Inside Politics

PMOSpinWatch: Fun with numbers!

Well, isn't this helpful? The tireless minions of Langevin Block have put together a backgrounder on prorogation -- although, for some unknown reason, there seems to be a distinct reluctance to actually use the word 'prorogation' with the anonymous writers once again focusing instead on the Speech from the Throne. Because everyone loves a SftT, right? 

We'll leave aside the disingenuous number-crunching that purports to prove that it really is just routine business, what with the crunchers in question using data dating back to Confederation, despite the fact that, to quote Bosc and O'Brien, "[f]or the first 70 years after Confederation, the practice was to end a session of Parliament by prorogation rather than have a lengthy adjournment." 

It wasn't until 1982 that the Standing Orders were amended to establish fixed sitting dates, and if you average out the number of sessions per Parliament since then, the number drops to 2.1, instead of the 3.6 that PMO mathletes club came up with, which the current occupant of 24 Sussex is about to exceed by a third before marking his second anniversary. Wait, I said I was going to leave that aside, didn't I? Sorry about that. Couldn't stop myself. 

Anyway, the backgrounder includes a similarly intriguing omission from its explanation on what, exactly, survives prorogation, which notes that "the call for a new session does not remove the requirements in Orders or Addresses of the House for the tabling of government reports." 

That is, of course, entirely true, but it's not the whole truth. What PMO doesn't mention is that Standing Order 40 states that prorogation "shall not have the effect of nullifying an Order or Address of the House for returns or papers, but all papers and returns ordered at one session of the House, if not complied with during the session, shall be brought down during the following session, without renewal of the Order." Which means that, notwithstanding the Wall Street Journal's otherwise accurate summary, the order to produce those uncensored detainee-related documents has not been "killed," but remains very much alive until Parliament is dissolved for a general election. 

(Norm Spector, meanwhile, grumbles over the use of the word "suspended" by the WSJ and certain Canadian media outlets to describe what took place yesterday; while I share his frustration over the improper terminology, my suspicion is that it had less to do with wanting to make the PM's move sound more anti-democratic than it actually was, and more to do with uncertainty over the proper conjugation of the verb "prorogue".) 


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