The case for prorogation

Buzz about Ottawa these past two weeks (there’s really nothing else going on here) is talk about the Prime Minister asking the Governor General for a prorogation of this session of Parliament to recall MPs to the legislature in March of next year.

Opponents on the opposition benches and in the media have been cynical of such a move citing that Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament just last year and that like last year a prorogation would be a dodge rather than for anything substantive.

Indeed, the Prime Minister asked the Governor general for a suspension of Parliament last year after the coalition government attempt to replace a freshly elected Prime Minister and his cabinet just six weeks after an election, ahem, for no substantive reason beyond cynical bickering that the governing Conservatives were moving to remove public financing (read: party welfare) from all parties. The loudest opponents to this move were the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, two parties that find that collecting tax monies is an easier option that appealing directly to their respective bases for funding.

And this year, what substantive reason exists for a reset of Parliament? The opposition will argue that because an Afghan detainee transfer was hit with a shoe by a Afghan prison guard and that problems may have existed with our trust of transfer of Afghan nationals to the sovereign national Afghan authorities was at times tested, the Prime Minister is again running away from his problems. They will say that prorogation is political despite the Conservative lead in the polls and despite the fact that this detainee issue isn’t doing too much of anything to affect the Prime Minister’s standing in the polls.

However, let’s step back and go outside of the Ottawa bubble wherein the last two weeks of reporting of any period contains the most important news stories ever told. In 50 years, when they look back at the prorogation of 2010, how will they recount this event (if at all)?

For the first time in twenty years, Conservatives will have a plurality in the Senate of Canada. Our parliament is a bicameral body consisting of a lower and upper house. While its activities may not be conducive to the lust of the cut and thrust of politics for the average Ottawa watcher — and who called whom “fat” on Twitter in committee this week — the Senate is constitutionally important to the parliament of Canada. When a new plurality exists in the lower House, the Governor General asks the party leader that can lead a stable government to form a cabinet. When a new plurality exists within the Senate, the government’s opponents accuse the Prime Minister of politics when the Prime Minister asks the Governor General for a chance to reset parliament so that its committees and functions may represent the new reality.

The case for prorogation is constitutional.The case against it is political.

Comments

comments

  • Gayle

    Oh my goodness. make stuff up much?

    The liberal government drafted an agreement that had safeguards in place which were intended to protect prisoners when they were turned over. That agreement was signed in the final weeks of the election in 2005. Harper won that election, and thus it was his responsibility to ensure the agreement worked the way it was supposed to.

    He got information very early on in his tenure that the agreement was NOT working – and then he did nothing – and now he is lying to Canadians about that.

    The media did not have to give the liberals a pass – no one was tortured under their tenure and the agreement was not known to have been inadequate until Harper was in power. He is the guy who has been hiding stuff.

    And Colvin did not come out of “nowhere”. He was summonsed to the committee and he gave honest testimony. You are aware that he is compelled to tell the truth to the committee? He is not like MacKay – he does not have to lie to save Harper's bacon.

    Look, I get you nconservative types do not think Harper has to be accountable for his own conduct, but those paranoid conspiracy theories just make you look pathetic.

    The facts, those pesky facts…

  • Gayle

    Harper has already proven himself to be a liar. Pardon me if I do not accept his categorization of these “independent” lawyers.

    Besides, some of those unredacted documents have already been released through other means and it is obvious the comments that were redacted are all those that contain evidence the government was told about torture allegations.

    Those pesky facts again.

  • m123T

    I am not relying on other bloggers, just his own words in an interview on an American political show, done years ago, during the Bush years. It is still out there somewhere, find it. I believe that clip was also used by the conservatives, at one point in time. I think it was on a PPS show.

  • m123T

    Google, independant government lawyers and you will be amazed at what you find. Did you know all this stuff started in Feb 2007, and eventually ended up with a committee in the HofC. Did you know that independant lawyers are working for Colvin, the Committee and the Government. Did you know that the committee has refused to allow certain applications, evidence, documentation to be presented to it.
    Could it be that the stuff they refuse to accept, or the witnesses they refuse to hear would lead right back to JC.
    The detainee so called torture happened in the spring of 2006.
    Do you really think that PMSH knew about everything going on within hours of his election.
    Regardless, the liberal plan was full of problems and PMSH had to correct it.
    I bet most canadians have never heard of the problem and could care less. Especially after the cowards killed 5 of our people a few days ago.
    The opposition and brainwashing media will try to spin this during an election campaign, but it will not defeat PMSH. Might actually get him a few seats, just to stop the gotcha games of the libs/ndp.
    Oh, as a aside, has Bennett any ideas on what to do with all that excess vaccine she ranted about there not being enough. And how many children have starved in Quebec due to EI not being paid fast enough.

