Inside Politics

3 reasons not to freak out over the upcoming prorogation

In the wake of today's not really all that surprising announcement that the 41st Parliament will be enjoying a longer than scheduled adjournment before reconvening in October for a brand new session-starting Throne speech, let's all take a deep breath before hauling the anti-prorogation picket signs out of storage and hitting the barricades, shall we? 

1. It's not the least bit weird or nefarious for a PM to hit the reboot button midway through his or her mandate. 

Never mind the inevitable talking points calling it an unprecedented attack on democracy or the like: It really is pretty much standard Canadian political operating procedure for PMs to blow the whistle at the halfway-ish point, particularly in a majority context. 

After all, rare and wondrous indeed would be the Speech from the Throne that would cover every possible governing priority that could potentially surface over the course of a parliament, so it just makes sense that at a certain point -- say, 2.5-ish years into a 4-ish year anticipated mandate -- a PM might want to dust off the Throne and invite the GG back to deliver an update. 

(Those who dutifully clicked on the preceding link will note that, with few exceptions,past parliaments have typically included at least two sessions -- and, during the olden pre-1990s days before the House switched to a fixed calendar, sometimes even more, as it was the only way to shut the Commons down for longer than a weekend without all-party agreement at the time of desired adjournment.)

2. Most bills that 'die on the Order Paper' can be brought back to life at the last stage reached in the Commons through a simple motion -- or, in the case of private members' business, automatically via the standing orders.  

Despite the traditional references to legislation 'dying on the Order Paper', it's really more of a medically -- or, in this case, procedurally -- induced coma, as as both government bills and private members' business can be reinstated in the Commons -- the former via motion, which could be adopted unanimously or, more likely, be debated and, eventually, passed, and the latter through a specific standing order that automatically brings private members' at the last stage reached in the Commons. 

Now, admittedly, that particular resurrection ritual doesn't work in the Red Chamber, where there are no explicit provisions to reinstate legislation after prorogation.  

 Bills consigned to Upper House limbo, then, would have to be fast-tracked through the House, and would start back at first reading in the Senate, although it appears only one government bill would be caught in that particular net: C-54, which would crack down on offenders deemed not criminally responsible.

Then again, when the Senate broke for the summer, it hadn't even begun second reading debate, so it's not like it would result in much wasted time or effort.

3. With no confidence votes looming or contempt findings on the table, postponing the return of Parliament by a few weeks does just that, and nothing more

Unlike certain prorogations during minority parliaments past, there is no indication that the PM is attempting to preempt pressing Commons business -- like, say, a confidence vote, or a finding of contempt related to his government's refusal to produce documents after being ordered to do so by the House.

Yes, it will give both the PM and his ministers with a few more weeks' respite from daily interrogations over the Senate expense scandal, the Duffy/Wright affair or anything else that trips the opposition parties' collective or respective outrage wire, but that's it, really -- it's not like the power to prorogue comes with an accompanying precinct-wide mindwipe button, which means that the very same questions -- as well as any number of new ones -- will be waiting when the House returns in October. 

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