Friday, January 22, 2010

Prorogation, the Coalition and the Constitution

Being that prorogation has occurred 101 times before in our nation's history, that Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien used it to shut down parliamenty for 83 days to subvert the Somalia inquiry, and now that another Liberal leader, one Michael Ignatieff, is attending an anti-prorogation rally today, a fellow Alberta blogger has asked this important question:

Last year during the coalition crisis did you claim legitimacy for the coalition because of the constitution? If so, why are you now against that same constitution and the legitimacy of prorogation? Is there anything else you want to change in our constitution while we are opening it up?
Keeping in mind that Iggy recently said that if he were PM, he would use progation if necessary. He just doesn't agree with the way Stephen Harper did it this time.

But what about last time?  If Harper hadn't prorogued parliament last year, would he have ascended to the Liberal leadership so quickly after Stephane Dion was dumped?

Ah that Iggy, such a man of convenience and conviction, isn't he?

h/t Alberta Ardvark


Ted Betts said...

Um, make stuff up much?

Chretien did not prorogue Parliament to avoid the Somalia inquiry.

The Somalia Inquiry completed its mandate and delivered its report to Parliament. Had he prorogued, their business comes immediately to an end and they can't deliver their report.

Where do you guys get this stuff?

Only three times in our history has a Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to avoid accountability: MacDonald did it to shut down discussion of the Pacific railway scandal, Harper did it to avoid a confidence vote and he did it a second time in a year to avoid accountability in December.

Proroguing Parliament when your legislative agenda is almost entirely complete is one thing, and that is healthy. Proroguing Parliament for political purposes to avoid accountability is another thing entirely.

And you completely ignore the context as well:

- says it is important to democracy to have fixed election dates so that the PM doesn't call an election on a whim for partisan gain, and then calls an election on a whim for partisan gain

- Harper has been shutting down independent review commissions whenever they do their job and hold the government accountable: the MPCC, the Information Commission, etc.

- If the head of an independent agency tries to keep Harper accountable, he fires them or cuts their funding: Linda Keen, the head of the MPCC, the Information Commissioner, the Budget Office, International Commission on Rights and Democracy, etc.

- if a House committee doesn't toe the line for Harper, he fillibusters or shuts it down: Justice, Afghanistan, Ethics, Environment, etc. He even wrote a 200 page manual on how to make sure committees don't do their democratic work.

- shows repeated contempt of Parliament including ignoring a order passed by the majority, akin to a subpoena

- and if Parliament has the gall to actually try to represent Canadians and he doesn't like it? Well, he'll just shut down Parliament altogether

- tries to sneak prorogation in on New Year's eve hoping no one will pay much attention and then comes up with a different excuse every day for why and goes out of his way to insult ordinary Canadians who think our MPs should be back at work in January.

Canadians are pissed with Harper and no amount of bait and switch is going to get the focus off of him this time.

Ted Betts said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

That so, Teddy boy? Well if you're SO sure Canadians are on your side then you libs put your money where your mouth is. Make a motion of no confidence and let's go to an election.

Oh wait... you've run away from that option time and time again. I wonder why that might be? Could it be you're talking out of your ass and really DON'T represent the views of most Canadians despite how badly you wish you did?

Ted Betts said...

Observe the familiar defensive habits of the specie Conservative when cornered. To defend itself, it will rely on basic instinctive bait and switch tactics, moving with lightning speed to distract from the topic or government at hand. The attempt will always be made to change the subject and keep it focused on its adversary, while it digs a whole to avoid any scrutiny or accountability.

Actually, that is not how a democracy works. Canadians voted in 2008 for a minority government. That means that Harper has to work with the Parliament he has. If he doesn't like it, he can call an election and break his fixed election date promise again. Until then, he should stop showing such contempt for Parliament and Canadians.

Accountability is not something that comes along only on election day.

Emisar said...

Ted, you're right - Chretien didn't prorogue to shut down the Somalia inquiry - he just unilaterally shut it down when he couldn't take the heat it was generating. He shut down a judicial inquiry on a whim, and only a Liberal hack would dispute that.