  • m123T

    So now you think you can read thru blacked out documents and know what they say.

  • m123T

    ON WHEN TORTURE ISN'T EVIL
    “…in a situation of extreme necessity, the possibility, even a slight possibility, that it [torture] may reveal some life saving result would almost certainly overwhelm any consideration that it is evil.” – Michael Ignatieff, The Gifford Lectures, University of Edinburgh, January 2003

  • m123T

    Gayle, google The Humanist.org.uk Sept issue, 2005.
    Seems iffy so outraged the editors with his stmts etc he had to RESIGN from the editorial board.
    I must thank all you iffy supporters, it has led me to many facts I did not know, and will not help him in an election..l Especially his support of the Iraq war, and terror if necessary.
    That humanist article is quit long, hope you can get thru it.

  • Gayle

    Yawn. Let me know when you read the text, and the comments in context, and get back to me.

  • Gayle

    Sigh…

    Even by your own dates, nothing happened before January 2006, when Harper became the Prime Minister.

    What is it about that you have such a hard time understanding?

  • roughandtumble

    We voted for a neophyte in 2006 and look at the mess we are in. At least the liberals are aparty of ideas unlike the tories who simply go from pillar to post trying to hide their real intentions and offering fluff as a front line cover up.

  • roughandtumble

    Another deeply thought out Tory type answer……..seeing ghosts.

  • Jan

    Sarah,
    Don't worry about the committee work. There will be a vote in the House as soon as Parliament resumes to continue the HOC AND SENATE business prior to prorogation. If a majority of MPs vote to do that (and I can't imagine why they wouldn't), matters just resume. So all this bluster about work and time wasted is NOT true.
    What prorogation does, (and ONLY prorogation allows this) is allow the Upper House (SENATE) to be restructured to better reflect and represent who the people of Canada elected by region. This REALLY worries the Liberals. By Harper adding 5 Senators to replace the 5 retiring, (and they may or may not be Conservative), the Liberals will lose much of their current control. The UNELECTED SENATE (except for Sen. Brown from ALTA.) will no longer control committees and have the ability to stall and change legislatiion passed by ELECTED MP's. Harper will then be able to start the process of Senate reform (i.e. max. 8-10 year terms, NOT until age 75 appointments). He would much prefer to appoint Senators ELECTED by each province, but so far only Alberta will agree to elections for Senators, so he is left with no other option currently than to appoint them.
    BTW, welcome to this blog–it is refreshing to see a fellow Canadian want to become more involved in the process of sharing their opinion! Good for you!

  • jm66

    But that is what I would like to know Gayle. If the Liberal Gov't knew about the torture, why would they ever sign an agreement that was so inadequate? On one hand you are saying that they put in all the safeguards that were needed. On the other hand you are saying it was just weeks of the signing to show the problems.

  • Gayle

    I never said they put in all the safeguards that were needed. Clearly they did not.

    However they did make the attempt, and in doing so acknowledged safeguards were needed.

    Maybe Harper could learn something from that.

  • jm66

    I believe there were a few that were transferred to the Afghan forces after the new agreement was signed, and before the CPC actually took control of the gov't. Somewhere around 16 or 17.

  • Jan

    Gayle,
    Your feigned outrage at the 12 days that MP’s won’t be sitting in the HOC made me laugh out loud!
    Here’s a question for you. Of the 4 main parties in the HOC, which one has the WORST record for attendance and for missed votes? Here’s a hint, it starts with L–ber–l. Check the Parliamentary website.
    So I wouldn’t be too concerned about what the CPC MPs are doing. History shows the Liberal MPs have become quite adept at as you put it “wasting our time and money.”

  • jm66

    Your right Gayle, you said they took “care” to put the safeguards in place. So can you tell me how much “care” they took?

  • east of eden

    Stephen: have you broken your record for the most comments with this blog?

  • east of eden

    Well, Parnel/Terry1 returns.

  • east of eden

    Just for old times sake: LizJ hysterical. Remember the good old days, Liz? LOL. It's funny how Parnel loves to diss us for our alleged lies but he is the one who disguises himself time and again – sounds like a big lie, to me. But then again, hypocrisy runs deeply in the LPC.

  • kenn2

    From batb's excellent suggestion, I did track down and watch PM Harper's year-end interview with Lloyd Robertson. It's a good watch. the link is http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTV

    Part 3 contains the reference to the “lawyers” and releasing documents. And yeah, as I suspected, he's totally hiding behind the legal technicalities of document release. Of course there are laws around privacy and official secrets. But there are also laws and legal precedents about how/when to redact and about who is, or can be authorized to view secret documents (hint – MPs, committees).

