Thursday, December 31, 2009

Supporting the motion: retract the power to prorogue

Dr. Dawg proposed this idea today:
Let the adjournment or prorogation* of Parliament be up to Parliament, not the whim of an authoritarian Prime Minister, abetted by a feudal monarch's assistant.
Given some rumblings from the Conservatives on the future use of prorogation as a routine matter, such a change would seem to be even more pressing to consider, for example:
Sources said Harper would like to make suspending Parliament before the annual budget a regular practice so the government can bring in a throne speech to give the economic message a wider context.
The crippling of our parliamentary system, a seismic change, would be what this little move would accomplish. There's no way of knowing if this was just rhetoric offered up by a Prime Ministerial spokesperson to provide cover for the Prime Minister's abuse of the tactic, widely documented as such. Regularizing it and spinning it that way sells it to the public as nothing to worry about, nothing to see here.

But the life of a parliamentary session is supposed to be contingent on the completion of its legislative work. That's an unknowable term at any time. Some sessions run for years in order to finish business. Setting a fixed time limit, an "annual" one on a session would throw a wrench into legislative deliberations, seriously crimping the time in which legislators have to debate, engage, work in committee. It would require a wholesale rethinking of how parliament works. In short, it's an alien imposition in a parliamentary system. At least, that's my first reading of it.

And on the thought that a Conservative controlled Senate might block such a move by the House of Commons, let's just contemplate the spectacle of the Conservatives embracing that tactic. The hypocrisy would be wonderful and while you can't put it past them, they'll have their difficulties in obstructing the Commons majority. It'll be more for the Harper anti-democratic narrative. It's building.

Such musings about increased exercise of prorogation are more evidence that our parliamentary system is viewed as something to be bent at the will of this Prime Minister, whatever is good for him politically, the rest be damned.

(h/t SG, thx)