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article imageHarper moves to prorogue Canadian parliament until March 2010

By Stephanie Dearing     Dec 30, 2009 in Politics
After being called Canada's news maker of the year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hanging on to his title by proroguing parliament until 2010.
Ottawa - Canadians might be forgiven for thinking that proroguing is a new Conservative tradition with the news that Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to prorogue parliament again.
Rumours had swirled through Ottawa earlier in December, saying Harper might prorogue parliament in an effort to shut down a House Committee meeting into the torture of Afghan detainees. After a spokesman from Prime Minister's office confirmed the news that Harper was seeking to prorogue Parliament Wednesday, opposition parties reacted by saying Harper was shutting down democracy.
According to Dimitri Soudas, Harper did not meet with Michaelle Jean in person to request the prorogue of parliament, instead making the request via telephone. Parliament will convene on March 3, 2010. After the Speech from the Throne on March 3rd, the first order of business will be the budget. Parliament was to resume after a Christmas break on January 25th. Liberal Ralph Goodale said Harper's move was "... a shocking insult to democracy." NDP representative Libby Davies called the move a “political scam.”
The Liberal Party has responded by issuing a statement denouncing the Prime Minister. Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff accused Stephen Harper of having "... derailed the nation’s business in order to protect his own partisan interests." Ignatieff went on to say "Mr. Harper is showing his disregard for the democratic institutions of our country. The decision to prorogue is about one thing and one thing only – avoiding the scrutiny of Parliament at a time when this government is facing tough questions about their conduct in covering up the detainee scandal."
Last December, when Harper prorogued Parliament shortly after winning an election he had called, Professor Christopher Dassios told the Toronto Star "It’s almost entirely within the prime minister’s discretion to request a proroguing, but it would be highly unusual to ask for one when a session really hasn’t begun.
In essence, proroguing means the session is over - that we’ve completed the proposed business for this session. Which is different from an adjournment, which is just not sitting for a period of time - either overnight or for a weekend or for a holiday period.
And so, it would be highly unusual and may extend into that really narrow band (of activity) that the GG is expected to exercise - of granting what is appropriate. And there’s just very little discretion. "
Until Harper, and aside from the normal proroguing of Parliament at the end of each session, the practice has not been used to temporarily suspend Parliamentary business since Prime Minister MacKenzie King in 1926. Like MacKenzie King, when Harper asked Michaelle Jean to prorogue parliament in December 2008, he was seeking to duck a confidence vote that threatened to end Harper's term as Canada's leader.
This year, however, there has been no such crisis to avert and the only reasons Harper's spokesperson has provided for the proroguing has been for the purpose of allowing Harper and the Conservative Party to consult with Canadians about setting the agenda for the upcoming political year.
The move to suspend Parliament for two months means that all business before Parliament has been scotched, meaning bills and committee meetings. A decision on whether or not to renew Employment Insurance Benefits is one of those items that will have to be revisited when parliament resumes in March. The move means that Harper will gain control over the senate.
Harper also prorogued Parliament in 2007.
More about Prorogue parliament, Stephen Harper, Governor general michaelle jean, Michael Ignatieff, Liberal party
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