Contrary to what some of you may believe, proroguing parliament is not the “democratic travesty” that many are making it out to be.
Canada is supposedly stirring with “grassroots fury,” according to the Toronto Star. More than 100,000 people have now joined a Facebook group in opposition to Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament, united by their hatred of our prime minister.
And they really do seem to hate him. The group’s now defunct photos section was filled with wonderful images of Harper wearing a Nazi uniform and doing terrible things to a kitten with a kitchen knife.
The comments section rages with the passion of a people in revolt:
“Harper is Bush Junior!”
“What if society prorogued society?!?”
Oh, and my personal favourite: “A good old-fashioned public stoning of Harper may be in order.” Those are all real quotes, too – this group is a hoot.
By now I hope you can detect my disdain. I wouldn’t call the reaction to the prorogation a “grassroots fury:” this is more like a case of overblown rhetoric from people jumping on a political bandwagon. Facebook has made it easy to be a political “activist.”
This is not the end of the world. Prorogation is a regular and constitutional occurrence, offering the government an opportunity to “re-calibrate their agenda.”
In a CTV interview, Conservative strategist Tim Powers noted that Parliament has been prorogued more than 105 times in its history. The move was used four times by Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government. As can be seen, it is a common occurrence.
But why prorogue? Most importantly, prorogations need to happen in order to end the business of a particular Parliament along with its budget and legislative agenda. In turn, a new set of priorities is established along with a new budget to match those priorities.
In two months the Conservatives will likely table a budget that will continue stimulus spending, but will begin the necessary government cutbacks to restore fiscal stability.
We all know better than to trust political promises. Still, to any conservative, the idea of trimming the bloated and interventionist Canadian state is something to look forward to.
It’s also important to remember that prorogation doesn’t only affect the House of Commons – there is also the Senate.
The problem with this Senate is that it does not represent the current electoral makeup of the Commons. It is controlled by the Liberals – a party rejected by Canadians in the last election. The Liberal senators of this body have consistently blocked or altered Conservative legislation, particularly “tough on crime” bills that have been a cornerstone of this government. One example: Liberal senators voted down a requirement that marijuana growers with less than five plants serve a mandatory six months in prison.
Is it particularly democratic that an opposition party controls the appointed house of our Parliament? I don’t think so. That seems like more of a democratic “travesty” to me than the prorogation. This is one reason why proroguing is an excellent political move: the Tories can now fill the five vacant Senate seats they need to secure a larger caucus than the Liberals, and thus regain control of their legislation.
Even better, these five new senators promise to be amicable to Senate reform. Senate reform has been a goal of this government since it came into power, and because of the Liberal Senate it has never gotten anywhere. The irony here is that the same liberals now screaming about the “dictatorial” proroguing of Parliament made an elected Senate near impossible. Senate reform has been an important value of Harper’s conservative base, and to me, stands as the next great challenge for our democracy.
So all you opponents of proroguing out there: please relax. Really. If the opposition parties are that outraged about the whole business, they can make a vote of non-confidence when they return. This isn’t suddenly a dictatorship. And remember, at the end of the day, it’s only two months.