I know I am from the west and for whatever reason means that I donâ€™t understand what people in Ontario think but I just canâ€™t get upset over Harper proroguing government.
First of all, let me just say that I totally disagreed with the decision to prorogue government out of principle. The question of Canada turning over prisoners to Afghanistan to be tortured is a matter worth investigating and debating and in a perfect world, it would be happening in the House of Commons but this doesnâ€™t happen very often. When was the last time an ideologically related debate happened in the House of Commons? The very sight of seeing Michael Ignatieff declaring his outrage over torture when he defended the United States use of it seemed to diminish the debate into the realm of short term political gain. Of course by doing that, it turns the whole debate about proroguing into the realm of the short term political gain which I have very little time for. Of course the Conservative Party tossing career bureaucrats under the boss to protect themselves isnâ€™t really inspiring either.
I agree that proroguing is an odd tactic to avoid parliamentary debate. Yes I know itâ€™s been used a lot more in other governments, in fact Bob Rae was the king of the prorogue in Ontario but because he had a majority government, he wasnâ€™t seen as hiding from Parliament like the Conservatives have been (although when you look at this polling numbers, he may have been just trying to escape Ontario as a whole)
At the same time for the Opposition to say that because Harper has done this, they canâ€™t get to the truth of the matter is a little disingenuous. I remember after a parliamentary recess, Joe Clark came out with more energy, accusation, and passion over Shawinigate than he had since the 1979 campaign. Whatever Chretienâ€™s game plan was going into the recess, it didnâ€™t take the focus off Shawinigate at all. A good Opposition should be able to keep the heat up whether or not parliament is in session.
It makes me wonder if the reason the focus is so much on proroguing is if they have nothing else to talk about that that think that matters. If they reason that they got upset over the prorogue is the Afghanistan prisoner transfers, where are the entries about it on the official Liberal weblog? Where is the issue on the official NDP weblog (although at least the NDP are posting about issues other than proroguing)?
Here is my advice to the two opposition parties. Quit talking about proroguing and get back to talking about the many issues that the Harper government is bungling. There is the economy, the deficit (well, there isnâ€™t much that can be said about that after pushing so hard for a stimulus package), the impact of the stalled American government, the lost credibility the environmental movement is experiencing lately (and how to deal with it), continuing job losses, the Afghanistan prisoner transfersâ€¦
For the Liberals it is almost time for their big thinkers conference which is a good time to start preparing Canadians to accept that the world is fundamentally changing and the solutions and fixes are not going to be easy or broken into 11 second sound bytes.
While I think there is some short term political gain talking about proroguing, it is also the kind of gain that can come back and haunt you if you ever get power and do it. Plus, the issues goes away as soon as Parliament comes back into session. In politics there is always a long game and a short game and right now I donâ€™t see any of them playing anything longer then a week from today. That is frustrating to all Canadians and I canâ€™t help but wonder if the focus on the short term mechanisms of a minority government has stalled the renewal efforts of the Liberal Party and has sapped both parties of energy and new ideas. Even the NDP which seems to have â€œideas that workâ€ seems to be out of good ones. I would assume that we will be in this short term gain mode until one party or the other wins a majority and all parties can find some breathing room, turf their leader, and enter into a grassroots renewal process. That means that we get more issues that mean a lot on Parliament Hill but not very much elsewhere.