He did, however, use prorogation to prevent the Auditor General from tabling her report into the Sponsorship scandal. You must take us all for asses if you're trying to tell us that prorogation wasn't for political purposes.

These protests and all of this bitching about prorogation has nothing to do with the constitution or democracy, but has everything to do with Harper Haters in the media and in the opposition pouncing on an opportunity to score political points.

Politics is a game of back and forth, and the opposition has countered well and scored some points on this issue, but they shouldn't pretend they have some altruistic, democracy saving, moral high ground to stand on here. They hate this prorogation because they hate Harper, not because they give a damn about democratic reform. If they did, and if they really believed that Canadians really cared, they would be sharpening their swords for battle and would have already declared that they would not support the Throne Speech or the Budget. Iggy would have once again declared, "Mr. Harper, your time is up!" But they won't. They'll continue to whine about this being the worst government in Canadian history, and then they'll back up their rhetoric by repeatedly supporting the CPC in the House of Commons.

Alberta Girl said...

Speaking of making stuff up Ted...


One argument you sometimes hear from Conservatives, though obviously not from Michael Ignatieff or his supporters, is that Jean Chrétien was not criticized for proroguing to avoid having to receive Sheila Fraser’s report on the sponsorship scandal. Conservatives also say that many of today’s critics actually respected him for his wiliness; some even cheered Mr. Chrétien’s toughness in shutting down the Somalia inquiry, which was investigating a far more serious matter than Afghan detainees. Conservative supporters may also be right in suspecting that—aside from those who dropped the ball back then—some of today’s critics grew comfortable in the one party state that Canada was becoming in the days of the “friendly dictator,” and detest Mr. Harper for restoring political competition to Ottawa.

Ted Betts said...


You can argue about history, but I'll make it easy for you: I agree about Chretien. In fact, I agree with Stephen Harper about Chretien - that he was bad because he avoided accountability - at least, the Stephen Harper in opposition believed that.

Let me tell you though, this anti-prorogation has nothing to do with the media that laughed at it from the first or the political parties that are only now trying to climb aboard.

All or most of the organizers do not belong to any poltical party. Most see Harper's many anti-democratic moves as only the latest in a long string of moves by our government to wrest control away from Canadians for their own partisan games. This is bigger than parties and that is why the arrogance and dismissive insults from Harper and co. only feed the growing rejection of him instead of quelling.

I had a conversation with the head Toronto organizer yesterday and we laughed about how we have more in common with Reform than the NDP, the Conservatives or the Liberals on this. Stephen Harper used to believe in accountability, and making strong Parliamentary committees and less control in the PMO and stronger power with the MPs who are supposed to represent us not their party.

But this back and forth excuse for bad democratic behaviour is a tired ratinonalization.

Let me ask you straight up: do you believe that it is good for a PM to prorogue Parliament to avoid accountability, as Harper thinks now, or is it a bad thing, as Harper thought before he was PM? Should a PM be able to pick and choose when he will be accountable and on what issues?

Ted Betts said...

Alberta Girl once again demonstrating that she lives in her own reality.

"One argument you sometimes hear from Conservatives, though obviously not from Michael Ignatieff or his supporters, is that Jean Chrétien was not criticized for proroguing"

In fact, the Liberals have a whole page of quotations of criticism over Chretien's prorogation, how anti-democratic prorogation is, how he lost his moral authority to govern because of prorogation. All those quotations are right there on the Liberal website.

Problem is, they are all quotations from Stephen Harper and Peter McKay and other Conservatives.

So, Alberta Girl, was Stephen Harper right then (I think he was) to criticize prorogation or is he right now to say its a good thing to shut down Parliament?

Alberta Girl said...

"All or most of the organizers do not belong to any poltical party"

What a bunch of bullshit Ted!!!

They are Green and NDP...don't try to pull that wool over my eyes.

The fact is that prorogation is a legitimate tool in our parliamentary system....the fact that when anyone else used it, there wasn't an ounce of outrage...but Stephen Harper uses it, legitimately, to end a session of parliament, and the left explodes as if he crowned himself king.

Give me a break Ted, this is nothing more than the left getting their shirts in a knot!

Ted Betts said...

