Proroguing Parliament is 'routine,' Tories say
While opposition parties accuse the Conservative government of avoiding accountability by successfully requesting Parliament be prorogued for the second time in a year, Tory observers insist it's nothing more than a routine procedure -- and that the move will allow the government to return refreshed and re-focused on the economy in 2010.
Warren Kinsella, a political consultant to the Liberal Party, pointed to scathing editorials in several Canadian newspapers as proof of the general public's discontent with the decision to suspend Parliament until March 3.
"Forget what us Liberals say, look at what's on the front page of the Globe and Mail," he told CTV's Canada AM Thursday, holding up an editorial with the headline: "Democracy diminished, accountability avoided."
"(The Conservative government is) doing this because they want to avoid the scrutiny of government and it is undemocratic fundamentally and they will pay the price for it," he added.
Kinsella said Prime Minister Stephen Harper will use the time to improve conditions for his minority government by likely filling five vacant seats in the Liberal-dominated Senate with Conservative supporters.
"This allows Harper to jam in more Conservative cronies into the senate, take control of Senate committees and then jam through whatever he wants to," he said.
But Tim Powers, a Conservative strategist, dismissed the opposition's criticism as "nonsense" and noted that Parliament has been prorogued 105 times in its history.
"If you do the math that works out to about every one in 1.3 years," he said. "People understand this is parliamentary procedure."
Powers said the move will allow the government to come back refreshed and refocused on the economy.
"The prime minister has done this to bring Parliament back focused on part two of the economic action plan," he said. "I think that's where people want his focus to be -- on the economy."
Powers noted that Jean Chretien, Canada's Liberal Prime Minister from 1993 to 2003, prorogued government four times during his time in office while Harper has prorogued Parliament three times since he came into power in 2006.
The last time he asked Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to prorogue Parliament was in December 2008 when he faced the threat of a coalition forming among opposition parties.
The move means that Parliamentary committees have also been suspended, including the one that has been probing allegations of abuse against Afghan detainees -- an issue that has been plaguing the Conservatives for months.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff criticized the decision, saying Harper is showing a complete "disregard" for the Canadian public.
"Mr. Harper is showing his disregard for the democratic institutions of our country," Ignatieff said in a statement released Wednesday. "The decision to prorogue is about one thing and one thing only - avoiding the scrutiny of Parliament at a time when this government is facing tough questions about their conduct in covering up the detainee scandal."
"It's clear Mr. Harper will stop at nothing to prevent the truth about his government's actions from coming to light - even at the expense of Canada's critical economic recovery," Ignatieff said.
But Powers said it's the Liberals' fault that key legislation hasn't been passed and that new blood in the Senate could help move things along.
"Hopefully when Parliament returns in March that will no longer be the case and the key crime bills that the Liberal Senate has stopped can get through with no problems," he said.
"Shame on Mr. Ignatieff because when it comes to the issue of legislation he's been bullied and pushed around by his own Senate."
Powers said if the opposition isn't happy with the move, they will have a chance to voice that opinion in the new year with a confidence motion.