Pro- who with the what now?

A year ago, 90% of Canadians had never, I surmise, heard of the word “prorogation”. That’s because it’s supposed to be incredibly rare for the elected leader of a parliamentary democracy to ask the reigning monarch/head of state to suspend the country’s legislature. What does it mean, effectively? It means that all bills and motions and sitting committees (known as orders of the body) are expunged, but sitting Members of Parliament don’t get fired. That is to say, they’re sent home but there is no need for another election. As an interesting side note, in the British Parliament, certain bills are not affected by prorogation.

Now, technically, the Queen herself, the Governor General, or the Lieutenant Governor could summon Parliament back to work at any time. Indeed, the MPs themselves can meet when and wherever they’d like, even if Parliament is not in session. Their work doesn’t HAVE to stop just because their office is closed. I’ve phoned my twat of an MP to ask him to continue his work as my elected leader in Parliament regardless of whether the Legislature is sitting, but I’ve a really good feeling that he doesn’t listen to me. Which is one of many reasons I did not vote for him.

Historically, prorogation was used by monarchs to essentially control Parliament. Don’t like the proposed laws being read as bills? Prorogue the place and those Bills die and are tossed out with yesterday’s wash water. You want Parliamentary approval for your new favourite spending plan? Summon Parliament back, throw your weight as the Monarch around a while (maybe suggest that so-and-so might get another appointment if he rubber-stamps your suggestion), then send them all away again to the cotswolds. It’s all about making sure Parliamentarians know who’s *really* boss (the Monarch, in case you dozed off, there). At least, it *was*. 

So what’s the situation? Why is is that 25% more Canadians now know what prorogue means? Well. This is a little bit of a sore spot for me.

In Canada, the Prime Minister usually only asks for prorogation when s/he is in immediate danger of being drastically humiliated. Sometimes, the Prime Minister asks to suspend Parliament because he’s simply not getting his way (do you hear me, Brian Mulroney? Sometimes, the reason you don’t get your way is because the PEOPLE don’t WANT you to. Funny, that).

Stephen Harper has prorogued Parliament three times in three years; twice in *one* year. Rather than let the majority speak/vote against him, he’s deciding to spend taxpayers’ money on sending MPs off onto a paid vacation while the actual business of the country cannot progress. It makes me angry because it’s cowardly. And worse than that, it makes me even angrier that *I* didn’t vote for our dictator. In proroging Parliament, Harper has removed the ability of Canadian people to govern themselves.

I would really like for the Queen to just rip the thermometer out of his armpit and scoff “you’re perfectly FINE, Stephen. You do NOT need to stay home from school. And besides, if you don’t go to school, you don’t get to go to the Olympics.”

  12 comments for “Pro- who with the what now?

  1. melistress
    5 January 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I like this.

    Now some people have been arguing that prorogues have been used a lot prior to this. I am unable to find the historical information on this except for one thing. Chretien prorogued in order to step down so that Paul Martin could take over, not so that he could take his ball and go home because he wasn’t getting his way.

    Our current Prime Minister is threatening democracy in our country. He has a minority government. The rest of the parties have the majority (although divided). Just like Mulroney, Harper isn’t getting his way because the PEOPLE don’t want him to have it.

    Sigh…he has us by the balls though because no one wants another election and when one is forces, the results will be exactly the same.

  2. Berlynn
    5 January 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I comment to take issue with the phrase “my twat of an MP.” AFAIC, twats are beautiful; your MP (and I do know who he is) is not beautiful. Twats are warm and generous; your MP is a mean-spirited bigot. I could go on. Please find another, more suitable word to describe him. Perhaps “fuckwad” would be more appropriate? Then again, I don’t know.

  3. cenobyte
    5 January 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Berlynn, like many words, “twat” has many connotative, and many denotative meanings. Yes, twats (tw-ah-ts) are beautiful and squishy and warm and fun. But twats can also be itching, inflamed, bloody, hormone-infested gashes of disgusting seepage and cottage cheese-like discharge that smells like a month-old fish hut in July.

    A ‘twat’ (tw-aeh-t) can also be an idiot.

    I’m referring to Tom Lukiwski in the latter two sorts of reference.

    For that matter, ‘fuckwads’ might be whitish yellow bits of curd-like salty ejaculate, but they do contain some pretty awesome genetic material from time to time…

  4. cenobyte
    5 January 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Melistress – at one time, proroging parliament was kind of the thing to do once a year. Like, in the 1800s. A hundred years of using prorogation like vacation time.

    Most of those had to do with trying to avoid scandal, opposition, or simply wanting to not come to work for a while.

    Here’s some information about it:
    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Prorogation:+a+powerful+tool+forged+by+history.-a0212034244

  5. melistress
    5 January 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks for the information. My google-fu has been failing me the last couple of days and I was unable to find anything. Regardless, it is being overused and for shady reasons now. And I am unhappy and ranty.

  6. Smarty Pants
    6 January 2010 at 9:44 am

    About Bills dying…here’s some new info. Apparently this isn’t the case anymore.

    http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2010/01/04/12346001-cp.html

    In light of this information, it seems that the Tories *are* working…to get their Bills passed through a decidedly unelected Senate.
    That and I suspect they’re dodging the Afghan torture issue. It’s the only traction the Opposition has found lately.

