Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prorogue This

With the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc all lined up to form a coalition the Tories may shut things down until the new year.

For many Canadians, it's a term they're not familiar with but have come to know all too well in the last week: proroguing Parliament.

It appears to be the option Prime Minister Stephen Harper is heading towards, as he rushes to save his fragile minority government in the face of the coalition agreement with the Opposition.

But just what does it mean?

Proroguing Parliament is a lot like rebooting your computer after you've finished working. You're essentially starting with a clean slate uncomplicated by all the programs you may have been into before you hit that restart command.

It's the period between two sessions of a legislative body, although it rarely happens just weeks after an election has been held.

If the PM gets permission from the Governer General to prorogue the current session, it means all the MPs who were elected last October 14th will remain in place, but any unpassed bills or motions - like the controversial economic statement that started this mess - will be non-existent.

In effect, when the session starts again, in this case in early January, it would be as though the Conservatives never brought in the document and they get a second chance at presenting a new one.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is expected to do just that, bringing down an early budget if the P.M takes the prorogue position and Michaelle Jean agrees to it.

She's cut short her mission to Europe to be here, and it's expected Harper will ask her to end the session. But Jean has to agree, and the fate of what happens next falls squarely on her shoulders.

She can deny the P.M's request, force a new election or approve the controversial coalition forged by the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc, depending on what she believes is best for the country.

Many Canadians are openly questioning the wisdom of letting a de facto bureaucrat no one voted for decide such a vital issue, but under our system, it inevitably falls to her. It's not yet clear when her ruling might be issued, but stay tuned. As Lewis Carroll noted in "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland," things are getting 'curioser and curioser' in Ottawa.

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