Considering the Governor General's Decision to Prorogue Parliament
Like many Canadians, I was glued to the television to see what the governor general would decide in response to Stephen Harper's request to prorogue Parliament. I have a lot of sympathy for the governor-general: the Prime Minister put in her a very difficult position with this request. I'd also like to give credit to the opposition leaders. Rather than attacking the governor general and needlesly politicizing her decision, they pointed the finger at Stephen Harper. That's where the blame belongs, if there is any.
As a result, I'm hesitant to criticize Michaelle Jean's decision. I expected she would do this, but I worry about the precedent it sets for minority governments to avoid impending doom in the House of Commons. There are probably plenty of jubilant Conservatives right now, but think back to 2005 when Paul Martin faced a motion of non-confidence. What if he had simply prorogued the House? Every situation is different, obviously, but we've now just opened a new escape hatch for minority governments in the future.
On the positive side, the decision accomplishes a couple of things besides giving the Conservatives a bit more time to try to save themselves. First, it retains the GG's credibility. If she granted Harper this one, he can't complain if she decides after the House demonstrates its lack of confidence in the government (presumably in January) not to grant his request for an election and instead invites Mr. Dion to form a government. Second, it provides a test for the coalition. The Conservatives hope that the coalition will splinter either because of internal dissent, especially over Mr. Dion's leadership, or because of public pressure against. If the coalition can't maintain its cohesion over the next seven weeks, how will it do so when actually in government?
It was a historic day and I'm sure Michaelle Jean's decision will be debated for years to come.