 2008 prorogation responded to exceptional circumstances, a reform package should address those circumstances too. I'd prefer simply that parties forming government cannot be led by an interim party leader. Canadians should, at a minimum, have an incoming PM who still has the full support of his or her party.

    Proposals should also draw on Prof. Aucoin's paper, which notes that sessions have lengthened over the years and governments' have become less efficient at passing their legislation.

  49. Call it the Chretien Rule and maybe you'll get some bipartisan support for committees continuing between parliamentary sessions…

  50. On one hand you say: "But since they were asleep at the switch back then, let's have the whole discussion now. That's all I want."

    On the other hand you say: "Right. Because the committees will never restart again and won't pick up where they left off too. That never happens.

    And when they do, then I'll be able to use the exact same excuse for Harper's prorogue that you are using to excuse Chretien's. It just delayed a report. What's the big deal?"

    So which is it? Either the prorogation was no big deal, or it is a big deal and you just want to see Chretien and Harper both condemned. You can't keep moving the goalposts like this.

    By the way, if you think it is a big deal and deserves discussion, it would be nice to see you condemn Harper's moves in the same strong language you reserve for Chretien.

  51. Improves conditions for individuals in the country, certainly.

    But how does that balance derailing democratic institutions?

  52. If that's not damning with faint praise, I don't know what is.

  53. Evidence suggest they happen to be correct in that belief.. especially now that the media has figured out that ratings trump information.

  54. And these Canadians you speak off will eventually have the ultimate opportunity to " hold them all to account ".

    Will people regard the hysterical actions of the opp. in Parliament in the fall session as a necessary component of good government or will they see that the CPC gov`t fufilled it`s national and international obligations without the distractions of daily attempts at smearing from the opp ? Time will tell.

  55. But how is it partisan survival that doesn't improve the country, as you suggest? It seems like a reasonable policy that helps people out in the near term and sets the stage for broader reforms. Were you thinking of things like "stimulus report cards" demanded by Ignatieff last January?

  56. There has been a court judgment concerning the application of the 'fixed term', pre-dated election law. The supreme authority is that of the PM. As we've seen, he ignored his own law to call an election when the time suited him. So, that being said, all of the rules and regulations won't avoid a repeat performance from a relentless PM to have things his way or the highway.
    All in all, if the Executive doesn't wish to abide by the rules, well they won't and there's nothing any one can do.

    The only constraint that can be imposed on the PM is through a constitutional amendment to this end, otherwise our Parliamentary system is hollowed out and ineffective and thus irrelevant. It might behoove the opposition to do a quiet survey among the Provinces getting their opinion on a specific corrective constitutional amendment for, if they're serious about this problem, this is the only way to go.

  57. Rules are made to be broken

  58. It's worthwhile to look at a government's entire record, to be sure, but I believe the issue is that this one productive policy does not make up for four years of partisan dung.

    Of course, I'm sure the government's record of productive policies would be much longer, had they not killed half their own bills. Twice.

  59. Lovely ideal, the problem is how do you get to that practically? Legislate that any MP can have a seat on a committee, sure, but when it comes time to decide exactly who gets it, are the members of a party (whether it be legally recognized or not) going to vote in the independant at the expense of one of their own?

  60. Agreed. We had fixed election dates, but that didn't stop the GG from granting an election when the PM asked for one.

  61. Your selective memory annoys me.

    The Conservatives are as guilty as the opposition parties of adding hysteria to issues. I mean, why do you hate the troops, common man? I don't think the puffins will appreciate that.

    As for fulfilling their national and international obligations? We were chastised by the Chinese, dropped the ball at Copenhagen, and our leaders routinely hid behind the troops in favour of answering questions on Afghanistan. At home, Harper prorogues, twice, killing his own bills, twice, but routinely whines that the Senate isn't doing what he wants by passing them. He declares the Quebecois a nation, then says that artists are just elitist partygoers. And rather than curtailing government spending, he's chopped at the revenue base and increased spending to the point now that economists consider our deficit structural, rather than temporary.

    Meanwhile, our population is aging, our country is participating in a war, our infrastructure is crumbling, and our democratic institutions are facing a relevancy crisis. And what's Harper set us up to do? Watch the Olympics.

  62. You understand exactly what I am talking about.

  63. None of the parties proposing to form a coalition in 2008 had an interim party leader.

  64. Yes, I agree I don't know how to work it, either. But there must be some brainiac around here who could think of something!