"They are Green and NDP...don't try to pull that wool over my eyes."

And you know that... how, Alberta Girl? I've met these people and least at the Toronto and the national level. Have you? Or are you just making stuff up again? I mean, up to you if you want to believe me or not, but if you don't know what you are talking about then don't make the claim that you do.

As for no one criticizing, are you really paying any attention at all?

Here is some of the criticism from back then:

Harper: "When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern."

Harper: "The government will prorogue the House so that it will not be held accountable for its shameful record."

Harper: "What we are also learning once again is that the Liberals apparently want to prorogue the House … They want to run out of town, get out of town just one step ahead of the sheriff. Is the Liberal government committed to staying here as planned throughout the month of November so that it can be held accountable in the House for its actions?"

Harper: "Now is it true that the government will prorogue the House so that it will not be held accountable for its shameful record?"

So do you think Stephen Harper was wrong back then or wrong now?

KURSK said...

Ted, you state that the PM is proroguing parliament to avoid accountability.

That means you believe the narrative that the govt. is covering up something. Therefore, you must also subscribe to the idea that Canadian generals, soldiers and Conservative politicians are war criminals.

Have I got that right? One follows the other.

Why should the PM hide from the fact that his Conservatives cleaned up the mess left by the Leftists in govt previously? It was the Liberals that created the transfer problem through ill conceived methodology and bias

The lefts' virulent anti-Americanism created the issue, and now the left wants to convince the world our fellow citizens are war criminals?

You and your ilk are as disgusting as you are delusional.

Ted Betts said...

Oh, Kursk, Kursk, Kursk.

You do try so hard.

Canadians resoundingly disapprove of the Harper Holiday. Canadians resoundingly disapprove of Harper shutting down to avoid accountability. His poll numbers were diving in December and so he shut down a fundamental part of our democracy until spring.

Even conservatives know he has cut and run from accountability. Tom Flanagan came right out and said it.

Are you honestly trying to maintain that all these Canadians, conservatives included, are delusional? No wonder you guys have never gotten a majority despite all the media and stars aligning in your favour.

Why should the Conservatives hide? Good question. It is something the miliarty police and the opposition parties have been trying to find out for a year now.

But what's this you say? The Liberals left a mess? What mess? Torture mess? How dare you accuse our troops of war crimes Kursk.

Shame on you for undermining our troops by saying they are comlicit in war crimes. Disgusting.

Alberta Girl said... are just pissed that when he recalls the inquiry, he will have a majority on the committees which means that the Liberals can't hide behind their majority any more - THEN we will get the truth.

Ted Betts said...

Alberta Girl:

What part of "minority government" do you not understand?

Look, I'm sorry the majority of Canadians don't like Harper and the Conservatives. I'm sorry reality is not working out the way you want. But you can't keep making up your own facts. He is a minority party in the House and so he will not have a majority on the House committees, the ones that have been and will continue to try to excert some accountability on this government.

But you keep avoiding my questions. Do you think Stephen Harper was wrong when he said prorogation to avoid accountability is undemocratic and shows the government has lost the moral authority to govern?

Mike B. said...

Good debate folks! But Ted, as I've said on this blog, I believe the real reason for prorogation in this case was to gain majorities on senate committees by appointing the five vacancies and gaining a plurality in the senate. So note that's it's NOT a majority, but a plurality, like the Conservatives have in the House. And then, maybe we can have some REAL democratic reform, as you so wish.

Ted Betts said...

If that was the case Hatrock, then he didn't need to impose one of the longest prorogations in our history. He could have done a 24 hour prorogation as has been done many times in the past.

No, his poll numbers were already diving and the polls were showing the cover-up and lying over Afghan detainees didn't sit well with Canadians, that they didn't believe him at all. And when Colvin came out with his statement and the evidence started coming out that they knew about actual torture claims and did nothing... well, as Tom Flanagan said, he figured he needed to avoid Parliament and that Canadians wouldn't care.

Well, today, in huge numbers, we showed we did care. A lot. And it ain't over. He's tried to take advantage one too many times.

Mike B. said...

Ted: "One of the longest prorogations in our history."