Prorogation Canada part deux + (wld u believe) Senate reform (again)?

Jan 7th, 2010 | By Counterweights Editors | Category: In Brief
Our resident Ontario historian, on a research trip to the island of Rhodes.

Our resident Ontario historian, on a research trip to the island of Rhodes.

Our resident Ontario historian Randall White had a first swing at the Stephen Harper minority government’s latest prorogation of the Parliament of Canada last week.

Since then the issue has been gathering more steam (in at least some old transcontinental railway towns, across our vast treasure-chest of natural and human resources, etc, etc). And Dr. White has been hard at work on a deeper investigative report, delving into some of the complexities that have arisen in an increasingly complex debate.

In particular, Dr. White is looking into the long history of prorogation in the present Canadian confederation that began in 1867 — in deference to the urgings of, eg,  Brian Lilley,  Ottawa Bureau Chief for the Toronto radio station Newstalk 1010 (CFRB), and conservative (and Conservative) guru/pundit etc Tim Powers, from Newfoundland and Labrador.

What an earlier era in Canada called the “Mother of Parliaments” at Westminster in London, England: where the concept of “prorogation” was born, many long years ago.

What an earlier era in Canada called the “Mother of Parliaments” at Westminster in London, England: where the concept of “prorogation” was born, many long years ago.

Dr. White is also undertaking a quick and dirty exploration of how this long Canadian prorogation experience compares with related experience in three other members of the present-day Commonwealth of Nations: Australia, India, and the United Kingdom.

We are told that Dr. White will be reporting on his deeper prorogation research for interested counterweights readers at some point over the next few days (Monday, January 11 at the latest, or at worst not very much later?). Meanwhile, the debate continues to deepen and rage on — at least in its current principal forum at the Toronto Globe and Mail.

No one will be surprised to hear that Globe columnist Lawrence Martin thinks Stephen Harper, with “his prorogation move” has “given the opposition two months of free target practice.” It is at least a bit unusual, however (even on the same self-proclaimed national newspaper’s website) to see an item by former Brian Mulroney chief of staff Norman Spector headlined “The beginning of the end for Stephen Harper.”

Some counterweights editors discuss Senate reform in Canada, at a conference in Venice, Italy.

Some counterweights editors discuss Senate reform in Canada, at a conference in Venice, Italy.

We should say as well that a quick survey of today’s online editions of the Vancouver Sun and Calgary Herald have revealed no obvious ongoing interest in the prorogation issue at all. Le Devoir has “Prorogation de la session — Sans peur,” and in the Halifax Chronicle Herald we just find: “MPs say they’ll focus on constituency work … Most representatives plan to use prorogation to work in their ridings.”

On the other hand, a new “Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in partnership with the Toronto Star” finds that 53% Canada-wide “disagree with the decision to prorogue Parliament,” while only 19% agree and 28% are “Not sure.” Regionally, those who disagree range from 61% in Atlantic Canada to 59% in Ontario, 52% in BC, 50% in Alberta, 48% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and 46% in Quebec. (It’s not that so many agree with the Harper minority government in Quebec — but just that as many as 53% there “have not followed this story at all.”) A new EKOS poll for the period January 4–5, 2010 also shows Mr. Harper’s Conservatives at a mere 33.1% support Canada-wide, down from 35.9% for December 9–15, 2009.

(Oh, and btw, the venerable Economist magazine in the former Mother of Parliaments across the seas has just “published a critical story about the [Canadian] Conservative prime minister’s suspension of Parliament and a scathing editorial under the headline, ‘Harper goes prorogue’.”)

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, whose province has already made provisions to elect potential Senators, now seems to be backtracking on the project — just as Prime Minister Harper seems ready for yet another college try.

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, whose province has already made provisions to elect potential Senators, now seems to be backtracking on the project — just as Prime Minister Harper seems ready for yet another college try.

Meanwhile again, in an apparent effort to seize some kind of fresh high ground, the Harper minority government is talking about electing Senators and giving them term limits again, even as Mr. Harper prepares to appoint five new Conservative Senators in the good old-fashioned way, at last giving the Conservatives more seats in the unreformed Senate of Canada than the Liberals.

In an interview very early this morning our resident Ontario historian Dr. White told us he still supports the prime minister’s current Senate reform plans, if nothing and in spite of everything else. Others among us are acquiring fresh doubts.

If you feel you absolutely must pursue this (sort-of) newest bloody rag of Harperana, try: “Harper to revive Senate reform plan … Decision to prorogue Parliament could give minority government enough power to force a high-stakes vote on changes” [Globe and Mail] ; “Wall raises doubts about Senate elections” [CBC Saskatchewan]; “Senate reform: Two questions” [Toronto Star]; “Senate reform plan sparks standoff with provinces” (Globe and Mail]; “Heading to a Senate crisis” [Victoria Times Colonist]; and “Don’t elect the Senate” [Toronto Star].

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