    The sad thing is that I think we all agree that the detainee thing has since been fixed, and that our troops have been blameless throughout, and that the detainee problems that happened before the fix are, frankly, minor. So there would have been very little blowback from a quick, factual acknowledgment of the problems Colvin has reported. I certainly wouldn't have counted such against his government. But instead, they started by smearing Colvin, by denying things that later proved to be true, and now proroguing.

    I will say that the Prime Minister has grown in the job. In the interview I found him to be intelligent and articulate, and I do have more confidence in him now regarding most financial issues.

    He's almost as smooth and persuasive as Mulroney… or a Liberal!

    * lights bag, rings doorbell, and runs away, giggling*

  • batb

    kenn2, I'm very glad that you watched that year-end interview and that you can see that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has both grown in the job and is intelligent and articulate.

    I suspect that there are a whole lot of reasons why the CPC has been treating Richard Colvin and his allegations the way they have — and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, which you aren't; 'your right (not you're right!!!) — as I can't understand what possible constructive reason Mr. Colvin could have had for bringing up his accusations when he did.

    The PM and the CPC are sick and tired — as am I and a whole raft of Canadians who just want the government to help us all through this very tough time — of being hit with faux-scandals, which this one certainly counts as. Even you admit “… that the detainee thing [caused by the Liberals] has since been fixed [by the CPC, BTW], and that our troops have been blameless throughout, and that the detainee problems that happened before the fix are, frankly, minor.”

    If this is the case, that the detainee problems are minor, then why did Mr. Colvin bring them up at all? It's been pretty clear since the beginning, that there has been a political motivation behind it; it's been pretty clear that it was thrown into the mix to embarrass and discredit the CPC government and our Prime Minister and, as such, PMSH has been perfectly justified in pushing it aside because it's unworthy of his consideration.

    If it weren't for the media's obsessive interest in this issue, it would have lost momentum the day after Mr. Colvin made his accusations.

    I'm also getting heartily tired of the disrespect shown our Prime Minister and his government — and, by extension, the Canadian electorate — by the Opposition parties and the media, for the simple reason that they just don't like PMSH and Conservatives. It's one thing to legitimately criticize the sitting government for obvious failings or missteps but it's counterproductive and contemptuous to hound the government with souped-up “scandals.” The Liberal$ and their shills in the media have overplayed their hand in this regard, one too many times — and the Colvin accusations fit right into this obnoxious pattern.

  • kenn2

    Rule #1 – never give any politicians the benefit of the doubt. Ever. Demand accountability. No-one gets a free ride. The right-wing chipped away incessantly during the Liberal reign (and you guys have never stopped), you must expect the same back.

    Not alot of mud will stick to Colvin. He's a well-regarded career diplomat, and he tried to raise his issues from within and met with resistance, so he's going outside. Are the Liberals trying to make political hay of the allegations? Of course they are. It's their job!

    Anyway, I learned something in the last few days. I've learned, to my cynical delight, that Harper is being assimilated by the Ottawa borg. He's acquiring ease and skills, he's learning the buttons to push and the levers to pull, and rather than hiding from the press, he's learning to face them confidently, with that same low purr that reassures while telling the public nothing.

    In short, he's now a seasoned Canadian PM, and like all other successful PMs he's going to stay somewhere in the middle, no hard right turn, sorry. He can spend into deficit like a Liberal when it's necessary (… stimulus). Along the way he is going to shed election promises like scales, like they all do. An elected Senate this term is now toast, and improved accountability and transparency is all but gone. He'd rather prorogue.

    Like most PMs he will probably lose power when he gets overconfident and ignores some small thing (like the Colvin allegations) and the opposition can turn it into a cover-up.

    I'm still betting on MacKay taking the fall for this.

  • m123T

    Why should he take the fall. More likely Colvin will finish his term. Any promises made to him for some exotic posting when back in power, or a Senate seat will have vanished. Like iggy he believed a lot of bs from backroom boys.

  • kenn2

    Here's why:

    http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/MacKay+tang

    Nice hardworking guy, but with a truth issue.

  • m123T

    What do you know about Orchard and his policies? He has tried numerous partys and ridings to get elected but can't fool the voters.

  • Gayle

    I could not agree more.

  • Gayle

    “I suspect that there are a whole lot of reasons why the CPC has been treating Richard Colvin and his allegations the way they have — and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, which you aren't; 'your right (not you're right!!!) — as I can't understand what possible constructive reason Mr. Colvin could have had for bringing up his accusations when he did.”

