Proroguing Parliament: Is it really necessary?


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author and not necessarily of SFU Volunteer Services.

On December 30th, for the second time in just under two years, Stephen Harper announced that he is proroguing Parliament until March 3.  If you’re not sure what this means, this quote from a CityTV article might make it clearer:

Proroguing Parliament is a lot like rebooting your computer after you’ve finished working… It means all the MPs who were elected…will remain in place, but any unpassed bills or motions… will be non-existent.

Sounds like a routine Parliament procedure? In a way, it is: Jean Chrétien has used it, and so has Sir John A. Macdonald. According to an EKOS poll, though, there is little support for Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament.

Personally, I don’t support proroguing parliament either. Here are some reasons why:
• While Harper is citing the economy and the upcoming Vancouver Olympics as reasons for suspending the Parliament, his justification for this tactic simply does not add up. Apparently, the government needs to take some time to fine-tune its economic agenda, but I couldn’t help but question why. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all up for MPs consulting with their constituencies – after all, the economy is an important issue. However, given that we now live in a digital age where citizens can easily contact their MPs through email, Facebook, or even through Twitter,  I’m wondering why MPs need to go back to their communities physically just to make this happen.

• Related to the point above, realistically, the federal budget is usually a decision between the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister. So why the need the suspend the entire Parliament?

• The timing of the announcement is suspicious. For one, it was announced on December 30, a time when most Canadians are busy taking holidays and preparing for New Year’s Eve. More conspicuous, though, is the fact that it was announced at a time when public pressure was on because of the way Canada has handled detainees in Afghanistan. Proroguing Parliament meant that the committees investigating torture accusations stop working.

• Finally, and perhaps most telling, is the fact the first time Harper has suspended the Parliament, his minority government was also in trouble. The first time he prorogued Parliament, there was an imminent coalition between the Liberals and the NDP.

Simply put, Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament does not benefit Canada’s democracy.  If you don’t support the proroguing of Parliament, these are some of the things you can do:

Join the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group. With over 200,000 members so far, this group provides an avenue for you to get updates and to discuss the issue with fellow Canadians.

• Tell your MP to get back to work. Keep in mind that your MP is your employee; you elected them in office. To get your MP’s contact information, click here.

• Visit and check for future rallies and other grassroots events being organized around this issue.

Most importantly, talk to your family and friends about this issue. In two weeks, all eyes will be on Vancouver as we host the 2010 Olympics. It is very likely that this issue will be in the back burner; in fact, Harper might even get some boost in popularity as a result of the event.

Four years ago, Canadians elected the Conservatives with a minority government, and Harper promised a new era of accountability. It’s about time he fulfills this promise and answer our questions on why he needed to prorogue Parliament.

By Kelvin Claveria