  65. Ban polls, war rooms, Warren Kinsella and his ilk? Problem is in this particular case, our Prime Minister kind of is the Warren Kinsella of his party.

  66. I`m confident Canada is respected for it`s dealings with China, Copenhagen conference, and Afghanistan. If you feel otherwise, that wouldn`t annoy me.

    But let`s see how the opp. spends their time between now and March to prepare. I`m certain that if they continue with the same tune and tone they had in the fall session, their popularity will plummet. This time-out they are having would be a good time for them to recalibrate and focus on the economy and be a responsible opposition.

  67. I've seen this argument/talking point numerous times, and I just want one of you (I pick you) to explain to me how having an election every 6 months to a year is considered Good Governance?

  68. Sean was pining for a minority government that works productively with a majority of members. By surviving four years of confidence votes, and racking up a list of "partisan dung", the current government should have satisfied Sean.

  69. Without changing the way we vote? I don't think so.

  70. "Ban polls, war rooms, Warren Kinsella and his ilk?"

    I don't have a problem with polls or war rooms, if done well of course, but I do wonder about consultants and special advisers and what effect they have had. It seems to me sometime in mid to late 1980s special advisers became much more prominent and they have been advising pols to ignore people for at least twenty years. All the focus is on not losing votes, don't alienate anyone, instead of focusing on policies that grow support.

    I also wonder about parties and money – parties use to send their bagmen to collect money from corps and unions and now public is on hook to pay for parties. I wonder if parties, and pols, would be more responsive to us if they were dependent on us for cash instead of relying on orgs or public purse.

  71. On October 20, 2008, Dion announced that he would stay on as Interim leader, scheduling his resignation for the party's next leadership convention.

  72. I think it's great that the Liberals came forward with this idea, but I'm wondering about the constitutionality.

    Parliament can pass laws that are binding on the Prime Minister, but how can the House of Commons alone limit the PM's otherwise existing power to advise the Governor General just by changing the Standing Orders of the House of Commons?

    It would make sense that the House could change procedure regarding matters of confidence using the standing orders, because there the question is simply whether the House has confidence in the Government–and the House can certainly set rules regarding how will or will not express that confidence. But using a change to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to limit the PM power in his job as PM (not as an MP)? Is that possible?

    Does anyone know the answer to this question?

  73. well now that was far too reasoned a response for our favourite Wilson…no no, this won't do at all. :)

  74. In other words the worse kind of cynical politics…i'll obey the law when i need to, but otherwise game on.

  75. I like it too…but i hear the distant sound of another referendum coming, over in la belle provence.

  76. The above proposal simply reinforces the principle of Parliamentary Supremacy, and as you say, has the added bonus of ensuring that any PM still has the support of the house when exercising his Executive Authority to ask the GG for a prorogation.

    The standing orders don't bind the GG, they bind the PM. The GG would still take her advice from the Privy Council (read: PM) as is constitutionally mandated…it's just that said advice would also be theoretically beefed up given the support of the broader House.

  77. Effectively, this whole discussion is about changing the rules of minority governments so that's not much of an objection. But in any event, nothing in this proposal prevents one party from forming government with the support of others, it just restricts the ability of two or more parties to form government in coalition.

    It's questionable whether having the interim Liberal leader become the interim PM in a coalition government would have passed muster anyway, but it wouldn't hurt to require that the PM not be the interim leader when he or she forms government…

  78. Focusing on the economy to the exclusion of all other issues would be to the country's detriment. No policy or act of government happens in a vacuum.

    As for tone and direction, it's up to the governing party to set the tone. They'll have the opportunity to sing with their Throne Speech.

  79. But I think the point of the question is, "How does this really bind the PM?"

    Okay. They have standing orders. He ignores them, walks up to the GG and says, "I want to prorogue".

    They then do… what? Fret and fume outside the locked doors? Hmm.. don't see a lot of change happening there.

  80. We could start by being more demanding of our elected representatives. We could also insist that we have some genuine consulations between the government and the public about the way Parliament should work, standards of behaviour and what would constitute an abuse of power. We need to build a new consensus around what our democracy is all about. Criticism of those who refuse to play by the new consensus rules will then be credible. Just pulling some new rules out of one's nether regions is not going to change anything.

