By proroguing Parliament, and thereby subverting Democracy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has succeeded where others have failed. He has galvanized Canadians from across the political spectrum, including many who were formerly apathetic citizens, in a common political cause: To stand up for democracy, and demand political accountability.
More than 150,000 Canadians have joined the “Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament” Facebook group, where they are leaving messages to the Prime Minister and voicing objections to his decision to prorogue parliament. Members of the group are sharing information, ideas, opinions, and videos, all the while learning more about prorogation itself and why in Harper’s case, the decision was not justified.
The massive backlash against Harper must have hit a nerve with the Tory faithful, as the conservative echo chamber quickly took to the airwaves, issuing PMO approved talking points and struggling to defend Harper’s ill-conceived decision to shut down Parliament. Time and again, Conservatives talkers offer up random excuses and possible explanations for Harper’s decision to prorogue, yet every time they are countered by facts which demonstrate the folly of their arguments.
For instance, no government has ever found the need to shut its doors simply because the Country was hosting the Olympic games. Past Canadian governments certainly didn’t see the need to prorogue during the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, or during the 1988 Winter games in Calgary.
As for needing extra time off to ‘recalibrate’ before the upcoming budget announcement, why didn’t Harper’s government see fit to prorogue during its recent pre-budget consultations?
Harper has himself brushed aside the outcry from Canadians, arguing prorogation is a “routine constitutional matter”, citing lengths of past parliamentary sessions which have no relevance to current sessions of parliament. Meanwhile, others speak of past governments which had also sought prorogation, attempting in error to compare previous situations to Harper’s current political maneuvering.
One key difference is that during prior prorogations, the majority of the governments business had already been completed. Harper’s prorogation, on the other hand, kills 37 government bills, 11 of which are Justice bills dealing with the Conservative’s much talked about “tough on crime” agenda. (But fear not, the long gun registry was somehow granted immunity from prorogation, and will survive.)
A front page Globe and Mail editorial puts Harper’s prorogation into context:
“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 maneuver 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.”
Of course when all else fails, one can always blame the media. How innovative. Some Conservative columnists (who also happen to be members of the ‘Blogging Tories’) are attacking publications and news organizations who dared challenge Harper’s decision, and Conservative bloggers are even resorting to accusations that the Liberal Party or the CBC are behind the grassroots Facebook revolt. By spreading misinformation and unsubstantiated accusations, the Conservatives and their supporters demonstrate just how concerned they are over the matter.
But I suppose because constitutional experts, political commentators, legal scholars, and even some influential Right Wing publications have used facts to denounce Harper’s prorogation, Conservatives must now rely on debunked claims to deflect criticism.
For this minority government, that flat out denied the possibility of a recession during the previous election campaign, that inherited a $12 Billion dollar surplus from the previous Liberal Government and subsequently spent its way to a $56 Billion dollar deficit after vowing never to do so, that has tarnished Canada’s international reputation on issues we used to be seen as leaders on, to now claim they have the ‘confidence of the house’ and therefor hold the right to do as they please, without consequence, is downright insulting to the Canadian public.
Canadians can not prorogue their next credit card bill until the next paycheck arrives; they cannot prorogue existence until companies start hiring again; they can not prorogue the tax man until their pensions miraculously reappear. Rather, Canadian citizens are forced to accept life’s responsibilities, while the Prime Minister and his Government flee from the Afghan detainee inquiry where they’re faced with allegations of complicity in torture. (It should also be noted, that if Stephen Harper refuses to face these allegations and call a public inquiry, the International Criminal Court may do it for him.)
Indeed, Canadians have every right to be angry, and Stephen Harper’s attempt to delegitimize citizen’s frustrations only serves to solidify the will of the people who are speaking out, talking action, and attending the upcoming anti-prorogation rallies being held across Canada this Saturday, January 23.
As the Prime Minister hopes for complacency, Canadians are engaging, and preparing to send him a message: “Prime Minister Harper, you were elected to serve the people. Now get back to Ottawa and do your damn job.”