Prorogation marks desperate attempt to change the channel

Written by Carol Hughes, MP

Friday, 23 August 2013

If you watched Question Period during the last five weeks parliament sat in the spring, you didn’t see much of the Prime Minister.  When Stephen Harper was around over that stretch, it was anything but smooth sailing.  Day after day he faced a tough line of questioning from Tom Mulcair about the Mike Duffy/Senate expense scandal and the attempted cover-up performed by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.  His answers were weak and it was clear he was losing patience with the situation.

For a man with a reputation for controlling every situation it was easy to understand that he wouldn’t want to be in Question Period.   That doesn’t mean that he should have avoided Parliament so much.  Much the same, it is no excuse to avoid facing those same, tough, unanswered questions, but that is what the Prime Minister is doing by proroguing Parliament and delaying the start of the autumn sitting likely by as much a five weeks.

The problem with the growing cynicism over prorogation is of the Prime Minister’s own making.  This is the fourth time he has used the parliamentary tool and in each case it has been employed primarily to avoid scandal.   The scandal he is avoiding this time is also of his own making. With the exception of Liberal Senator, Mac Harb, Stephen Harper appointed the Senators at the centre of the storm.

Throughout the summer the problem has only deepened.  While we do hear less about Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright, we are hearing more and more about Senator Pamela Wallin, who has now been ordered to repay $138,970 due to misappropriation and is the subject of an ongoing RCMP investigation.

It looks as if the Prime Minister considered the appropriateness of his Senate appointments as a secondary concern when vetting candidates.  The clear emphasis seems to have been on whether they were politically useful to the Conservative Party – especially with Senators Duffy and Wallin. 

Now it is time to be accountable for those appointments and any attempts that members of the Prime Minister’s inner circle have made to sweep these problems under the rug.  Instead of returning to Parliament, answering the tough questions, and working our way through the government bills that remain at various stages of the parliamentary process, the Prime Minister is going to hide out for another month and start from scratch – again.

This buys a little time, but Canadians are clearly outraged by the entitled behavior of these patronage appointees and that anger won’t dissipate as quickly as the Prime Minister hopes.  What is being slowly ground down is any faith Canadians have in the effectiveness of our democratic institutions.  It is beyond ironic that the Senate, which is inherently undemocratic, is at the heart of the problem.  While the Prime Minister makes vague statements about reforming the Senate, public opinion is growing in support of the long held New Democrat position that we should just abolish it altogether.

As far as answering for the actions of his patronage appointees and senior members of his inner circle, the Prime Minister will eventually have to deal with the fact that no amount of hiding can wash away the bitter taste of deceit that Canadians are experiencing.  Although it is clear he is going to give that another try.


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