  7. cenobyte
    6 January 2010 at 9:58 am

    Ah yes. The unelected Senate which Harper is stacking to his own favour, waiting for Parliament to resume in March so that his appointments will go through without debate.

    The unelected Senate which has *not* been reformed. Wait. Wasn’t that something Stephen Harper said he was going to do? I guess you can’t get things done and you can’t get changes made when you don’t go to work.

  8. Smarty Pants
    6 January 2010 at 10:51 am

    You’re right. A Senate that’s been stacked with Liberals by previous Liberal gov’ts to the same ends. And whose reform is being blocked by same Liberals. Along with various Crime Bills.
    Even though all the Bills they “debate” have already been debated and passed by the elected HoC. That’s how they (Bills) get to the Senate in the first place.
    And speaking of who’s working and who’s not…

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100105/national/parl_vacation_1

    ANYWAY…proroguing at this time is dumb and virtually pointless from where I sit. At the same time, it doesn’t shake the walls of Canadian democracy or anything.
    What’s that you say? “Meh”?

  9. cenobyte
    7 January 2010 at 11:46 am

    I’m AGREEING with you on the Senate thing, Smarty Pants. The point I was making is that Harper campaigned on Senate Reform, and now he’s totally reneged on that, and is doing the *exact same thing* that the previous government did, which damages the Legislative process. There are a number of bills that received all-party support which the Senate tossed out.

    I think prorogation is fine. Technically, I have no problem with it. But why not just dissolve Parliament and choose to resume at such-and-such a date? Because Harper doesn’t want certain issues discussed in committees OR in Parliament. He’s hoping Canadian people will just forget about things like the Afghan detainees issue, where he pitted the military leaders against the diplomats. Incidentally, I heard Romeo D’allaire talk about this this morning.

    What I have a *problem* with is proroguing Parliament for over TWO MONTHS. That’s *not* okay. And I *do* think it’s a “threat to our democracy”, because it effectively *shuts down* our democracy. Sure, our MPs continue to do work (well, some of them do. Probably not my twit of an MP) and Things Still Happen. …and another thing. Ostensibly, Harper has said this whole business is to give the government time to “consult with Canadians on the state of the economy”.

    You know what?

    THAT’S WHY WE VOTE FOR PEOPLE.

    Harper *should* have sent his MPs out with directives to “consult with Canadians on the state of the economy”; he shouldn’t have given them all a three-month paid vacation.

  10. Woz
    9 January 2010 at 9:08 am

    I am not inclined to defend Harper, but whenever an senator in waiting exists he appoints them when the space opens up. It is constitutionally difficult to make any real changes to the senate. This is made especially true in a minority government. He has been better than other governments in this regard. Which isn’t saying alot.

    There have been 105 prorogations of parliament during confederation. This works out to be 1.3 per year. The last one was 1 year and 1 month ago. Of the three you mentioned 1 was for an election. Which Harper chose to call, (a mistake in my mind), 1 was to prevent an election that was cause by the stubbornness of the Harper government AND Dion’s feeble attempt to justify his leadership of the liberal party. Then there is this one, which is pretty close to the historical average between prorogation of parliament. This is likely chosen for political reasons as I think the Olympics are merely a pretense. However, of the list of bills on the table, some I would actually like to die, most are irrelevant (Do we really care about free trade with Jordan) and the only one that is of any potential importance is the back to work legislation for CN. There is a list on the LeaderPost site.

    This is largely a non-event. The media and indeed public first became aware of the word “Prorogue” The last time it was used. Then it was used in a rather odd way. The way it is being used now is normal, standard, and has been used like this since the being of confederation. I am not in favour of prorogation of parliament, but I find the outrage over this prorogation out of place with historical precedent. At best this is something to be slightly peeved over, not outraged over. For example, it often rains on the weekend during summer, I get slightly peeved when it rains. However, I don’t get outraged. Rain is summer is normal and a regular occurrence. Likewise prorogation of parliament is a regular occurrence, there might actually be some truth behind the government wanting to suspend government during the Olympics (though I doubt it) and the occurrence this time is certainly not out of the ordinary and as I state earlier, there is no critically important legislation up for review.

  11. cenobyte
    9 January 2010 at 10:49 am

    Woz, my problem isn’t so much with Harper’s annual proroguation. My problem is with it being nearly THREE MONTHS LONG.

  12. Woz
    9 January 2010 at 12:41 pm

    It’s really closer to two months. The PM asked the GG to prorogue parliament on Dec 30, and the throne speech to resume parliament is scheduled for March 3.

    Most modern (last 30 years or so) prorogations of Parliament are either about a month long, or a day long. Likely the day long prorogations are due to political manipulations while the month long are for a real break, renewal of cabinet, whatever.

    However a two month long prorogation is not unheard of in modern times. In the 37th parliament (2000-2004, between the 2nd and 3rd sessions, there was about a 2.5 month prorogation. However, this is longer than the modern average.

    Before travel became easy, parliament was regularly prorogued for many months at a time. But when travel to Ottawa could take over a week, this made more sense.

    http://www2.parl.gc.ca/procedure-book-livre/Document.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&sbdid=FB3B3BB9-370E-4E7D-8AD6-2D199373C13A

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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