Dalton McGuinty’s decision to use his minority position to prorogue (i.e. suspend) Ontario’s legislature is the latest in a series of disturbing tactics by Canadian politicians that threaten our democracy.
The act of proroguing a legislature supposed to be used to end one session of a parliament so that another can be started under a new legislative agenda.
- The new session starts with a Speech to the Throne that outlines the legislation that a government plans to bring forward during that session.
- The session normally ends when the government has met its stated legislative objectives and needs to table a new agenda.
- Prorogation is used to provide the time required to prepare the new agenda.
Prorogation is not intended to be used to abrogate democracy. Both McGuinty and Stephen Harper have used loopholes in the prorogation procedure to escape public enquiry that might lead to a vote of non-confidence in their minority governments.
Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.
The date of the next session of parliament / legislature should be announced when the previous session is prorogued. The amount of time between sessions should be reasonable (60 to 90 days) so that a new legislative agenda can be prepared.
Unfortunately the Ontario Legislative Assembly Act does not require the date for the new session to be announced at the time of prorogation, and allows the Assembly to be suspended for up to a year.
The Ontario government doesn’t pay teachers for not teaching during the summer, or doctors who don’t see patients, so why do we pay our elected representatives for not representing us?
It’s time we closed these gaps in our democracy by amending the Legislative Assembly Act:
- Members of the Assembly should be paid only when the Assembly is in session or is prorogued for less than 90 days.
- The Lieutenant Governor should be required to proclaim the date of the next session at the time of proroguing the current session of the legislature.
- In the event that a minority government requests prorogation before completing all of their objectives as declared in their most recent Speech to the Throne, the Lieutenant Governor should be required to ask the other leaders in the Assembly if they can form a government which can carry out its objectives. Only if no other leader can form a government should premature prorogation be granted to a minority leader.
If every legislature and parliament in Canada made similar amendments, the likes of McGuinty or Harper would think twice about using prorogation to escape the democratic process.