One of the talking points from the Liberal Party concerning prorogation is that the Prime Minister has given MPs a “vacation” as the Members are left in the riding without work to do in Ottawa.
Despite the fact that Ignatieff himself was literally on vacation when his office was lecturing the Tories on the concept of work during the Parliamentary pause, many observers either are ignorant or purposefully neglectful of the truth when it comes to the responsibilities of MPs.
I spoke with an MP yesterday — perceived to be on vacation by the Ottawa press gallery and Liberals — whose backlogged caseload includes a large number of Haitian adoptions.
The glorious life of an MP isn’t just limited to heckling other Members in the House of Commons. Funny that the decorum of Parliament is mourned when the House of Commons is in session while democracy is declared dead when Members are given more time to accomplish casework in their ridings or elsewhere.
Take Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis who is not “on vacation” despite the bleatings of his fellow members of caucus. Karygiannis is currently in India “not working” on the work surrounding the case of Parminder Singh Saini, a convicted terrorist who was deported from Canada. Karygiannis is also in India for other MP related matters. Here is the report from PunjabNewsline.
Canadian MP visits Guru Aasra trust in Punjab, defends deportation of Saini
Punjab Newsline Network
Thursday, 28 January 2010
MOHALI: Jim Karygiannis M.P of canada visited Guru Aasra trust here Thursday on an invitation by SAD Panch Pardhani. Members of different religious,political and human rights organization questioned M.P regarding deportation of Parminder singh Saini convicted for hijacking plane. Saini was depoted to India from Canada on Wednesday.
First Ignatieff condemns Conservatives of taking vacation from his high horse stabled in the barn of his villa in the south of France, and now his own Member is — by the Liberal definition — “on vacation” in India.
Page 1 (Drummondville Spokesman – May 27, 1930) has a bit of a parallel to today’s prorogation. The PM wanted to set a new direction with a new budget and new multinational economic unit. The Economic Action Plan of the 1930s?
Page 2 (Glasgow Herald – March 16, 1939) is a two inch column describing a potential prorogation of Parliament by the King himself.
Page 3 (Ottawa Citizen – June 30, 1938) describes a 200,000 strong group (and this before Facebook) to protest the government’s move to jail violators of a media blackout law on reporting election results! The article describes that ministers would not meet with delegates of the group due to a “rush to prorogue Parliament”.
Page 4 (Montreal Gazette – March 15, 1939) – Describes the King coming to Parliament to prorogue the session or give royal assent to bills if session business is not complete
Page 5 (Montreal Gazette – June 11, 1928) – Mackenzie King – “We have concluded all the business of the session, so far as the Government is concerned”. I have not been able to find reference to the Toronto papers called King a tyrant or a despot.
Page 6 (St. John Sun – July 13, 1906) – Description of prorogation and reintroduction of House business when parliament resumes.
Page 7 (Toronto World – May 17, 1916) – Controversy as GG not present for prorogation proceedings. Prorogation to be completed by Chief Justice instead (who was deputy GG)
Page 8 (St. John Sun – April 5, 1902) – Description of prorogation despite 28 bills on order paper in a provincial parliament.
Page 9 (Ottawa Citizen – May 19, 1916) – Prorogation unusually quiet and with lack of ceremony. Did the PM request prorogation via telegraph?
Page 10 (Ottawa Citizen – Mar 13, 1911) – A member of parliament suggests that Parliament prorogue due to Typhoid epidemic sweeping through Ottawa.
Page 11 (Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand) – June 13, 1914) – Prorogation and Senate politics. A delay in prorogation causes a deadlock in the Senate with Senators refusing to pass a bill increasing the number of Senators in the Upper Chamber.
Page 12 (Montreal Gazette – May 18, 1909) – A rush to prorogation
Page 13 (Montreal Gazette – September 9, 1911) – The government insisted it prorogued because it could not get money bills through while the opposition accused it of blocking an inquiry into a slush fund.
Page 14 (New Zealand Evening Post – January 8, 1903) – Obituary of Canadian journalist who numerous parliaments that had “assembled and prorogued”
Page 15 (Ottawa Citizen – October 28, 1985) – Broadbent dismisses PM Mulroney’s valid option of resetting Parliament due to “disasterous” session to come back with new Throne Speech
Page 16 (Ottawa Citizen – November 26, 1983) – description of business prior to potential prorogation by PM Mulroney.
Page 17 (CBC – November 13, 2003) – Report of prorogation of Parliament by Chretien to allow Martin to assemble new cabinet.
There are numerous other stories regarding prorogation. According to a deep news search going back before the turn of the 20th century, today’s particular instance of Prime Minister-recommended prorogation has produced the most news stories in Canadian history.
For perspective, Google News shows that 1,561 articles have been written by the Canadian media in the last month regarding prorogation (as of the time of this blog post).
Comparatively, 1,351 articles have been written about H1N1 over the same time period by the Canadian media.
If we search for Google News stories concerning “prorogation” OR “prorogue” AND “Facebook” we learn that the Canadian media has written 424 stories, while the Facebook group protesting prorogation has 208,744 members. This amounts to 492 new members to the Facebook group for every MSM article referencing the group over the past few weeks. This number does not include television, magazine and radio coverage of the Facebook group. And to think, it all started with a “fury” of 20,000 when the group was in the budding stages of becoming an MSM darling.
An historical perspective shows that prorogation is quite a common parliamentary procedure in the country and most prorogations have passed without too much ink spilled on the pages of Canada’s historic newspapers.
So why the media fixation on prorogation? Canada’s news organizations are facing hard times and this news is evident to those who regularly buy newspapers — which, it seems, is not a lot of us. Budgets of Ottawa bureaus have been slashed with some offices closing completely. Prorogation may be a threat to those that report the news because of a sparser parliamentary calendar and a move by parent companies to prioritize resources elsewhere. An annual prorogation, as bandied about by the PM earlier, would not serve the Ottawa news business well.
Furthermore, the current vacuum of news content slices two ways; the frustration by many without content to fill columns and airtime and the news vacuum that now exists without anything else going on in Ottawa.