Prorogation: the view from Leeds-Grenville
January 4, 2010
For a column in the Review Mirror Rod Croskery asked candidates in the forthcoming federal election for their views on the recent prorogation of Parliament. At press time responses had arrived from MP Gord Brown and Liberal candidate Marjory Loveys.
MP Gord Brown’s office responded:
Thank you for your email.
On December 30, the Prime Minister announced that the next phase of our Economic Action Plan will be launched, following the Olympic Games, with a Throne Speech on March 3 and a Budget on March 4.
The call for a new Throne Speech to launch the 3rd Session of the current Parliament is routine. The average Parliament comprises three or four sessions (and three or four Throne Speeches) and some Parliaments have had as many as six or seven Throne Speeches.
This is the 105th time in Canada’s history that a new Throne Speech will launch a new session of an existing Parliament.
The economy remains Canadians’ top priority and our top priority and a new Throne Speech allows the government to respond to the country’s economic priorities.
The three economic themes of the new session will be: (1) completing implementation of the Economic Action Plan introduced in the last Session, (2) returning the federal budget to balance once the economy has recovered – which is a priority for Canadians – and (3) building the economy of the future.
As well, the new Parliament allows us to re-introduce important legislation. Since a Bill can not be introduced twice in any Session, a new Session is required to further a government’s mandate.
I trust this answers your questions.
And I hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Member of Parliament
Liberal Candidate Majory Loveys:
Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the issue of Mr. Harper’s premature prorogation of Parliament.
There are several aspects of Mr. Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament and close it for over two months that have been much discussed already.
First, it will enable the Conservatives to use their new-found majority in the Senate to gain more control of the Senate, including the Senate Committees. However, if this were the only objective there would be no need for a two-month Parliamentary shut-down.
Second, prorogation will delay many bills forcefully promoted by Mr. Harper as urgent and crucial, for example bills to reduce crime. His past bluster can now be seen as just that.
Third, Parliamentary scrutiny of the Afghanistan Detainee issue will cease. There has been much speculation that this was the real motive behind Mr. Harper’s decision, and I agree with this assessment.
However, in my view the impact of the duration of the closure of Parliament deserves more attention.
This two-months-plus closure will render Parliament mute until March. During this time Parliament will be unable to quickly respond to any emergency that arises, and the budget will be written with no input from the general public or our Members of Parliament.
If events create the need for Parliamentary action – for example to deal with a work stoppage that is causing hardship for Canadians – the process of recalling Parliament, electing a Speaker, etc. will slow any response. For this reason past governments have learned to prorogue Parliament just a few days before it is scheduled to be recalled. Mr. Harper did not take this precaution. He clearly does not care if Parliament is Missing In Action for months on end.
More importantly, before each budget Parliamentary Committees normally hear from a broad cross-section of Canadians and debate the ideas they hear. Their advice is given to the Minister of Finance well before the budget is written.
Mr. Harper’s stated intent is to recall Parliament on March 3 and have a budget the very next day.
Given this timetable, our elected MPs will have no opportunity to advise the Minister of Finance on actions to help us deal with the effects of the recession, deal with the deficit or improve our pensions. And the Canadian public will have no opportunity for their voices to be heard and participate in an open and transparent discussion on their proposals.
This means that Mr. Flaherty will hear the opinions of big companies who can hire lobbyists and the select few he invites to his meetings; those without an “in” with the government or big bucks to hire well-connected lobbyists will be shut out.
It is the unnecessary length of time that Parliament will be closed that will impact Canadians the most. It suggests that Mr. Harper is placing his partisan interests in shutting down uncomfortable questions about his decisions on our Afghan mission ahead of the interests of Canadians. Perhaps he even sees not having to listen to the likes of us about budget proposals as an added bonus.
In leaving Parliament unable to quickly respond to emergencies or to listen to the public and debate their concerns about the recession, the deficit and pensions, he is preventing our elected Members of Parliament from doing their work.
I can only conclude that Mr. Harper sees Parliament as an inconvenience rather than an essential voice of the Canadian people.
Note: These articles made their way to the Brockville Recorder and Times in its Friday, Janary 8, 2010 edition.