  81. Rousseau, is that you?

  82. What are you talking about? Don't they all restart when Parliament resumes?

  83. I don`t think there should be elections every 6 months; I would say between 2 and 4 years would be about right. The CPC are on record as stating that they do not want an election. The Liberal Party have been involved in actions ( attempted coalitions ) and words (your time is up Harper ) ( don`t mess with me till I`m done ) that appears to be more about a power grab then contributing to a good gov`t by providing a responsible opposition.

  84. Sorry…should have been more clear…I was speaking hypothetically. I'm not actually interested in making that argument because I'm not about excusing Harper because the Liberals do it too; I'm about asking the media "where the hell were you when the Liberals were doing it too…why do you wait for Harper to do it before you scream blue murder"?

    As to your last point…I honestly believed that Parliament was only prorogued in order to recalibrate the Senate committees. I did not believe that the Afghan situation had much if anything to do with it because nobody cares about it and it wasn't costing Harper much if any political capital.

    Having heard Flanagan say otherwise makes me re-evaluate that, and if he's right then I think what Harper did is pretty bad. I don't think it rises to the level of what the Liberals did because as I said above their actions caused them to steal an election by preventing the whole truth about Adscam to come out before the campaign started. At this point I have no reason to believe that the Conservatives have done anything that would rise to this level.

    • Fair enough, although

      1) Funny how the normally pro-CPoC types are so intensely focused on having a fulsome discussion and not at all vocal about condemning Harper (though I'll take what you say here at face value), and

      2) "steal an election" is pretty hyperbolic. In fact, you seem to have blown your interpretation up to the point where it's actually *worse* than disabling Parliament to interfere with the Afghan detainee investigation.

  85. Not automatically, no. Committee work generally requires a motion of the House to resume.

  86. That's largely my point–the issue at hand is how to limit the power of the Prime Minister to advise prorogation, not how to create an opportunity for the House of Commons endorse–or "beef up"–that advice.

    My understanding is pretty much this…

    Only a consitutional amendment can bind the Governor General. So, taking away the GG's discretionary power to accept a request for prorogation from the PM is impossible without a consitutional amendment.

  87. Parliament can, however, pass laws that bind the Prime Minister. So, by passing a law, parliament can take away (i.e. put conditions on) the PM's legal authority to "advise" the GG to prorogue. This would be unenforcable in the sense that we wouldn't be putting the PM in jail if he strolled over to Rideau Hall and had a chat with Michaelle Jean, but it would be extremely powerful in that if the PM were acting in contravention of a constituationally binding law it would, IMHO, mean the Governor General would not be consitutionally bound to accept the PM's advice.

    On the other hand, if standing orders can't legally bind the PM (outside his role in the House where standing orders govern procedure), then I don't see how it would affect the GG's responsibility to accept his advice at all.

  88. Yes, it was most certianly the wording that was at issue in the case of the fixed election date law.

    The law said that the PM must advise the GG to call an election every four years, but said NOTHING to limit the PM's power to advise the GG to call an election earlier.

  89. Which is why I was more sympathetic to Iggy's initial position.

  90. This is why I said the most important line of that was the committee one. We'd need a Harper's Law to stop a PM from proroguing without consent of the house. But failing that, at least having the committees continue would be a solid step in the right direction.

  91. That's why I've said we skip the whole standing order/procedural route and go legal. And yes, I mean putting the PM in jail if he walks over and advises the GG to prorogue without the consent of the house. (Although to be honest, I advise house arrest (not longer than the term of proroguement) and a fine (not more than $0.01 per Canadian citizen) over jail.)

    I think that's really the only way we can seriously bind the PM. He, could still advise the GG, and the GG would still prorogue, but I imagine any PM would be loathe to do so given the possible consequences.

  92. Maybe none of them has thought of it yet.

    Either they get good marks for integrity, or poor marks for creativity.

  93. Canadian use to pay pretty darn close attention to how MP's behaved. How does this get restored? Partly by having MP's stop the truthiness, etc. Maybe it'll take a great catastrophe wrought through political actions that affects us all – that would suck of course, maybe we just need to abolish reality TV (it might work :P ). But its a sort of chicken/egg scenario for the road back.

  94. I'm not so sure that Canadian MPS used to have any more class or dignity. I suspect it's possible that they were just better at hiding their lack thereof.

  95. Tradition or whatever. Why does it matter? They abuse other things like MP expense accounts and then have to fix it with rules. We should do the same with the abuses we experience here.