    Actually, he brought them up in 2006. The reason they came out to everyone else now is because a) the Harper government ignored his warnings and then lied about them, and b) Colvin was subpoenaed to testify at the committee, where he was under a legal obligation to answer questions truthfully.

    I know it is hard for you to get your head around the fact someone can be truthful and criticize the Harper government at the same time, but it is in fact possible.

    You are such a victim. You have no sense of perspective. You have to lie and twist things around so they fit into your little cult of victimhood and paranoid conspiracy theories.

  • Gayle

    How many times can I agree the first agreement was inadequate before you believe me?

  • Gayle

    Ok then. So now all you have to do is find the evidence that the LPC government was told these prisoners were at risk for torture, notwithstanding the provisions of the agreement, and you might have a point.

  • batb

    Gayle: “You are such a victim. You have no sense of perspective. You have to lie and twist things around so they fit into your little cult of victimhood and paranoid conspiracy theories.”

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

  • Gayle

    Wow. That response was more intelligent than I expected.

  • east of eden

    That was actually me, East of Eden. Parnel would have actually put it in. Oh shoot – there I go with a Freudian slip.

  • Patsplace

    Further to our discussion regarding the opposition discussing war crimes charges, these are direct quotes from the Toronto Star: Accusations of war crimes risky for Liberals

    Earlier this month, Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal defence critic, described a lone diplomat's allegations as “the fact that this government ignored the warnings of torture, sent prisoners to Afghan jails at the risk of torture, which is a war crime, which is an absolute war crime.”

    Other Liberals have gone even further. On CTV, Liberal spin doctor Warren Kinsella compared what Canadians are doing in Afghanistan to what Americans did in Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi jail where prisoners were tortured by rogue U.S. troops. Despite the interviewer's statement that there was no comparison with Abu Ghraib, Kinsella repeatedly insisted “we don't know that.” Not even Richard Colvin, the diplomat at the centre of the storm, has alleged that Canadian Forces committed any torture.

    Not that this is a new revelation, but they ARE nasty beasts.

  • Patsplace

    This is a double post but posting it as a reply to me would not arrive at your attention.
    Regards,
    Pat

    Further to our discussion regarding the opposition discussing war crimes charges, these are direct quotes from the Toronto Star: Accusations of war crimes risky for Liberals

    Earlier this month, Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal defence critic, described a lone diplomat's allegations as “the fact that this government ignored the warnings of torture, sent prisoners to Afghan jails at the risk of torture, which is a war crime, which is an absolute war crime.”

    Other Liberals have gone even further. On CTV, Liberal spin doctor Warren Kinsella compared what Canadians are doing in Afghanistan to what Americans did in Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi jail where prisoners were tortured by rogue U.S. troops. Despite the interviewer's statement that there was no comparison with Abu Ghraib, Kinsella repeatedly insisted “we don't know that.” Not even Richard Colvin, the diplomat at the centre of the storm, has alleged that Canadian Forces committed any torture.

    Not that this is a new revelation, but they ARE nasty beasts.

  • kenn2

    I haven't yet read the quote from Kinsella. If that's what he said, then yes he's wrong (and nasty), even if he was just trying for hyperbole.

    From your quote pulled from the Star:

    “Earlier this month, Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal defence critic, described a lone diplomat's allegations as “the fact that this government ignored the warnings of torture, sent prisoners to Afghan jails at the risk of torture, which is a war crime, which is an absolute war crime.” “

    Well… IF a government knows that there was a credible risk that detainees were likely to be tortured by Afghan authorities, but allowed to happen anyway, then yes, it is technically a war crime, under international law. Do you dispute this?

    The thing is, Harper and MacKay could have headed this off at the pass a month or more ago by simply stating the facts and showing how they tightened up the procedures. Instead they first tried to smear Colvin, then MacKay was caught in some lies in the house. And now a further evasion via proroguement (is that a word?).

    Because Harper and MacKay have created a vacuum around the allegations and have now been caught in a lie or two, it leaves them wide open for speculation about what they may be hiding. The speculation will likely continue even past the Olympics and they're going to have to face up to it in some way after Parliament resumes.

    I expect at that time there will be some sort of very-well-prepared statement which finally sheds some light on the substance of the Colvin allegations, but clearly shows how the proces has since been buttoned up. there will also be a cabinet shuffle which sees MacKay reasigned to Minister for Cafeteria Cutlery or similar, cos he needs to do penance for his “truthiness” issues.

  • Patsplace

    For any Canadian politician to suggest that Canadian troops are involved in war crimes when said troops are engaged in combat is bordering on sedition. To pinpoint the “subjected to ridicule” or “harshly spoken to” types of behaviour which might in some circles be classified as torture, as reason to claim War Crimes charges against Canadian Troops and by extension, Canada's Government, is reprehensible, to be polite.

