Harper: swift to initiate a second prorogation?

When Harper slipped into prorogation for the second time during his term as prime minister, opposing parties and Canadian citizens expressed anger.

What many might not understand is that prorogation is simply a part of the parliamentary cycle;
however, the instances in which Harper has used it to his political advantage are questionable.

Let’s compare Canadian politics to boxing.

If you know boxing well, you’ll know the sport is demanding. To the casual spectator it may appear to be two beefcakes battling it out for alpha male supremacy: whoever lands the most powerful punch wins.

However, those who know the sport deeply will tell you that there’s much more to it. It’s about maintaining eye contact, keeping your feet moving to avoid being an easy target and keeping your gloves up at all times.

The average Canadian’s impression of politics in this country is Harper vs. Ignatieff; the winner is the one who gets to reside on 24 Sussex Dr.

Yet our political landscape is more complex than that. There are several parties in contention for the pieces of parliament. The Conservatives are fairly strong as far as minority administrations go. It’s about rolling with the punches on some matters and waiting for the precise moment of weakness in your opponent.

As the leader of a minority government, I imagine Harper casts a glance over his shoulder quite often.

He has good days and bad. That’s probably the most difficult aspect of it all – the defense.

The first time Harper requested prorogation was in December 2008 due to a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition.

His response to Canadians’ discontent was to argue that a coalition would be undemocratic and that to fulfill their obligation of functioning like a responsible government they needed time away to prepare Canada for the economic turmoil ahead.

Fair enough. Harper wanted a chance to prove to Canadians that he was the man to lead them through a global recession.

Perhaps then Liberal party leader Stephane Dion and the other opposition leaders reacted melodramatically, still seething from the fresh wounds of a lost election a few months prior.

This time around, though, there is more on the table and no one will ever know Harper’s true motives. We can only speculate.

Did he want to delay the investigation regarding the torture of Afghan detainees? Was the failure of Copenhagen too much international press already with the Olympics only one month away?

The third option is that Harper is a savvy political beast. Maybe there are some undergirding visions to this prorogue and the protestors are going to feel silly six months from now when Harper has the entire house wrapped around his finger.

But I doubt it.

I think the fight became too intense for the prime minister and he wanted to utilize the constitution; extending his term, appealing to the Tories’ best interests and stacking the senate.

Regardless of Harper’s true intentions, he should not be singled out as the only prime minister to use prorogation in this manner: it’s not true.

The Globe and Mail’s Norman Spector pointed out on his Jan. 9 blog that Jean Chrétien prorogued in similar situations – avoiding inquiries at seemingly opportune moments throughout his term.

Just because Chrétien did it then doesn’t make it right now. Besides wasting money, prorogation is a sign of a weak administration.

Any boxer will tell you that keeping your hands up, ready to block and attack, for 180 seconds is excruciating.

By the time the bell rings, your arms feel like you’ve been holding up two buckets of water for the same amount of time.

I don’t think Harper wants give up his title just yet. It’s my thinking that any prime minister who requests prorogation for the purpose of getting an action plan together is guilty of political cowardice.

If not, why did Canadians pay millions of dollars to have an election only to spend months in a static position?

You don’t get to catch your breath in the middle of a round. The fight ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

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