Canadian Parliament Prorogued - Again?

BlogHer Original Post

I was shamelessly following the press conference announcing the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team (we take our hockey very seriously) yesterday on television and twitter when a tweet caught my eye. It said that the Prime Minister's Office had confirmed that Parliament was being being prorogued until March. Um, say what?

Yes, prorogued. For those of you that aren't familiar with parliamentary procedure proroguing the government basically shuts it down Parliament but doesn't dissolve the government ie. we don't have to have an election. It also puts an end to all business meaning that all sitting committees end and all bills are terminated. When Parliament comes back they come back to a completely clean slate.

I honestly thought that proroguing a government was a rare event and that when it happened it was a Big Hairy Deal. I said as much last year when Parliament was prorogued. Now, depending on who you ask, it may turn out that I was wrong and that's a very common parliamentary procedure - at least if I can believe the pundits on television. One of them said that since the beginning of well, Canada, Parliament has been prorogued 105 times. That works out to just shy of once every two years. Personally I'm taking that number with a grain of salt since every pundit I've seen on television can't agree on how many times the Stephen Harpers has prorogued Parliament as prime minister. I've heard people (on both sides of the aisle) saying two, three and four times. I've also discovered it's hard to find the numbers online (which may explain why the pundits can't seem to agree.)

All this is making me wonder if prorogation isn't much more common than we've ever noticed. Have we maybe just not paid as much attention in the past? After all, we didn't have the same access to the 24 hour news cycle and social media tools. Is it possible that we just didn't notice and it really is routine?

Ruth Haworth, who blogs at Yappa Ding Dong isn't really buying the Conservative "prorogues are routine" talking point.

This is disingenuous. Prorogation is usually done for short periods, at times that make sense, such as elections or the expected end of work. They are seldom controversial. Harper's current prorogation - shutting down parliament for a prolonged period to halt a parliamentary committee's investigation into government malfeasance - is most definitely not routine.

(She's also having trouble finding prorogation numbers, which is personally encouraging since as I mentioned above I also couldn't find them but it also me wonder where the pundits are getting their numbers.)

Kady O'Malley provides the obligatory snark (no matter what government is in power someone is always up for snarking on them) on the CBC Inside Politics Blog.

Oh my gosh, you guys, I had the craziest dream.

The PM prorogued Parliament without even coming back to Ottawa to meet with the Governor General in person, and didn't send out a cabinet minister -- or even Pierre Poilievre! -- to make the announcement. He left it to his press secretary to do it on a conference call with Hill bureau chiefs, who wouldn't even say whether or not the request had actually been granted, and --- wait, that wasn't a dream at all, was it? Sigh

Of course, everyone has an opinion about this prorogue. A lot of what I've seen in the media is the suggestion that this a way for the current government to try to avoid dealing with the Afghan detainee issue. Sandy at Just Politics didn't write about the prorogue directly, but acknowledged it as she urges her fellow Conservatives to encourage their Conservative MPs to work to a resolution on this issue. I like her point that the public is living their everyday, that they aren't out there reading Tory blogs, though I'd argue that many Canadians don't read political blogs of any stripe (I know that I generally don't and I don't know a lot of people who do).

The public can be fickle. Polls and people’s political preferences can change in an instant. We conservatives simply cannot assume that how we feel about the Harper government is how the majority out there feels.
So, to be on the right side of right, in the new year, write your Conservative MP and the prime minister and ask them to seek a resolution to the Afghan detainee issue. Because guaranteed, whether it is pure politics or not, neither the media or the opposition are going to let the issue disappear.

So what do you think - is prorogation just a normal and common parliamentary procedure? Or is the current government just looking to duck out of a sticky issue? Or maybe is it a bit of both?

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.


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