Like most things that happen in Ottawa, this had been predicted.
The rumours of prorogation were rampant weeks ago. That’s when the New Democrats put out this release calling 2009 “Stephen Harper’s Year on the Run”. The clever release contains a few examples - like the PM skipping-out of questioning on detainee abuse to attend an apparently urgent photo-op with lacrosse players - that a lot of observers may have forgotten.
With only a total of 141 House sitting days, the first two sessions of Stephen Harper’s second parliament have been among the shortest in Canada’s history. Indeed, one has to go all the way back to Louis St. Laurent’s 1949 parliament to find two opening sessions of shorter duration.
But unlike St. Laurent, Harper is leading a minority parliament. And in this context, Harper has taken to overusing prorogation the same way sports teams are inclined to use up all of their time outs at the end of a losing period – to regroup and hopefully throw the winning team off their momentum.
The irony of course is that once upon a time, Stephen Harper was an avowed defender of the supremacy of parliament. He doted on every way in which the Liberals had weakened the ability of MPs to effectively represent their constituents. He loathed the concentration of power in the Chretien / Martin PMOs. When Chretien moved to prorogue in 2003, then opposition leader Harper blasted:
"What we are also learning once again is that the Liberals apparently want to prorogue the House … They want to run out of town, get out of town just one step ahead of the sheriff. Is the Liberal government committed to staying here as planned throughout the month of November so that it can be held accountable in the House for its actions?'' - Stephen Harper, Canwest News Service, 20 October 2003
But all of that was before 2006 -- before Harper found himself in the Prime Minister’s chair and transformed himself into a power - and prorogation – addict, just like the Liberal leaders he once loathed.
But as we end 2009, there is some good news. Yesterday, Nanos put out their year end leadership numbers which show a larger number of Canadians are turning to the New Democrats’ Jack Layton. Honest, approachable, and the one leader with experience to work across party lines to get results, 2009 has solidified Layton’s position as the anti-Harper.
Happy new year, Canadians.