Progressive Views Column: Prorogation Tactics

Tristan cropBy Tristan Turner

Recently, the Prime Minister announced that he would ask the Governor General to prorogue this session of Parliament until a Speech from the Throne that is likely to come in late October.

The government claims the purpose of shutting down our nation’s greatest democratic institution, the House of Commons, is to shift its policy focus and agenda priorities for the upcoming session.

This begs the questions, is that really the purpose of locking the doors of Parliament? And why would prorogation be necessary to shift the government’s priorities, particularly after a summer recess where the Prime Minister and his Cabinet would have had all the time in the world to discover the type of agenda they want to put forward in the upcoming session?

It’s clear what the true purpose of delaying the next session of Parliament is; a chance for the government to escape questions from opposition parties on the issues that were plaguing them in the last session of Parliament.

I imagine the Prime Minister would rather avoid difficult questions surrounding his support of Senators that have proven to be wasteful with taxpayer money. Or how the Finance Minister “accidentally” more than doubled the tax on credit unions in the last budget implementation bill.

The fact is, poll after poll shows that this government takes a dive in the numbers while they’re actually governing. It seems, the more time this government does its job, the more people realize that they don’t want them doing it.

All of these reasons are good ones for the government to seek prorogation to avoid the ire of New Democrats and Liberals alike, but they certainly aren’t good for Canadians or our democracy.

If this government is to be held to account, we need a healthy and active House of Commons as well as robust and well organized Opposition parties, whether the government likes it or not.

Interestingly, Parliament passed an NDP motion in March of 2010 that promotes limiting Prime Ministerial prorogation powers to only be used in extraordinary circumstances. But, of course, because this motion was non-binding (as all parliamentary motions are) the Prime Minister decided he would rather not limit his personal power, regardless of whether or not Canadians wanted him to.

The reality is, proroguing Parliament is rarely a benefit to our democratic process, and it certainly isn’t in this case.

If the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are going to be held to account on shutting down Parliament and our voice in Ottawa, the reality is people need to tell their local MPs that they won’t accept or support a Prime Minister who’s too afraid to explain to Canadians the actions of his government.

Bottom line: our Prime Minister should listen to Parliament and Canadians, and act on that 2010 motion. To ensure the health of our democracy, he needs to accept that it’s not appropriate for any Prime Minister to hide behind prorogation instead of answering the tough questions.

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