Last week Harper, the neoliberal prime minister of Canada faced a motion of non confidence which he most probably would have lost meaning he would have to step down. In an unprecedented move he asked for the Govenor general to proroque i.e. close down government.
In other words rather than let the democratic process have it’s way he left the country without a government in a time that leadership with regards to the global financial collapse is of the utmost importance.
The fear, loathing and demagoguery unleashed on Parliament Hill last week could create a dangerous constitutional precedent and cripple a necessary evolution in Canadian parliamentary democracy.
The nationwide hysteria whipped up by that fear, loathing and demagoguery may be dampened by the prorogation of Parliament until the end of January.
But at what price? An Ipsos Reid poll found that it left 75 per cent of Canadians “truly scared” for the future of their country. And a political scientist warns it gives future prime ministers the right to escape defeat on non-confidence motions simply by shutting down Parliament and locking its doors.
“Parliamentary democracy as it has been practised in Canada has been compromised,” University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman says. “The precedent established means that under no conditions will the Governor General ever deny a prorogation to sitting prime ministers, no matter what the circumstances.”
The Governor General grants prorogations by precedent. But every situation is fact-specific, he says.
This time there was a fact that had never existed before but it did not bear on her decision.
“We’ve never been in a situation where you’ve had a request for a prorogation and the Governor General was informed there was an alternative government that did have support of a majority of the members. In that context, I thought that it was reasonable for her to dismiss her first minister.”