5. Prorgation - Abuse of Power?
ISSUE #1: Prorogation and the role of the
Progressive Coalition Rally
Pro Canada Rally
Mr. Meunier, St. Albert High
Prorogation: Power of the
Should Canada adopt more specific rules
about when a the House of Commons
may be prorogued?
Controversy: Prorogue Parliament
Prime Minister Harper
Prorogation of Parliament ends a session parliament when the
agenda has been completed.
Often there is an election. However sometimes prorogation is
an opportunity for the governing party to refocus and
announce a new agenda.
At prorogation all proposed legislation not passed dies.
Parliament will be recalled after prorogation. A new session of
Parliament will begin with a new “Speech from the Throne.”
In 2008 there was an election in mid October and the
Conservatives won a minority government. Finance minister
Jim Flaherty tabled a fiscal update that some believed was
meant to provoke the opposition. It contained measures
• Removed the right to strike form the civil service until
• Contained no stimulus package despite the financial
crisis caused by the housing bubble in the USA
• Would remove the per vote subsidy paid to political
parties which would have been a serious blow to the
finances of the Liberals.
In response to these measures the opposition planned to
introduce a measure of non-confidence that would defeat the
• The Liberals and NDP planned to form a coalition
with the support of the Bloc Quebecois. They put
their agreement in writing and were planning to
send the agreement to Governor General
• In order to avoid this vote PM Harper asked and
got a Prorogation of Parliament from then GG Jean
Jack Layton (NDP) Stephane Dion
(Lib) and Gilles Duceppe (BQ)
2008 Pro-Coalition Rally
Role of the Governor General
Governor General Michaelle Jean had to decide whether or not to Prorogue
parliament as the Prime Minister requested.
Some people argue that the Harper gov’t was simply trying to avoid a vote of
non confidence and the GG should refuse to Prorogue parliament. They argue
that the session was only a few weeks old after an October 14 election. They
further argue that the prime minister’s authority is premised on the belief that he
has the confidence of the house. Three party leaders had publicly stated they
did not have confidence in the government. The GG they say should refuse.
There have been instances in the past similar to this one where the GG refused
to go along with the Prime Minister.
The Conservatives and their supporters engaged in a vigorous response. They
called the idea of a coalition illegitimate. The Liberals only had 25% of the vote
and would have to make a deal with separatists. They called the opposition
move an attempted coup. A tape surfaced where Jack Layton stated the ground
work for the BQ support was laid a long time ago, suggesting a long term plan.
What should Michaelle Jean do?
• The Governor General had three
• Prorogue Parliament
• Insist that Parliament continue to meet and if
the government fell invite the opposition leader
to try and form a government.
• If the government fell she could order a new
• What would you do?
Protestors Against Prorogation
• December 2009 PM
Harper was facing
allegations that the
governent knew that our
forces handed over
prisoners of war in
Afghanistan to the the
Afghan army knowing that
these prisoners would
likely be tortured. He had
tried to delay or stop
public hearings on this
Harper again asked then
GG Michaelle Jean to
which she did.
Opposition charged that this was a cynical and
draconian abuse of power in an attempt to
prevent the opposition from holding the
government to account. People across Canada
Prorogation and Abuse of Power?
• (Oct 15, 2012) Premier of Ontario
Dalton McGuinty Resigned as leader
of the the Ontario Liberal Party and as
Premier. And he prorogued
• McGuinty has been widely criticized
for this act because he is facing
contempt charges in the provincial
legislature over the closing to two gas
plants. McGuinty is accused of
knowingly hiding the true cost, which
is much higher than the stated cost.
By proroguing the legislature all
legislative inquiries have ground to a
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Is Canadian Democracy at Risk?
Should the rules about prorogation be reformed?
Legally the constitution was not violated in any of these cases. This has
caused many to suggest a constitutional amendment to introduce specific
rules about prorogation.
Others have argued that you cannot interfere with Royal prerogative. They
also point out that the voters have an opportunity to punish leaders who
abuse their power in a very short time when Parliament resumes or at the
THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF AN INFORMED PUBLIC
Many long time political observers are concerned about the erosion of
democratic process in Canada. They fear that the failure of voters to
punish political parties for perceived abuse of power means that it will
become institutionalized. Some have linked McGuinty’s use of
prorogation to Harper’s experience. Is this the “New Normal” in Canadian
Friday (Oct 19, 2012) Andrew Coyne (Editor of
Maclean’s magazine) wrote the following in the
“Suppose, for the sake of argument, Canada were a
democracy. Imagine, as a thought experiment, that
anyone gave a damn. What would be the warning signs
that we were losing it? At what point would we decide
we had crossed the line? Here’s a thought:
Suppose a provincial premier, threatened with a
contempt vote for withholding documents from the
legislature, were to respond by shutting the place down
indefinitely. And suppose, that same week, the federal
government were to pack a pile of wholly unrelated
legislation into a single bill, and demand Parliament
pass the lot. Now suppose I told you these were not
isolated or unusual events, but increasingly the norm.
That is perhaps what is most disturbing about
the past week: how routine it has all become,
how little outrage it arouses.”