What’s different about this prorogation?

Prime Minister Harper today announced his intention to seek prorogation of the federal parliament. This would mean that instead of returning on September 16th, the House of Commons would return in October.

However, instead of simply resuming activities as it was before the summer break, a prorogation resets parliament, resulting in a new session. A new session requires a new Speech from the Throne.

Commentators had made this prediction a while ago ago, that prorogation was a necessary step to also reboot a struggling Conservative party bogged down by the Senate expense issue while also giving the new ministers from the recent Cabinet shuffle, a chance to get a little more comfortable in their new roles.

Any mention of prorogation, which has since entered into the lexicon of ordinary Canadians as something negative since Mr. Harper’s 2008 and 2009 prorogations first generated controversy (among other disquieting uses of the practice), is sure to generate some suspicion. However, this time Mr. Harper is bound to find many more supporters and much less dissent than his previous two requests. Why? Well, because this time such a request is somewhat more justified.

While any bills on the order paper will die, and any committee business is suspended this reset could be considered routine.  Prorogation should be used once all of the goals the government sets out in its last Speech from the Throne have been achieved [1] or to set out a whole new agenda or legislative direction.  This appears to be the case for Mr. Harper. at least in part.

That’s what makes this prorogation different from the last few. Those suspensions were surrounded by subterfuge and done for political gain insofar as Mr. Harper’s government was attempting to avoid a vote of no-confidence and questions of treatment of Afghan detainees respectively [2]. Though, Mr. Harper is not the first prime minister to misuse this parliamentary practice.

[1] Hicks, B. (2012). The westminster approach to prorogation, dissolution and fixed date elections . Canadian Parliamentary Review, 35(2), Retrieved from http://www.revparl.ca/english/issue.asp?param=210&art=1479

[2] Wherry, A. (2013, July 26). Good prorogue or bad prorogue?. Maclean’s, Retrieved from http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/07/26/good-prorogue-or-bad-prorogue/


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