    • That's the whole point, you can't fix it with rules alone. You need to have a willingness to play by the rules as well. Tell me, has crime been totally eliminated by the Criminal Code of Canada ?

  96. Except they didn't do it by working productively. They did it with the confidence vote gun tied to every piece of legislation for the first couple of years.

    That's not "workoing with" that's "working in spite of"

    • Somebody must have a list of percent of legislation that was a confidence matter under different Canadian governments. Was it in the Aucoin paper? It strikes me that one of Martin's promises was to make fewer items matters of confidence because MPs felt Chretien over-used that tactic. This is not to say "the Liberals did it first" but to say "that's not much of a criticism of this government if it's standard procedure in Canadian parliaments".

      • Yeah. Except it's not.

  97. In fairness, that could be because he posted his before most of the comments above happened, and he stole their thunder.

    • That was the intent. I was hoping for an actual discussion, but could already envision the regular comments. For the most part, I think it worked. I just wish that I foresaw the "Why bother, the Liberals will just change it back when they get in power" comment and headed that off.

  98. Perfect solution fallacy.

    Under that argument, we should dissolve the Criminal Code of Canada because it obviously isn't working.

    Somehow, I don't think so.

  99. I see your point, Style, about the interim leader thing. While I don't think that aspect of it was viewed as the problem, I do see that essentially outlawing the specific solution in that case without outlawing the lead up to it is not the way to go. (i.e., outlawing proroguing without outlawing interim leader coalitions) In my mind, part of the reason Harper thought he could get away with the FU was the Liberal leadership in transition. So that was partly the cause of the FU that caused the coalition, and the cause/effect works both ways. (i.e., outlawing interim leaders without outlawing fiscal updates).

    Since at this point I think we are proposing MPs, government and parliament cannot move a muscle without breaking some of our newly proposed laws, I suggest we abandon this whole line of thought.

  100. Yes, the CPC is on record as stating that they do not want an election. However, their talking point minions go as a body to every public comment board available to taunt, "you don't like it? Vote non-confidence" I suspect if we look back, 95% of the comment threads on Maclean's would have at least one comment like that.

    <sarcasm>But I'm sure that is just a coincidence.</sarcasm>

  101. But perhaps contravening the standing orders would be enough. Assuming Prime Ministers from now into the future will not all be Stephen Harper, and going back to the point that we need honourable people in Parliament, perhaps just having it there in the standing rules, and the possibility of contempt charges is enough for PMs to think it's not worth it.

    I'm slightly concerned about passing new laws, because then we'll end up passing a new law limiting every prerogative of the PM. Okay, I can't think of a PM prerogative I wouldn't want to limit at this exact moment, but I'm sure there must be some.

  102. The problem is not prorogation; the problem is how the governor-general is selected. We need to change how the governor-general is selected. That person should either be selected by parliament (not just the PM) or elected by Canadians.

  103. But that was a law, not a change to the standing orders. And the wording of that law allowed that Harper didn't break it–he just broke the entire spirit and purpose of it.

  104. I think it's great that the Liberals came forward with this proposal, but I'm concerned as to whether it would be constitutional.

    Acts of Parliament can bind the Prime Minister–in this hypothetical, limiting his power to advise prorogation–but can a simple change to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons limit the PM otherwise existing power to give advice to the Governor General? Without the process or procedure for doing so ever being approved by the Senate?

    I can see standing orders being used to set down rules regarding confidence matters–because there the question is whether the Prime Minister has the confidence of the House of Commons itself and the House clearly has the right to decide the manner in which it expresses such confidence. But how can the House order around the Prime Minister–in his job as Head of Government, not MP–just by changing the standing orders?

    Anyone now the answer to these questions?

  105. I really do love your faith in humanity..

    ..I just don't share it.

  106. The Liberals could have avoided that problem under these rules by allowing the caucus to decide the new leader, then ratifying that at the spring convention. Since that's exactly what they did (except on the pretext that Dion looks bad on tape), why would anyone protest this change? It seems the proposed rule would have enhanced the credibility of the coalition and should have led to a coalition government.

  107. I agree that the issue of how we choose the GG needs to be discussed, but it still wouldn't solve the problem at hand.

    Right now as long as the PM demonstrably has the confidence of parliament the GG is required by constitutional convention to accept his advice as long as it is lawful. In other words, yes, we need to be confident that the GG will excercise her discretionary power is a just manner, but she also needs to have the appropriate latitude to do so in the first place.