Harper’s prorogation has become a major issue, especially with the media and the bored
How hard does Parliament actually “work”?
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After Parliament adjourned for its Christmas break, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the Governor General and asked for a prorogation. Instead of returning on January 25, the new session of Parliament will begin on March 3 with a Speech from the Throne.
A university student in Alberta began a Facebook page against the prorogation. Currently that page has over 200,000 members and Harper’s prorogation has become a major issue, especially with the media and the bored. Protests were held last Saturday in several Canadian centers as well as in front of embassies and consulates in other countries. In Toronto, the heart of anti-Harper liberalism, although the estimates vary, a few thousand people took part protesting the fact that Parliament was not in session. They held signs equating proroguing to being undemocratic. What started off as attacks on the government for trying to avoid the issue of the treatment of Afghan detainees has morphed into attacking Harper for killing democracy; it seems when Parliament is not sitting, the MPs are not working.
NDP Jack Layton addressed the protestors in Ottawa. One thing he mentioned that is not being done because the House is not sitting is debating climate change. So the planet will be destroyed by global warming, all because Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament. If democracy is somehow directly related to how often or how many days the Parliament of Canada actually sits, let’s look at how many days these parliamentarians actually do spend sitting in the House of Commons when it hasn’t been prorogued. Let’s examine how often democracy actually took place in Canada during 2009. Just how hard did these boys and girls actually work?
Parliament adjourned sittings for the Christmas break on December 4, 2008. That gave the MPs an entire three weeks before Christmas to do their Christmas shopping (remember no sessions, no work). Parliament did not resume sitting until January 26, 2009. How many other Canadians were still on their Christmas holidays during the third week of January? Yet, the anti-perogies feel that when Parliament doesn’t sit, not only are the MPs are not working but there is no democracy in Canada.
Monday, February 16 was Family Day, a brand new holiday that was invented to give Canadians a long weekend between New Year’s and Easter. As is the practice whenever there is a holiday, the House of Commons didn’t sit for the entire week of February 16. So much for democracy. No one seems to mention that the House of Commons would have taken the entire third week of February off if the House had not been prorogued. Next came March break; a week off for students and yep, you guessed it, members of Parliament. The House took the entire week of March 16 off in 2009.
The next holiday was Easter that in Canada consists of not only Good Friday and Easter Sunday but Easter Monday as well. So Parliament closed down for the entire two week period from Friday April 3 until Monday April 20. Any more parliamentary holidays and it will be hard to ever classify Canada as a democracy. But of course there’s more.
May 18 was Victoria Day so of course the House shut down from Monday May 18 until Monday May 25. By the next month the weather was starting to warm up so it was time for the summer recess. Parliament adjourned on Friday June 19 and didn’t resume again until September 14. And we sometimes make fun of teachers because they get July and August off.
The House resumed on September 14 but then did not sit the following week. Then came October and Thanksgiving so Parliament shut down on October 12 for the entire week. The next holiday, one that is only taken off by civil servants and banks was Remembrance Day that was on a Wednesday in 2009. It really didn’t matter what day of the week November 11 occurred on because of course Parliament closed down for the entire week. When the House resumed sitting, they sat until December 10 when of course, it was time to adjourn for Christmas vacation.
Of the 365 days of 2009, Parliament was in session for a total of 133 days.
So if the opposition and those who are protesting the prorogation of Parliament are willing to equate the non-sitting of the House of Commons as not working and as a denial of democracy, fine. But we expect them to raise their voices in protest in the future when Parliament extends a day’s holiday to a week and when they take long Christmas and summer holidays. What about global warming? How can MPs take weeks off when the planet is dying? But of course they won’t complain; neither will anyone else. They really don’t care how often the House of Commons sits; they only care about getting Stephen Harper. And that’s really what it is really all about.