Monday, January 11, 2010

House Leader Goodale Discusses Prorogue

Ralph Goodale makes a few great points surrounding the Harper Con suspension of Parliament:


Prorogation! Most Canadians probably never heard of it, before these past two weeks.

It’s an ancient procedure. It means discontinuing all the functions of the House of Commons and the Senate, stopping just short of dissolving Parliament for an election.

Typically, a Prime Minister “prorogues” Parliament when virtually all the business scheduled for one session has been accomplished, and it’s time to start over. That’s how Liberals used the procedure – and no more frequently than once every three years.

But in the pathologically partisan world of Stephen Harper, “prorogation” has become a parliamentary swear word.

It’s no longer a rare, but honourable procedure. In Mr. Harper’s hands, prorogation is a frequently-invoked tool of political cowardice, to throttle accountability and cover-up Conservative wrong-doing.

Whenever he’s confronted with that wrong-doing – e.g., his willful blindness to torture in Afghanistan, his farcical behaviour at the Copenhagen environmental conference, his domestic failure to create jobs, protect pensions, or reduce barriers to education – he puts a padlock on Parliament and runs away.

But that’s not Stephen Harper’s only despotic tendency.

He methodically intimidates the public service, except for one brave diplomat (Richard Colvin) who insisted on telling the truth about Afghan torture.

Mr. Harper also fires or cripples the supposedly independent “watchdogs” who are intended to protect the public interest – the Military Complaints Commission, the RCMP Complaints Commission, the Nuclear Safety Commission, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Ethics Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, and on it goes.

His vindictiveness even includes slashing the budget for groups that advocate equal rights for women, church organizations like KAIROS, and the independent Canadian Council on Learning.

To quote Stephen Harper himself in 2005: “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.”


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