Time to limit prorogation abuse

My colleague, Catherine Fife from Kitchener-Waterloo, introduced a bill this past week that would limit the ability of a government to prorogue, or shut down, the legislature.
As we saw with the federal Conservatives in 2008 and the McGuinty Liberals last fall, prorogation is a tool that can be abused by governments embroiled in scandal.
Both of these cases occurred when the governing party had a minority government and the power was abused.
What Ms. Fife’s bill proposes doing is not eliminating the use prorogation altogether, but requiring the premier seek a vote in the legislature before asking the Lieutenant Governor to prorogue.
This measure would bring additional accountability to the process, ensuring that the premier takes the time to justify the decision in the Legislative Assembly and, in a sense, face the music if they are trying to shut down the legislature for political reasons.
Part of the problem with our system, as it exists, is it largely assumes a majority government. By tradition, Lieutenant Governors and Governor Generals are expected to follow the advice, or grant the request, of a sitting premier or prime minister.
This makes sense when they are backed by a majority government, but not so much in the few times when the opposition makes up the majority of the elected representatives.
As I stated during the debate for this bill, a measure like this takes some of the power out of the back room and puts it back in the hands of our province’s elected representatives.
This bill does not bring an end to prorogation, but ensures the tool is used responsibly and in a manner that is more democratic. Governments often have used prorogation as a positive tool to take their government in a new direction through a new session—and with it a new speech from the throne.
Our system of governance has existed for more than 150 years. In that time, we have done great work to enhance the democratic process. People who could not vote or take part in the system have been enfranchised while our expectations for accountability and transparency are dramatically different than they were when this system was first used.
But while many parts have evolved, one that has not is the unilateral powers that the premier or prime minister can use through the Crown (i.e., Lieutenant Governor or Governor General).
This bill helps takes one of those powers and modernizes it, and I was pleased to see it pass second reading and move forward to committee, where it will be further examined, before it returns for the third and final reading.
On a related note of accountability and transparency, I’d like to remind you that you can keep up-to-date on all of my actions on your behalf through my community offices or via social media.
I’m on Twitter @Sarah4NWO, Facebook at Facebook.com/Sarah4NWO, and my website is at Sarah4NWO.ca
As well, all of my speeches are available online at Youtube.com/KRRNDP
Let’s keep in touch.

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