Stephen Harper has decided MP’s aren’t going back to work until after the Olympics.
The House of Commons was to resume January 25th. It will now be resumed in March.
1. The government is emphasizing the economy. Soudas said a new parliamentary session is needed to set in motion â€œbasically the next phase of the economic action plan.â€
2. The Conservatives are hoping the Afghan detainees issue will fizzle from lack of Question Period and House committee attention. Asked if the government will at leastÂ appoint a new Military Police Complaints Commission chair, to allow the MPCC to resume its own inquiry into the matter, Soudas didnâ€™t come close to answering. Instead, he took the opportunity to slam the opposition parties for pursuing what he cast as a stale file.
3. The Prime Minister is eager not to be seen as wasting the work already done by the House on important legislation.
Here is a list of the bills that are shot.
Here, now, we have a prime minister who seeks to suspend the work of parliament â€” not, as it could have been argued last year, to establish a seven week cooling period before facing the prospect of changing a government in the middle of an economic crisis, but to thwart the work of various committees asking questions in the name of accountability. This is a prime minister who has defied the principle of parliamentary supremacy, ignoring a direct order by vote of parliament to turn over uncensored documents to a parliamentary committee for investigation, in order to save his own political skin. Whatever high ideals the move to suspend parliament last year might have had, theyâ€™re not present here. The move is nakedly political, and shames our democracy.
Why should we care? Well, Conservative supporters should care because every action taken here justifies any future excesses taken by a Liberal government. Jean Chretien prorogued parliament four times during his thirteen years in office; not one of those times was this done to avoid a no-confidence motion or to restructure senate committees. Even so, his action was seen as an arrogant dismissal of the work of parliamentarians in a parliament that did not sit long enough to do the work of the people.
That Paul Martin evenÂ thought of proroguing parliament to try and avoid the no-confidence motion that was going to bring him down was rightly seen as the affront to democracy that it was. In four years, Stephen Harper has prorogued parliament in a pace that makes Chretien look relaxed. If any Liberal in the future tried to suspend parliament indefinitely, to avoid accountability, or defeat within a minority parliament, the Conservatives would have no moral high ground on which to object. Indeed, Stephen Harper would have been the one to set the precedent for such appalling behaviour.
Step by step, this prime minister who campaigned on establishing a new era of transparency and accountability, has sought to strip away the very checks and balances he promised to reinforce. If Canadians are cynical about their political institutions, itâ€™s because political accountability has been removed by successive Liberal and Conservative governments, and we should care about the actions taken here because Stephen Harper clearly wants to make the situation worse, not better.
Democracy in this country, always a stitched-together affair, is under increasingly serious threat, all hyperbole aside. As I haveÂ noted recently, this downward slide did not begin with the Conservatives: Pierre “Just watch me” Trudeau set the tone, and Jean ChrÃ©tien centralized all meaningful power in the PMO, ruling the country with an iron fist and the odd burst ofÂ pepper-spray.
But Harper has taken this trend through a quantum leap in four short years. His contempt for democratic process is never far below the surface. And now, once again, Parliament–Canada’s supreme elected body–is about to be flicked away like a mosquito.