The Short Parliament - Macleans.ca

The Short Parliament

ANDREW COYNE: In what other democracy is it permissible for the government of the day to hide from the legislature for months at a time?

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As Canadian democracy spirals further down the drain:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will prorogue Parliament Wednesday for a two-month break.

The House of Commons and the Senate will come back in March, after the Vancouver Olympics, for a Speech from the Throne and a budget. The move will have the effect of stalling all bills currently in Parliament, including crime bills that the government had said were being delayed by the opposition.

A post-Olympic return would also shut down government committees, which would stop MPs from pursuing the Afghan detainee controversy until Parliament returned.

Question: In what other democracy is it permissible for the government of the day to hide from the legislature for months at a time? To ignore explicit parliamentary votes demanding the production of documents? To stonewall independent inquiries? Perhaps the rules allow it elsewhere, but is it the practice? Does convention not still forbid it? Is it not viewed in other countries as dictatorial behaviour, and therefore, you know … not done?

So, rather than submit himself to the inquiries of elected parliamentarians, the King will dismiss Parliament, in the grand tradition of kings past. The question is: what will Parliament do now? If historical precedent is any guide, it should meet anyway. Let those MPs who wish to do the people’s business convene on the usual timetable, and let those with other loyalties disport themselves as they may.

If MPs are barred at the doors to Parliament — and wouldn’t that be an interesting scene — let them meet somewhere else. A tennis court would do nicely.