Stephen Harper requests proroguement of Parliament, Opposition feigns old outrage
For the second year in a row, the ever-tedious post-Christmas period in Canadian politics has been livened up by the spectre of a looming proroguement of Parliament.
Most Canadians will almost certainly recall that Parliament was prorogued last year in order to derail an attempt by Canada's opposition parties to overturn the results of the October election and install a coalition government that Canadians firmly and soundly rejected.
The crisis of the day was partially one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's own making. While it's hard to excuse the Opposition Parties taking such drastic measures in order to preserve what they feel is an entitlement -- federal government funding of their parties -- there's little question that the move would have hamstrung the opposition parties, at least in the short term.
Proponents of the coalition would attempt to defend it by insisting that it's "entirely constitutional" (it was), and that most Canadians had actually voted against Stephen Harper and the Tories.
But then a majority of Canadians voiced their opposition to the coalition, and the proposal was sunk in time.
Stephen Harper, in acting with the democratic will of the majority of Canadians, was widely denounced as "anti-democratic", and even "despotic" by proponents of the coalition.
It's a charge that some of Harper's opponents are echoing today.
"It's almost despotic,” spat Liberal MP Ralph Goodale. “Three times in three years and twice within one year, the prime minister takes this extraordinary step to muzzle Parliament."
It makes for good bombast, and is actually rather typical of Goodale.
But unfortunately for Goodale, there's nothing particularly unusual about a proroguement of Parliament, especially for a minority government.
As it turns out, majority governments tend to prorogue Parliament every two years. Minority governments tend to do so more often.
It's actually a routine practice. In particular, Parliament is often prorogued during events of national significance. In 2007, Parliament was prorogued during the Ontario Provincial election. In 2010, the proroguement will coincide with the Olympics.
Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien prorogued Parliament on four occasions during his tenure as Prime Minister. One didn't hear Ralph Goodale complaining then.
But "prorogue" has become a dirty word for many Canadian politicians. This is mostly out of bitterness that their ill-conceived coalition -- defended under the guise of "responsible government", yet making every effort conceivable to ignore the extent to which forging a coalition agreement with a separatist party is actually extremely irreponsible -- was kept out of power.
It's the same arrogance that permeated the very notion of the coalition -- that Canada's opposition parties and an assorted collection of political ideologues and activists knew better than Canadians -- that has transformed "prorogue" into a dirty word politically.
It's in the spirit of this arrogance that these individuals believe they can transform what was actually an extremely responsbile decision by Governor General Michaelle Jean into a political outrage that, for the life of them, most Canadians simply cannot share -- and this includes many Canadians who didn't vote for the Conservative party in the October, 2008 election, underscoring their respect for democracy, even if a party they didn't vote for wins the election.
So while the word "prorogue" may indeed be a dirty word among the politically active and those entrenched within left-wing circles, most Canadians remain utterly indifferent to it.
Other bloggers writing about this topic:
David TS Fraser - "Prime Minister Prorogues Parliament, Privacy Legislation in Limbo
A CAW Worker's Voice of Reason - "Before the Liberals Complain About Parliament Being Prorogued is Undemocratic"
Conserving Memory - "Harper's Prorogue Precedent"
Peter Loewen - "Shutting Down Parliament"
David Climenhaga - "In December, Canadians Have Snow, Hockey, Christmas … and the Annual Shutdown of Democracy"