Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Political Science Professor Has a Great Idea: National Prorogue Day

Calling our prime minister a smiling Buddha may have been wrong, because I see him more as a snapping, snarling one myself; but his idea for a new national holiday is brilliant.

Patrick J. Smith, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University, believes that in honour of the cherished one, we should have a National Prorogue Day. I love it.

COLUMN: Maybe it’s time for us all to prorogue

What matters most to folks in Burnaby?

The international—such as global warming or the war in Afghanistan?

National matters—as in Parliamentary prorogation or the Canadian economy?

Provincial affairs—such as health care delivery or our homeless?

Regional issues—as with Translink and planning?

Or local services—from refuse collection to our streets, sidewalks and sewers, and our neighbourhood parks and green space?

My guess is that at the moment the choice comes down to one issue: Stephen Harper’s decision on “prorogation”—suspending Canada’s Parliament for almost three months—has left much parliamentary business now wasted in the trash bin, and other public business postponed, from the economy to the war in Afghanistan.

Our smiling Buddha PM says “not to worry, Canada, this is just to let the government ‘recalibrate’ itself.

My actor/writer brother, Peter, has a suggestion on how we in Burnaby, across B.C. and the rest of the country might respond to Mr. Harper’s action plan to produce inaction. Peter’s plan is wise in its simplicity: “Here is my response to the proroguing of Parliament. We, the people, create a National Prorogue Day on Feb. 2. Here’s how it works.

We take our lead from Stephen Harper. If you have a boss, simply call him or her on Feb. 1 and say you are proroguing the next day. Easy peasy.

As Feb. 2 is also Groundhog Day, we take our next cue from those famous Canadians, Wiarton Willie and Shubenacadie Sam. If these little groundhogs see their shadows—hallelujah—it means six more weeks of proroguing for us all. With pay. Just like the Harper Government on our Parliament.”

In a country with a rodent, the beaver, as its national symbol, it seems right and proper that, having simply started the “anti-rogue” process, we leave such matters in the hands of a couple of groundhogs.

Leaving matters in the hands of our “under-eager” prime minister produces no industry beyond the appointment of five new Harper senators—a move that will just cost us even more.
Is there anything of merit in the PM’s inaction plan for Canada?

Certainly for Mr. Harper, who thinks about public issues more in strategic terms than what might be best for the country, there are short term advantages.

For example, it will give him control of the Senate, an institution long in need of democratic reform but which the PM seems not to understand will require re-opening Canada’s constitutional debates—do any of us want to go back there?

Beyond that, it looks more like a cynical effort to exploit prime ministerial prerogatives beyond what they were intended for. Canadians are pretty fair-minded. Even those who were skeptical a year ago when the PM sought prorogation to avoid defeat in the Commons, seemed prepared to cut Mr. Harper a little slack and allow such use once.

Reactions across Canada this time suggest the PM may have gone back to that well one too many times on this gambit.

Andy Heard, one of my colleagues, has taken to referring to “Stephen Mugabe” and “Harare-on-Rideau.” Hard to paint a clearer picture.

If you are interested, you can sign up and we might twitter ourselves to a February National Prorogue Day. We might also begin to take back our democratic process. A Year of the Tiger deserves no less!

Just go to and twitter@pro-rogue nation.

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