Parliament finally reopened last week, just in time for the new American president to meet our beleaguered and on-the-verge-of-disgrace prime minister. Despite getting what amounts to over a month of vacation for Christmas thanks to the prorogation, it looks like Stephen Harper will continue to be prime minister, or at least until Michael Ignatieff gets bored and decides it is his turn.
Since we cast ballots on Oct. 14, Parliament has spent about three weeks actually working in session – give or take the week or so prior to the prorogation when we can assume nothing actually got done as our power-hungry representatives bickered amongst themselves.
And while we watched the self-destructing downward spiral of Stephane Dion, Canadians debated whether a coalition would give Jack and Gilles enough of the power and bragging rights they have coveted for years to become too obnoxious to put up with anymore.
Despite all of these petty concerns, there was something greater at stake for Canada’s democracy. The problem was not whether Stephen Harper had the confidence of the House to remain in power, but rather the nature of how he managed to get out of doing his job.
The decision of Governor General Michaelle Jean to prorogue Parliament was irresponsible, undemocratic, and a gross misuse of power. Her blatant disregard of the mechanisms in place to maintain the protection of the dominion proves she is unfit to hold her office.
Our Parliament is a carefully structured institution, and it has been blessed with a variety of devices to ensure that when civil society loses confidence in government, there are options to ensure good governance continues to exist. This helps us maintain the right to legitimacy, something half the world can only dream of in their domestic political power machines.
But this time, it looks like Canada no longer cares about the precise thing that sets it apart as a strong, fair and just nation. We were more worried about the cost and bother of another election (how dare they ask us to draw another “x” on a scrap of paper!) than the integrity of our leaders.
The fact that Stephen Harper could slither over to Michaelle Jean and instruct her on the way in which the country must be run only serves to show us the uselessness of that particular office. The crown representative could not have been declared more unnecessary and irrelevant than if we had taken that damn throne out of the House and burned it in the middle of Ottawa’s streets.
Parliament’s back. But delaying an issue that can shake this country’s political system to the very core does not mean it has disappeared, and sooner or later we will have to deal with it. Stephen Harper and Michaelle Jean have failed in their ability to effectively hold the responsibility their offices represent. Canada can do better than that. We have to. We’ve run out of options.
Published in Volume 63, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 5, 2009)