Opposition members of Parliament joined together Wednesday to pass a motion that would prevent the prime minister from proroguing Parliament for longer than seven days unless supported by the House.
The motion, introduced by NDP Leader Jack Layton and passed by a vote of 139 to 135, is not considered binding, however.
"Our prime minister is not a king, and it's time he understood that. It would appear he doesn't get it," Layton said earlier on Wednesday in the House of Commons.
'Our prime minister is not a king and it's time he understood that.' —NDP Leader Jack Layton
Layton blasted Harper for proroguing, or suspending, Parliament on two occasions. In December 2008, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean agreed to Harper's request to prorogue Parliament as he faced a confidence vote from a Liberal-NDP coalition with a signed declaration of parliamentary support from the Bloc Québécois that could have toppled Harper's minority government.
Harper also prorogued Parliament last December, a move that angered some Canadians and prompted opposition leaders to accuse the prime minister of thwarting democracy and using the manoeuvre to avoid the controversy over the treatment of Afghan detainees.
"These last two prorogations were an abuse of power by the prime minister of Canada," Layton said. "These last two prorogations were pursued for narrow partisan interests, specifically to avoid accountability to the representatives who had been elected by a majority of Canadians."
Layton said both prorogations had nothing to do with "exhausting the legislative agenda." The decision to prorogue Parliament effectively scuttled all bills that had been before the current Parliament, including the government's anti-crime legislation.
"Both prorogations had everything to do with the prime minister running from his accountability to this place."
The motion states: "That, in the opinion of the House, the prime minister shall not advise the Governor General to prorogue any session of any Parliament for longer than seven calendar days without a specific resolution of this House of Commons to support such a prorogation."