Sunday, January 3, 2010

Remember When Canada Was a Democracy? Ah, the Good Old Days

I was taking a little trip down memory lane today, remembering when Canada was a democracy. Ah, the good old days. Was it really a week ago? Time sure flies.

Prince Edward Island misses democracy. Prorogation means that motions to push the government to assist their hog and beef industry have been destroyed.

Oh well. It's all about Steve now.

The Guardian
Prince Edward Island
January 2, 2010

Once again, Parliament is prorogued It seems like a waste of time, effort and money to see committees folded, bills die and debate muted.

Only in Canada could the direction of the federal government be so closely linked to the success or failure of our sports teams, or specifically in this case, hockey.

It had been speculated for months in some circles that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would prorogue Parliament during the Christmas recess, wait until the Vancouver Olympics end, and ride the successes of our top athletes into an aggressive throne speech and tough budget in March. Then he would hope for defeat in the Commons on a key budget measure, and go to the polls to achieve his cherished dream of a majority government.

What the prime minister did Wednesday, then, was not likely a surprise to those who subscribed to this speculation.

But was there a specific reason behind the timing of the prorogation decision? The roster of Canada's men's Olympic hockey team was being released at noon local time Wednesday in Ottawa. The prime minister did not make the prorogation announcement in person, nor did he meet face-to-face with the Governor General to ask for a formal prorogation.

Rather, he made that request over the telephone and released it through a press release.

While the hockey-mad nation's attention was fixed on who would make the select 23-man roster, Mr. Harper's prorogation decree flew under the radar screen.

There is a lot of pressure on our Olympic athletes to bring home a record medal haul. Anything less than gold in some key sports like hockey, curling and skiing would be unacceptable. The miserable seventh place finish for the men's hockey team in Turin four years ago left the nation reeling.

Probably no one will be more interested than Stephen Harper in the successes or failures of our athletes in Vancouver. Is he banking on a national euphoria following the Olympics as a key plank in his re-election campaign?

Is Mr. Harper counting on general public apathy in Canada towards terrorism suspects being mistreated in Afghanistan, the lack of success at the Copenhagen climate summit, or the record federal deficit?

Did the prime minister really have to prorogue Parliament? It does seem like a waste of time, effort and money to see committees folded, bills die and debate muted.

Why should Islanders care? Prorogation means that all the work of the parliamentary committees is lost and in the case of the Agriculture committee, motions to push the government to assist the hog and beef industry have been destroyed.

A year ago, a chastened prime minister prorogued Parliament to avoid meeting an Opposition coalition which was about to seize power. This year's prorogation, however, is puzzling because his government doesn't appear as vulnerable to defeat.

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