I’m late to this topic, but I did want to say that I am surprised, and pleased, that Canadians defied the experts and actually noticed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament, even though he did this during the Christmas holidays. And having noticed, that they didn’t like it. His poll numbers have fallen. Anti-prorogation Facebook groups continue to grow. Protests are planned for next weekend.
I also appreciate the journalists who pointed out that apart from the much-publicized goal of evading questions on Afghanistan, and adding Conservatives to the Senate, they are also delaying no less than three commissions probing areas that could prove embarrassing to them, such as campaign spending. It also killed all the bills in currently in progress. While I don’t much care whether that they killed their own fairly dubious crime bills, I do feel kind of bad for those diligent MPs whose private member bills also go back to square one now.
I say this even though I’m aware that it may not make that much difference in the long run. Canadians aren’t warming that much to Ignatieff either, so the next election is still the Conservatives to lose. Heck, they could even get a majority—who knows. Our democratic system has a lot of flaws. But it’s nice that not everyone has completely given up on it, regardless. I think Rick Salutin said it best:
Lorne Gunter says in the National Post that most Canadians today couldn’t tell you if Parliament is in session, and he’s probably right. But most Canadians don’t watch the CBC, either, yet they often want it there, just to prove the country and its culture exist. The same for Parliament: It proves democracy exists. I think most people sense it’s a pile of political pretense that is only minimally democratic, and that elections are what they give us instead of a real democracy in which we’d have a genuine say.
But why shut it down? At least it’s a token acknowledgment of what we deserve. And even as a pile, it is the achievement of centuries of popular political contestation, from the Magna Carta through the Chartists, the Canadian rebellions of 1837-38, the women’s suffrage movement etc. These are historic, if half-assed, victories that ought to be built on, not trampled on.
Canada went to war twice for “democracy.” Today, Canadians come back from Afghanistan dead to protect our democratic values and way of life. Do the Harperites think nobody gives a damn when you defecate all over those values, even if it’s a symbolic defecation over symbolic values and a largely symbolic way of life? Democracy isn’t just practical, it’s aspirational. It’s about trying to exert some control over your life, individually and collectively. Otherwise, what’s the point of a life? People draw a line, maybe more so when it’s about symbols, because once those are gone, there’s nothing left to take pride in and hold out hope for. So don’t treat our Parliament as a piece in your private chess game of power, eh? Show respect.
January 19, 2010 at 5:44 pm
Actually, private members’ public bills in Ottawa don’t die with prorogation. They stay on the Order Paper at whatever stage of consideration they were at before prorogation.
January 19, 2010 at 7:41 pm
Huh. The linked Globe and Mail article really made it sound as though private members had to restart from zero. To quote it:
But prorogation is wearing on him. “All the work you’ve done up until that point basically gets forgotten about and you start all over again.”
I’ve also since read about a few other government bills, like the Consumer Protection act, that I do actually care about, and that have died because of this little Parliamentary “vacation”.
January 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm
Yeah, i think in most parliaments (certainly here in Ontario), all bills die with prorogation (except maybe Private Bills) unless the House passes a motion prior to prorogation to carry over certain bills into a new parliament, but federally, to quote the official compendium on parliamentary prccedure: “Since 2003, prorogation has had almost no practical effect on Private Members’ Business. As a result of this significant exception to the termination of business principle, the List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business established at the beginning of a Parliament, and all bills and motions in the Order of Precedence, as well as those outside of it, continue from session to session. If consideration of an item at a certain stage had begun but had not been completed, the item is restored at the beginning of that stage, as if no debate had yet occurred. Private Members’ bills that were referred to a committee in the previous session are deemed referred back to the same committee. Private Members’ bills which have been read a third time and passed are sent again to the Senate.”