Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to yell “mulligan” every time things just didn’t go your way? Life is not a golf game however and when you have fought for and achieved a position of power and authority, you must also accept the responsibility that comes with it…or not, in Prime Minister Harper’s case. One phone call to Governor-General Michaelle Jean and Mr. Harper had his mulligan – parliament shut down until March 3rd, the customary holiday recess turned into prorogation. All this done on December 30th while Canadians were focused on ringing in a new decade, talking about who made (and didn’t make) our men’s Olympic hockey team and crying out in sorrow as we heard the news that five Canadians were killed in Afghanistan.
Prorogation means that the current session of parliament is over – all committees are disbanded and government bills that have not yet been approved die. In fact, more than 30 bills will die – many of them related to the “tough on crime” platform that Harper campaigned on. Prorogation will also shut down the parliamentary committee looking into the treatment of Afghan detainees whose results to date have not reflected positively on Mr. Harper’s government. In fact, all committees will be shut down and will have to be reestablished with the associated administrative time and effort repeated. Mr. Harper doesn’t care about this time sink however as it means that his Conservatives will finally be in the drivers seat for the first time since he came to power in 2006 with 51 seats in the 105-seat Senate (there are 5 independents as well). And of course, he’s hoping that Canadians will be dumb enough to forget about that pesky Afghan detainee thing by the time Parliament comes back in March.
While Canadian Parliaments have always been prorogued every one to two years, those prorogations were usually seen as procedural rather than political moves. In Canada, Parliament is typically prorogued when the agenda set forth in the Speech from the Throne has been completed. Not so in Stephen Harper’s Canada where prorogation is used as a calculated polital tool when things aren’t going his way.
PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas had this to say when other party leaders expressed their displeasure over Harper’s choice to prorogue: “If the opposition wants to spend 2010 talking about Taliban terrorists, we’ll let them do that. We’re going to be focusing on the economy.” Don’t I have some say over what my elected officials focus on? Apparently, when Mr. Harper is tired of talking about something, even when that something is of significant importance to Canadians, he just walks away from the table with his fingers in his ears making humming noises.
I am angry and frustrated that Mr. Harper has chosen to play politics over dealing with the business of running this country. He is counting on our complacency. We need to remind him that we are not complacent and we are tired of him exploiting our parlimentary system for his own political gain.
Here are some articles for additional reading and information (and from where I got some of my facts and information):
- Harper to shut down Parliament – The Globe and Mail
- PM shuts down Parliament until March – CBC news
- To prorogue or not to prorogue: the government’s question – CBC news
- Halted in mid-debate – The Economist
And here’s a link to the online system that tracks bills in Canadian parliament, called LEGISinfo.