Good prorogue or bad prorogue?

How to tell the difference anymore?

Here is a suggestion that the Prime Minister will ask the Governor General to prorogue the House this fall and that, as a result, the House will then not be recalled until after Thanksgiving. Susan Delacourt, while noting another theory that the Prime Minister will seek to have the House return in November after the Conservative convention, argues that Mr. Harper is justified in seeking to prorogue the House so that a new Throne Speech can be presented.

Susan is unquestionably right. At least in the abstract. But this is now a particularly fraught matter of procedure in light of what Mr. Harper did in 2008 and 2009 (and what Dalton McGuinty did last fall).

In 2008, Mr. Harper was facing a vote of non-confidence. In 2009, his government was facing questions about the treatment of Afghan detainees. This year, there are the lingering matters of Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin. In 2009, prorogation killed a number of government bills and halted committee hearings into the treatment of detainees. In this case, most of the government’s legislative agenda was pushed through in the spring and the government would merely be avoiding the daily exercise of Question Period.

In fairness, there would probably always be some outstanding controversy or another. And so the matter might come down to how often we expect our legislatures to be in session, how well an extension of the summer break could be justified and how poisoned the basic concept of prorogation has become.

The House is currently due back on September 16. Pushing the start date back until after Thanksgiving would eliminate 20 sitting days. Pushing the start date back until after the Conservative convention would eliminate another 10 days. (For the sake of comparison, the prorogation of New Year’s Eve in 2009 eliminated 22 days from the schedule.)

Returning after Thanksgiving would seem to provide for a parliamentary year of 105 days. That would seem to be the fewest sitting days in a non-election year since 1968. (Next fewest was in 2003 when the House sat for 108 days.) Return in November and conceivably the House might sit for only 95 days.

My working theory has been that the Prime Minister would ask to prorogue the House for perhaps a day or two, allowing the House to resume business on September 16 and thus avoiding any questions about accountability. On the other hand, proroguing Parliament for four to six weeks now would be slightly less obviously problematic than what Mr. Harper did in 2008 and 2009.