(What's so Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? Reconciliation and Prorogation

By Harold Jansen on Dec 4, 2008

The more I think about the prorogation decision, the less comfortable I am with it. Essentially, it can gut the central principle of Canada's system of responsible government: that the government must have the support of a majority of the members of the House of Commons. The Conservatives are pointing out that they passed the last confidence vote, which was on the Throne Speech as justification for this, but that's pretty flimsy. They lost the confidence of the House and they know it. Only messing around with the scheduling in Parliament saved them.

But it's done. So now what? Here's what I hope will happen and what I think the country needs. Everyone needs to take a step back, take some deep breaths, and maybe add a little extra rum to the egg nog this Christmas. And somehow the parties have to develop a level of basic respect for each other and their roles in the House of Commons. When I teach my students about Parliament, I always stress that the essentially adversarial relationship in the House needs to be tempered with a level of cooperation and respect or Parliament doesn't work. That's true even during a majority government and doubly true during a minority government. Somehow the parties have to develop that again and I hope they use those seven weeks to do it.

Do I think it will happen? Probably not. There seems to be a level of personal animosity between the leaders that I do not recall ever seeing. Both sides bear some responsibility for this, but I have to say that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives bear a significant chunk of the blame. It was a petty and bitter partisan move to try to strip the annual subisdy away from the parties to begin with. It was reckless to play to the baser instincts of Canadians outside of Quebec by demonizing the Bloc Quebecois, which has actually softened its sovereigntist tone over the years. It was disgusting to see the blatant misrepresentation of Canada's constitutional principles by the government. In Harper's speeches last night and this morning, he didn't display much in the way of contrition or reaching out to the other parties other than vague references to "trust building." Many people have been calling for Harper's resignation over this whole incident and I seriously question whether Parliament will be able to work the way it should until both Harper and Dion are replaced as leaders.

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Black Day in Canada

This week we witnessed a complete breakdown in Canadian leadership with both our elected prime minister and our governor general failing to act in the best interest of Canadian citizens. In the midst of our worst economic crisis in several generations - they jointly provide themselves with a 7 week holiday/respite so that neither of them needs to make a real decision or act quickly to support Canadians in the most demanding hours of the decade. This is a time for brave and firm actions to help all Canadians - not a time to cut and run.

Our confidence in Mr. Harper to make the right decision has been shaken to the core. Our confidence in the governor general has completely evaporated.

Mr. Harper - do the right thing here. Come back to Parliament and work with the opposition in the best interest of all Canadians - not just political best interests. If you can not lead, then let the coalition have at it. We need a government today.

Governor General - please admit to yourself what the rest of the country has come to realize today, that you are not up to the job, and step down.

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