Saturday, November 10, 2012

Past Deadline: Let's All Prorogate!

Here is the Oct. 25 edition of “Past Deadline” from The Perth Courier.
Let’s all prorogate!
Prorogation. Everybody’s doin’ it. You should do it, too!
I have to admit, a few years ago I did not know what “prorogation” meant. Possibly this is because it is generally a fairly non-controversial thing in parliamentary cycles and, up until a few years ago, it was just one of those routine procedures that did not make the news.
Prorogation is, according to the Canadian Oxford, when you “discontinue the meetings of (a parliament etc.) without dissolving it.”
In the “way back” times, prorogation was a lengthy period (often about six months) between parliamentary sessions that allowed MPs to spend time in their constituencies. Faster travel and better communication technology mean such long breaks aren’t as necessary now.
These days prorogation between sessions usually isn’t a big deal. It happens when it is time for a new speech from the throne and, hence a new agenda.
In the last 10 years, though, it seems that when the going gets tough in parliament, the “tough” stomp away from the sandbox.
This handy dandy parliamentary tactic was used by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien in 2002 when it looked as if the sponsorship scandal was about to explode. (It caught up to him later.)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper used it in 2008 when his minority government faced defeat by a pesky coalition of two opposition parties. It was a seven-week distraction (“Hey! Look! Shiny things!”) that prevented his defeat.
When the Afghan detainees affair cropped up in 2009, Harper ran to the Governor General again. He said (conveniently) it was to recess during the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver (more shiny things!).
This newish take on an old procedure isn’t just a federal thing, the provinces are climbing on the prorogation train, too. Why, our very own soon-to-be-former Premier Dalton McGuinty surprised everyone last week by announcing he is resigning and that the sandbox will be closed until a new leader is chosen.
So all business in the legislature (which is a fairly busy place, I understand) is postponed, even though he will carry on as premier until the convention.
What? So, we all get to just sit around and watch a provincial Liberal leadership race until then? Fantastic.
There are some who say telling everyone to get out of the sandbox was necessary because no one would play nice – what with labour leaders threatening to throw sand all over the plans to freeze public sector wages and such.
Others suggest someone may have pooped in the sandbox – considering the Ornge Air scandal and the growing gas-fired power plant situation. Or maybe Dalton got some sand in his eye?
If tradition holds and the prorogation lasts long enough, it’s possible a) the opposition will have simmered down when the legislature resumes and b) the voting public will have forgotten or will have not cared in the first place about prorogation and will not see it as a questionable procedure worthy of turfing the government.
As for me, I am quite thankful for the reminder. First of all, I had forgotten how to spell prorogation, and needed that refresher. Secondly, I am now inspired to look around me for opportunities to prorogue things when the going gets rough.
People not seeing things your way at a work-related meeting? Let’s just walk away for a few months.
Children not cooperating at home? I hereby suspend procedures and send them to their respective ridings (rooms?) until we all forget about this and move on to other things.
Could be handy, don’t you think? I mean, why bother facing the music and doing your job when the going gets tough? That would be so grown up and role model-ish, and who wants that? Ew.

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