Thursday, December 31, 2009

Prorogation: the morning after

A survey of some reaction to the, how's it taking out there?

Prorogation, Part II: PM makes dodgy move:
Prime ministers have much overt and covert power at their disposal. But to use the Constitution as a convenience store — and as a means to buck the system or to duck accountability — is to debase it, something that doesn’t faze Mr. Harper.
The Globe's editorial is also worth a read:
For the second consecutive December, Stephen Harper is putting Parliament on ice. In the act, the Prime Minister is turning prorogation, a sometimes sensible parliamentary procedure, into an underhanded manoeuvre to avoid being accountable to Parliament. In the interests of political expediency, the government will diminish the democratic rights of Canadians.

Proroguing stops committee work and makes all legislation pending before Parliament vanish. Historically, it has been used when a government has implemented most of its agenda. Until Mr. Harper's innovation, it was not an annual occurrence; the last minority government to use it more than once was Lester B. Pearson's Liberal administration in the 1960s.
Canada's democracy should not be conducted solely on the basis of convenience for the governing party. If the debate over detainees cannot be carried out in Parliament, then it should continue among Canadians at large. On this and other important issues, the government cannot delay accountability forever.
Letters to the Globe are unkind to Mr. Harper's move. Great editorial cartoon here.

Jim Travers sets out one of the risks that Kady O'Malley was referring to on the National last night as well:
While Canadians struggle with recession's aftershocks, Harper risks being seen as more interested in maximizing a sporting spectacle Conservatives are doing everything possible to make their own.
The Bloc was raising that point yesterday (Translation):
«De donner les Jeux olympiques comme prétexte pour proroger le gouvernement, il faut être culotté pas à peu près», a rétorqué Michel Guimond. «Il ya des villages que je représente en Haute-Côte-Nord avec des taux de chômage de 22 à 24 %. Est-ce qu'ils s'attendent à ce que les députés aillent à Vancouver-Whistler suivre les Jeux olympiques ou s'ils s'attendent à ce qu'ils adoptent des mesures pour les aider», at-il lancé.
Will Canadians start asking those questions, hey, why aren't these guys doing their jobs if I have to throughout the Olympics?

Will unforeseeable events occur between now and March 3rd that will make the absence of parliament appear to have been an unwise choice? Will foreseeable events, such as those taking place in Afghanistan, pile on and make the parliamentary absence even more glaring?

Will the negative image of Stephen Harper, with this latest prorogation, become crystallized to a degree not yet seen before? Will that "arrogance" catch up to him after all?

These are unknowns that no one can control for, not even too-clever-by-half Stephen Harper. One can have the grandest plan on paper. Yet two months is a lifetime, many lifetimes in this political era. The unknowns may come back to bite him on this decision.

Early reviews do not appear to be good, the Globe editorial standing out quite prominently, reminiscent of their recent stances opposing the government's heavy-handed reaction to the detainee torture allegations. And such displays are notable. As governmental mechanisms of accountability are shut down by the PM, the media's ability to act as an instrument of public accountability becomes all the more important. I don't believe he can prorogue them.