Editorial: Harper’s going (pro)rogue

By Sarelle Azuelos

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has garnered a massive response from Canadians after announcing parliament would be prorogued until March 3. Instead of returning to work at the end of January as was originally planned, Harper said his party wold devote the extra time to assembling a new agenda and budget.

However, the break’s timing raised suspicion from the Opposition due to recent allegations of Afghani detainee abuse and public outcry quickly gained momentum. Prorogation halted all committee work including the inquiry into the torture allegations. It isn’t hard to see how the well-timed prorogue would bury negative attention from Canada’s abusive behaviour — an especially embarrassing position to be in while hosting the Olympics.

Yet, while the anger rages on, it seems not as much notice is given to the vast number of government bills that were scrapped as part of the prorogation.

Three dozen bills were terminated in December, two of which awaited only royal assent to be made law. The first was an anti-crime legislation bill which was a major part of Harper’s platform. The bill would have ended “volume discounts” for serial murders — instead of remaining ineligible for parole for 25 years in total, it would be raised to 25 years per murder. Bills like these were well supported within the Conservative party, which felt that it was already taking too long to go through the regular debate process. Now, the debate process will have to start from the very beginning.

Others include Bill C-6 on Consumer Product Safety and Bill C-15, which introduced minimum penalties for serious drug crimes. The majority of these bills faced minimal opposition and the Conservatives have little to gain by cutting them. Prorogation is going to successfully achieve a handful of Harper’s goals, including temporarily distracting Canadians from the Afghani detainee torture allegations and handing Conservatives a clear-cut majority in the Senate, but it is useless when it comes to furthering possibly significant laws.

Private member’s bills receive some special treatment and are not affected by the extended break. The bills introduced by back-benchers will continue the debate process from where they left off. Private member’s bills include everything from Tory Candice Hoeppner’s bid to end the gun registry to automated banking machine charges and “An Act respecting Louis Riel.” These bills rarely lead to substantial changes for ordinary Canadians and yet won’t experience the same delays as more important legislation. The rules of prorogation are beyond Harper’s control, but it seems like he got caught up in the benefits and forgot to consider the resulting setbacks.

Not only is Harper delaying constructive parliamentary debate for an unnecessary five weeks, the amount of time that will be spent looking at the same legislation yet again is expensive and wasteful.

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