Prorogue – How we do things in Canada.

Prorogue – How we do things in Canada.



  • transitive verb:
    1 : defer , postpone
    2 : to terminate a session of (as a British parliament) by royal prerogative
  • intransitive verb:
    to suspend or end a legislative session

Canada has been in the international headlines recently as Stephen Harper’s minority conservative government faces dissolution from a coalition of opposition parties.

The best overview I found is What Is Happening In Canada by yarnharlot.

To quickly summarize, a coalition government of the Liberals (center-left), the NDP (left-left) would become the government with a cabinet of about 2/3 Liberals, 1/3 NDP. The Bloc Quebecois (“devoted to both the protection of Quebec’s interests on a federal level as well as the promotion of its sovereignty”[1]) has agreed to support that government for 18 months.

Yarnharlot observed:

the Prime Minister has been rather aggressive, and instead of moderating his motions to the point where the opposition might vote for them anyway, he has instead taken to attaching a confidence motion to just about everything. This means that every time the house votes, they can either vote with him, or force an election. All last year, this strategy worked beautifully. The opposing parties (particularly the Liberals, who were having leadership troubles) didn’t want an election. Forcing the opposition to choose between forcing an election and agreeing with him rammed through a lot of legislation, but bred a lot of contempt. (Depending on whether you are a conservative or not, this strategy has alternately been called “being an aggressive parliamentarian who makes the most of the system” or “being a big fat bully”.)

It looks like this strategy has backfired. The opposition parties believe that the Conservatives haven’t done enough to address the economic crisis and are going to vote against the Conservatives, thus having a vote of no confidence. This is where it gets interesting…

Upon a vote of no confidence responsibility falls to the Governor General. The GG can either call an election (the last one was about 7 weeks ago – October 14th 2008) or ask the opposition to form a government.

But Harper had another option as well – ask the GG to prorogue parliament. This means parliament shuts down for a while. The GG decided to prorogue until January 26th.

I think this was a wise decision on the GG’s part. It allows her office some time to monitor public opinion over the next month or so and decide whether or not to favor a new election or the coalition’s government. In Harper’s favor, the coalition could break down during the time the parliament is prorogued.

The most realistic scenario is that at the first opportunity after parliament reconvenes, the Conservatives will be replaced by the coalition government. I doubt the GG will call a new election both because of the $300 million price tag during an economic crisis and because the results would be nearly the same (a Conservative minority).

Stay tuned for 2009, things should be interesting.

(Justin’s Note: In 2006, Gordon wrote about Canada in four great posts called:

Definitely try to check them out for even more insight into how Canadian politics works.)

  • Ken DeLuca

    But in the last 24 hours the political climate has gotten hotter for teh Liberal leader, Stephan Dion. Every Liberal noteable ( save one, Bob Rae ) has called for Dion’s immediate resignation and a quick leadership selection process ( within weeks ) to replace hom. Further editorials nationwide blame P.M. Harper for the crisis but advise Dion’s departure and abandoning of the coalition which has very little support among the people or even within the Liberal Party. ( ref> John Manley’s op ed piece in the Globe and Mail – The first Liberal step: Replace Dion )

    Political humourist Rick Mercer puts it this way: ”

    If this Parliament were a dog, it would be brought out behind the shed and shot. Rabid dogs aren’t prorogued, reformed or trusted……this great democracy of ours has ceased to function. We have no government because they just can’t get along. It is a mess that defies comprehension but has one simple solution.

    We need one more strange-bedfellows event: a historic press conference at which Stephen Harper and Stéphane Dion apologize to their country and then to their parties. And then they resign — no questions please.
    Because, quite frankly, they deserve one another — and Canada deserves better.”

    Hear, Hear!

  • John Rockefeller

    If an election happened tomorrow, the Conservatives would win by a landslide. Public opinion right now of the coalition parties is extremely low except die-hards and people who can’t admit to themselves that they’re finished.

    Mark my words, Bob Rae is using Stephane Dion’s inability to lead as a springboard to attempt the big chair in the national office.

  • Nicole

    I have an important question that everyone here should be asking.

    – I can’t seem to find the right answer to especially with Harper being in a prorogued minority Government.

    I was wondering- what happens in an emergency during a government shutdown? does the parliament get recalled or Harper decide’s what he wants like let’s say – martial law?

  • Braydon Rohan

    There has been a vast change in canada.There has been change in all the sectors.In real estate deals foreclosures are increasing in canada.