Monday, 15 October 2012

Going "Pro-Rogue"

Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty has prorogued parliament and resigned as Premier. Prorogation is an interesting method of managing the House. It is the end of a parliamentary session that lets the government of the day suspend parliament for a period of time of their own choosing. In this case it will be used to shut down parliament until the Liberal party has elected a new leader several months hence.

All of this is made possible in a parliamentary democracy such as Canada due to the presence of a federal Governor General and provincial Lieutenant Govenors, all of whom serve as the representative of the Queen. Which is to say, the Queen has granted permission for this to occur.

In the 19th Century every sitting of the House would be prorogued for an average of 6 months. This let the MPs return home on the limited transportation systems of the day, and return to the capital to govern during favorable traveling weather. By the 1980s, a typical prorogation would be a conventional 22 days.

In the current century there were several controversial periods of prorogation where it was painfully obvious the House was being adjourned to prevent the government from being turfed out via a "non-confidence motion".

For those living in the United States it's hard to fathom. Imagine the President having a governing body whom he could ask to shut the Congress and Senate down until he was in a mood to deal with them again. But that is what has happened here, in the Canadian Province of Ontario. The House will not meet again until the Liberal Party has elected a new leader, and fought an election. Whoever wins will call the House back to session sometime in mid-2013.

UPDATE: Ontario has a new Premier - Kathleen Wynne. She recalled the Legislature Feb 19 for a Speech from the Throne. Parliament is back in session. The Liberals keep their minority government. NDP opposition leader Andrea Horvath will continue to prop the liberals up. PC Leader Tim Hudak will continue to be irrelevant.

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