Thursday, January 7, 2010

'Whether he gets away with it... depends largely on whether the protest spreads'

Two from The Economist:
Harper goes prorogue
Parliamentary scrutiny may be tedious, but democracies cannot afford to dispense with it

Mr Harper's move looks like naked self-interest... Mr Harper is a competent tactician with a ruthless streak. He bars most ministers from talking to the media; he as axed some independent watchdogs; he as binned campaign promises to make government more open and accountable. Now he is subjecting Parliament to prime-ministerial whim. He may be right that most Canadians care more about the luge than the legislature, but that is surely true only while their decent system of government is in good hands. They may soon conclude that it isn't.

Stephen Harper is counting on Candadians' complacency as he rewrites the rules of his country's politics to weaken legislative scrutiny

He may have miscalculated. A gathering storm of media criticism has extended even to the Calgary Herald, the main newspaper in his political home city, which denounced him for 'a cynical political ploy.'...

Having prorogued Parliament last winter to dodge a confidence vote he seemed set to lost, Mr Harper has now established a precedent that many constitutionalists consider dangerous... The danger in allowing the prime minister to end discussion any time he chooses is that it makes Parliament accountable to him rather than the other way around...

Whether Mr Harper gets away with his innovative use of prime ministerial powers depends largely on whether the protest spreads and can be sustained until Parliament reconvenes in March... He has given the opposition an opportunity. It is now up to it to show that Canada cannot afford a part-time Parliament that sits only at the prime minister's pleasure.
Image source here.