Thursday, December 31, 2009

On motives

I'm in general agreement with the consensus theory that the main motive for Stephen Harper's decision to shut down Parliament yet again is the desire to avoid accountability for the Cons' torture cover-up. But I'd think it's worth considering the possibility that at least part of Harper's motivation also involves wanting to normalize the idea of prorogation itself.

Whatever one's view of its legitimacy, the most recent example of prorogation prior to yesterday took place at a time of heightened political awareness and conflict - likely raising some public perception that we should expect prorogation to be hotly debated and questioned, not brought out of the government's bag of tricks anytime it finds accountability to be a nuisance. And perhaps more importantly, one would expect the Governor-General to take an awfully critical look at any future request which was based on avoiding a non-confidence vote if Harper established a clear pattern of only seeking prorogation for that purpose.

In other words, Harper's evisceration of convention and gratuitous recourse to nebulous executive powers might well be seen as a feature, not a bug. And the most dangerous part of yesterday's events is the precedent that prorogation can be easily obtained with a phone call at any time - and that neither Parliament nor the Governor-General has any recourse in the face of an executive decision to run for the hills.

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