    One seconds pause in a combat situation or prisoner handling situation could result in death or multiple deaths. Giving Canadians cause for introspection during a time of war is deserving of Great Harshness, for lack of better words.

    To encourage the enemy that their laid out manual for “what to do when captured” is working well, is just that, aid to the enemy in a time of war. Sedition! Should Dosangh be charged with Sedition during a time of war. I think the punishment is death by firing squad. Not that I really have a strong opinion about this matter. For some it is a “Gotcha” game and for me it is not.

  • kenn2

    Why can't anyone read english around here? No-one has EVER said that Canadian troops have committed war crimes. Not Dosanjh, not Ignatieff (Kinsella has raised a big fat question mark, if the provided quote is true, but didn't actually say the words. He's mainly pointing out that in the absence of facts, anything is possible). This is about the Harper government, and what is alleged to have happened with their knowledge.

    Harper and MacKay have ducked behind this cowardly distortion about the troops, by implying that any allegation against them (the government) is in some way an attack on our troops. And I completely agree with you that Harper & MacKay are , well, not seditious, but certainly less than brave by taking this approach.

    To repeat, only the CPC has drawn the troops into this, as part of their smokescreen. Big-time cowards.

    Did you check out Esprit de Corps? http://www.espritdecorps.ca/ Find out for yourself what the troops think about all this.

  • Patsplace

    I won't be offensive with the BS that you are running about how this is
    targeted at the Government and not the man that hands him over, his
    superiors and the Army he belongs to. With all due respect, go run that BS
    on someone that believes the Liberal talking points. You were doing fine
    until this point.

    Have yourself a nice day, said he civilly and thereby ending the
    conversation.

    2010/1/4 Disqus <>

  • kenn2

    Remember Hansard? It's in there. Go read who first draws the troops into this, by pretending that the allegations were made against the troops (hint MacKay) . Find out for yourself who's lied in the HofC.

    The detainee issue is about whether this government ignored the warnings of torture. Sunlight is the best disinfectant; Harper & MacKay cower in the shadows.

    I don't read talking points, I try to research and to think for myself. Not something that happens here alot, it seems.

    I guess we're done.

  • kenn2

    A certain S. Harper of 24 Sussex Dr has acknowledged the validity of global warming:

    http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTV
    (second segment, about 7:08 – quote: “Global warming is real” )

    Do you think he likes cherry, or is he a grape man?

  • m123T

    He does not believe it to the extent he is willing to ruin the economy or the country over it.
    I will wait till he gets his majority to see what he really thinks. He will never give the koolaid to Canadians. Iffy-questionable.

  • Omanator

    I don't know why you get so riled up about this. In truth this is merely an extension of the Christmas Season for Parliament by what, week, then days? The truth is that the public is getting fed up with the Theater of the Liberals particular Bob Ray and Usual Dosanght( forgive my mispselling) about our forces in Afghanistan. Really who cares what the Afghans do with their prisoners, I for one don't. And please spare me this nonsense of the Geneva convention. When Eisenhower starved thousand of POW's in the Rhineland to death with the excuse of DEF, Nobody said boo.

  • Omanator

    Hollin, you are so dead on. The Buffon from the Eastcoast was enough to make me ill. I can't wait to see the Senate reformed. I am sure I am not the only one who thinks so. The Senate in its present form, unelected etc. is a dictatorship, who only thinks about party politics, not the will of the People.

  • Omanator

    Well said Batb. I would even suggest that the Block should be declared unconstitutional because it is not a Federal Party since it is only in Quebec.

  • Omanator

    Roughandtumble. What country are you living in? Not in Canada. Oh,well maybe you would like to Liberanos to run the country, in particular since they have been highjacked by the failed NDPers.

  • Omanator

    Hollin, You are right. I have been in Ontario recently and watched the Repatriation of our Dead Soldier, you know that the Public at large could not give a hoot, about the detainee issue. Just talk to ordinary people like I have.

  • kenn2

    In case anyone's still interested, EKOS and other polling released Jan 7 indicates a general disapproval ( by about 2 to 1) towards the snap prorogue.

    Summary: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/bureau-blo

    According to the above article, citing Angus-Reid data: “Thirty-five per cent of respondents who voted Conservative in the last election said they disagree with the decision to suspend Parliament.”

    The will of the people…

  • dbrucew

    Do conservatives really hold more ridings ?

  • m123T

    Your joking right. But, fyi, yes they do or Stephen Harper would not be Prime Minister.