Academics slam suspension of Parliament
MP Tony Clement says criticism from 'elites' doesn't reflect Canadians' views
A group of university professors is condemning the federal government's decision to suspend Parliament, but the ruling Conservatives appear unmoved by the latest criticism.
Over 100 professors have signed a letter written by University of Montreal philosophy Prof. Daniel Weinstock that accuses Prime Minister Stephen Harper of violating "the trust of the Canadian people [and] thus acting anti-democratically."
The letter, to be sent to major newspapers in Eastern Canada, is the latest criticism of Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament until March 3.
The Liberal Party released two English-language ads and one French-language ad on the internet on Sunday describing the prorogation as Harper's "holiday gift to himself." A group on the online social network Facebook called Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament also has over 150,000 members.
And an EKOS poll, released exclusively to CBC News last week, suggested 58 per cent of Canadians aware of the decision opposed the move, compared to 31 per cent who supported it. Opposition to the decision was highest among Liberal and NDP supporters and those with a university education.
Weinstock told CBC News that the structure of powers in Canada gives the prime minister more sway to make decisions than a U.S. president, requiring Harper to exercise discretion before using powers like prorogation.
"It really does require that the holder of the office exercise some self-restraint in the use of the powers that are vested in him, and that he use them for the public good rather than for narrowly partisan reasons or to evade accountability as we feel the prime minister has in this case," he said.
Clement says 'elites' making prorogation an issue
The Conservatives appear unfazed by the criticism, however, with Industry Minister Tony Clement saying Monday that ordinary Canadians don't consider prorogation to be a big issue.
"I know it's a big issue with the Ottawa media elite and some of the elites in our country, but I got to tell you if reaction in my constituency is any indication, I've had maybe three dozen emails," he said.
Clement said the government was focused on the economy and the next session of Parliament.
"It may not be what the chattering classes want, but we're not here to govern on behalf of the chattering classes," he said.
Opposition parties suggested Harper's move to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament was an attempt to muzzle parliamentarians and avoid the controversy sparked by hearings into Canada's role in Afghanistan — specifically, the treatment of detainees transferred to Afghan authorities by the Canadian Forces.
The Conservative government said it sought the suspension to have time to consult with Canadians, stakeholders and businesses as it moved into the "next phase" of its economic action plan amid signs of economic recovery.
Liberals plan return to work: Ignatieff
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff continued his attack on the Conservatives on Monday for shutting down Parliament, saying it follows a pattern of shutting out criticism.
Ignatieff said all of his party's MPs and senators plan to return to work in Ottawa on Jan. 25, the date Parliament was set to resume before Harper prorogued it. He said they'll spend their time holding public policy forums and discussions.
"I have done this job for a while, and I have learned … I have a very clear message from Canadians: do your darn job. Do what you were elected to do," Ignatieff said.
Harper responded that if the Liberals can wait until Jan. 25, they can't be that upset.
"The opposition now says they are going to be really mad about this when they get back from vacation," he said.
It appears that the other opposition parties have no intention of joining the Liberals in holding hearings and discussions in Ottawa to protest the suspension of Parliament.
"We will not be doing what the Liberals are doing," an NDP source told The Canadian Press.
While the Bloc Québécois will have a high-ranking MP present in Ottawa, the party has given no sign it will join in the Liberal hearings.
NDP Leader Jack Layton and BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe are expected to lay out their plans for the prorogation period this week.
"We're formulating a thoughtful, reasonable response," NDP spokesman Rick Boychuk said.
With files from The Canadian Press