Canada

Proroguing Parliament not ruled out: Harper

A year after Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote, in his year-end media interviews he isn't ruling out doing it again.

A year after Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote, in his year-end media interviews he isn't ruling out doing it again.

Prorogation means terminating the parliamentary session — all the bills that had been introduced and worked on in committee would die.

If Harper were to prorogue, the Consumer Product Safety Act, as well as several crime bills dear to the Conservative government such as those dealing with auto theft, email spam, sex offenders, conditional sentences and white-collar crime, would be wiped off the legislative agenda.

Moreover, parliamentary committees — including the special Commons committee probing the issue of possible Afghan detainee torture — could not sit.

It would be as if the prime minister pushed the "reset" button: Parliament would start a brand new session when it returned.

"These guys have already prorogued before, a year ago, when they lost the confidence of the House," said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.  

In December 2008, when the Opposition parties threatened to bring down the government, Harper shut down Parliament to avoid a threatened vote of no confidence.

"Just having had a prorogued Parliament a year ago, you have to say they've run out of not only any ideas, but also the will to face Parliament," said NDP MP Paul Dewar.  

However, pollster Bruce Anderson of Harris-Decima thinks the government wouldn't suffer much if it prorogues again, because it didn't last time.

"The decision which many people thought was quite shocking last year, I think ultimately public opinion did not show as much penalty [for] the Conservatives, and certainly no reward for the Liberals," said Anderson.  

Also, in the New Year, the balance of power in the Senate could shift due to retirements and the fact that Harper can recommend the Governor General appoint up to five new Conservative senators.

He doesn't need to prorogue to do that, but he does need to prorogue to change the makeup of the now Liberal-dominated Senate committees that have the power to hold up government bills.

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