Let’s focus on fixing the system

By Aaron Berhane February 2010 Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament until March 3rd, 2010. He said he did this to focus on economic reco...

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ጅግና ከሲርና፡ ዘሕዝን ፍጻመ

By Aaron Berhane
February 2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament until March 3rd, 2010. He said he did this to focus on economic recovery and the challenge of hosting the Winter Olympic Games. He decided to do this after consulting with Governor General Michaëlle Jean. This upset many Canadians and provoked us to reflect on the flaws of our political system.

The governor general is the representative of the Queen of England. She has not been elected by the Canadian people, but she seems to play a bigger role in the life of Canadians than the elected members of parliament. This clearly indicates that our political system needs to be fixed. Parliament does not have the power it should have. If the entire system is not repaired, the prime minister will continue to play the prorogation ‘card’ whenever he feels it.

This is the second time Stephen Harper has prorogued Parliament. Last winter, he used this tactic to dodge a short-lived threat by the three opposition parties (Liberal, N.D.P. and Bloc Québécois) to bring his minority government down in a non-confidence vote. He obtained the governor general’s approval to shut down Parliament. Many Canadians supported his strategy as they were unhappy with the opposition’s motives to defeat the Conservative party. But now, many oppose Harper’s decision to suspend Parliament. They have staged demonstrations against prorogation and do not accept Harper’s reasons for his actions.

However, the prime minister has not changed his stand. He wants to save his government from the criticisms directed against it. His officials have faced grilling by parliamentary committees over whether they misled the House of Commons in saying that they did not know that detainees handed over to the local authorities by Canadian troops in Afghanistan were being tortured. The government has also come under fire for its lack of policies to curb Canada’s abundant carbon emissions.

This is not a new tactic, though. In 1873, Prime Minister Canada Mr. John A. Macdonald (Conservative party) used the same tactic when he was embroiled in the Pacific Scandal which charged him and other key Conservative ministers of corruption. Macdonald feared defeat by a vote of non-confidence. So he requested Governor General Lord Dufferin’s approval to prorogue Parliament. One thing should be clear. Mr. Harper hasn’t violated any constitutional laws. He is just playing the system.

Suspending Parliament temporarily may not have much effect on Canada as it is a decent, well-run place, where much is decided at the provincial level. However, since such a practice will open doors to undemocratic behavior, it must be closely observed.
Our system has cracks that must be fixed immediately. If we hesitate in fixing this problem, we will be prone to more mischievous political activities. Therefore, let’s stop getting mad at the Prime Minister and focus instead on fixing the cracks in our system.