Harper was interviewed today on BNN by Kim Parlee. In response to Parlee's question, "Is this the time to suspend Parliament?" Harper replied:
SH: All Parliamentarians have a role. What the government is doing is taking the time to refresh its agenda [...] An agenda for the economic recovery [...] All of our members are out consulting with Canadians, and we invite members of the opposition to do the same and give us their input.
Really? My MP, Ron Cannan, has not issued a media advisory that he will be conducting any consultations on the economy. In fact, he hasn't issued a media advisory since September 2009. His calendar is wide open. After checking out the websites of other Conservative MPs in alphabetical order, Abbott, Albonczy, Aglukkaq, Albrecht, Allen, Allison, Ambrose, and finding no sign of pending consultations, I'm not sure who these members intend to consult, how they intend to notify them, or when they intend to do so. I think Allison's calendar is particularly telling:
While the House is prorogued, and the Parliamentary committees are disbanded, and no consultations are scheduled by the Conservative MPs, exactly what is the role of these Parliamentarians?
KP: Canada is seen as reliable, stable, even a financial haven right now. Even the Economist [...] has taken issue with you suspending parliament. Is there a risk that Canada's reputation and being stable is at risk because of this move?
SH: No, there's zero risk. Canada is and will remain the most, I think we're the most longest [sic] uninterrupted constitutional system in the world. Look I think that the uh, the games begin when Parliament returns, and the Government can take our time now to do the important work to prepare the economic agenda ahead. That said, as soon as Parliament comes back, we're in a minority Parliament situation, the first thing that happens is a vote of confidence, and there'll be votes of confidence and election speculation for every single week after that for the rest of the year. That's the kind of instability that markets are actually worried about.
Actually, the prorogation of Parliament sparked election speculation. There are several Hill insiders who suggest that's the case, that Harper has done the math and may be retooling, not for the economy, but for another election. That possibility is becoming increasingly remote, however, given the latest polling from EKOS which puts Conservatives only a few percentage points ahead of the Liberals, squandering a 14 point lead from October.
Regardless, talk about poison pill budgets; rejection of collaboration with other parties dismissed as separatists, socialists, and elites; and relentless attacks to the checks on the PM's authority have all done more to destabilize Canada's political fortunes than any other development since the creation of the Bloc Quebecois.
According to his former advisor, Tom Flanagan: "The Government's talking points really don't have much credibility. Everybody knows Parliament's prorogued to shut down the Afghan inquiry."
So, trust Stephen Harper when he says that all Parliamentarians have a role.
Apparently, it's just not in Parliament. Now I get it.
From the Colbert Report tonight, a critique of the failure of the American intelligence community to "connect the dots" and pre-empt the Underwear Bomber.
"It's the easiest puzzle on the placemat at TGI Jihad's."
"It's the easiest puzzle on the placemat at TGI Jihad's."
Much has been said about the affront to Canada's parliamentary democracy deployed during the winter doldrums by a secretive PM and a disappointingly compliant Governor General. All it took was a phone call to Rideau Hall. Then some schmuck from the PMO repeatedly told us that such prorogations are "routine," and that on this particular occasion, it was needed to allow the government to "recalibrate." These two words appeared as talking points by neoConservatives throughout the last week.
But many Canadians know that there was nothing routine about this prorogation. It was an extraordinary maneuver calculated to disband the parliamentary committee looking into the handling of Afghan detainees, to evade the order of parliament to supply comprehensive unredacted documents pertaining to the committee's hearing, to silence the discord in parliament prior to a possible spring election, and possibly to abandon some of the 37 bills on the legislative agenda should the government choose to be selective about which they reintroduce.
My shock on December 30 quickly morphed to anger, and then some sort of action. This being 2009, I started a facebook group. I started an online petition, urging the Governor General to reject Harper's request to prorogue parliament. And I delivered it to the Governor General twice, once only 12 hours after starting it—on New Year's Eve—and again a few days later. The number of signatures had tripled, and 9 provinces and territories are represented. Final delivery on Friday, January 8.
I read Andrew Coyne, Gloria Galloway, Michael Ignatieff, Rick Mercer, and others. But in truth, I only needed to read Coyne. His incisive critique of all the party leaders, Harper and Ignatieff in particular, belies his despair at the state of our democracy, one I share.
I talked to my brother, a Miltonian, about the Long Parliament that began in 1640. I even had the temerity to draft the text of an act similar to the one enacted by British parliamentarians in 1641 to ensure their relevance and the continuation of their session: An Act against Dissolving the Long Parliament without its own consent. I imagined that if the opposition parties could only decide to unite in purpose to reject the government's transparently self-serving action, that they would be able to hold Harper to account and we could throw the bums out.
We'll see. I've been unimpressed by the virtual indifference of the opposition leaders. A weak Op-Ed from an absent Ignatieff. Even less from Layton. Nothing could make Harper's case for the irrelevance of parliament more strongly than the absence—their actual physical absence!—of the two leaders from the public. In Harper's version of the Night of the Long Knives, his opponents are too sedated to hear the zing of the blade or feel its sting.
Here's hoping they wake up before it's too late.