Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Actual Cost of Prorogation $130 Million

The total cost of prorogation is actually far greater than previously reported. Stephen Harper in suspending Parliament has caused Canadians to lose $130,407,733 in foregone Parliamentary activity.

This cost of prorogation is determined by the cost of Parliament doing nothing for an additional 22 days and the cost of all the viable Bills now scrapped. This is the total price Canadian taxpayers are now burdened with because of the partisan decision made by our Prime Minister to suspend Parliament, wasting legislation and wasting time.

The cost of Parliament can be found at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's website, located here. Because other parliamentary bodies have shut down or are still producing valid works, only the financial cost of paying for the House of Commons and the Senate to do nothing will be considered in contributing to the cost of this prorogation.

To find the cost of prorogation there will be two methods used, one direct and the other indirect; each reflecting a different way proroguing Parliament has cost Canadians. The summed cost of both will be the total cost imposed on Canadians by our Prime Minister suspending Parliament.

Prorogation: The Direct Cost to Canadians

The decision to prorogue directly reduced the days Parliament sits by 22. To calculate the cost of each day Parliament burdens Canadians with, an average number of days Parliament sits in a session is needed. The Conservatives, in an attempt to make this recent shorter session appear normal have suggested the average session of Parliament to be 105 days; however this Toronto Star article rightly points out that mistake as the Conservatives used statistics going back to confederation. Those statistics are flawed for practical purposes as with the advent of commercial air transportation MPs do not need as much time to travel back to their constituencies. The Toronto Star article cites a more appropriate average number of days for a session at 173. Indeed using this larger average will actually reduce the average cost per day of parliament, whereas the Conservatives average would make the average day of Parliament that more expensive.

With the average session of Parliament being 173 days next the annual cost of Parliament is needed. As seen in the table in the upper right the annual cost for the Senate is 90.6 million dollars and the equivalent cost for the Commons is 426.5 million dollars, putting the total annual cost of the two houses at 517,147,000 dollars. For the sake of brevity these two houses will be referred to as Parliament for the remainder of this post. To determine the average cost per day of Parliament that annual cost is divided by 173 to give a daily cost of Parliament at $2,989,289.02. From this it is easy to find the cost of 22 days Parliament that Canadians are still paying for but not receiving and productivity from, and that is a sub-total of $65,764,358.38.

Prorogation: The Indirect Cost to Canadians

As mentioned above, Parliament's time was lost directly and indirectly as a result of prorogation; directly through the loss of 22 work days, but also indirectly from the time spent on legislating the bills that were in Parliament at the time of prorogation that are now scrapped.

This indirect cost of lost parliament production is much harder to measure as one would have to know which Bills would have received Royal Assent if prorogation had not occurred and which Bills would have naturally been cut off from the ending of a session. Then in finding those Bills that were unjustly ended, the amount of time Parliament spent drafting, debating, and rewriting them would then have to be calculated to determine the cost of scrapping them.

Though it is difficult and beyond the scope of this post, a reasonable approximation of a base figure of this indirect cost could be made. The second session of the 40th Parliament concluded with 35 Bills receiving Royal Assent and 37 bills being scrapped due to prorogation. If one would grant that if prorogation had not occurred, at the very least, 5 of these scrapped bills would have passed, then 1/8th of Parliament's work was ended prematurely by Stephen Harper suspending Parliament. And the cost of 1/8 of Parliament's time can be calculated, putting an indirect cost of prorogation at $64,643,375.


Prorogation: Total Cost to Canadians

In combining the direct cost of Canadians paying for a Parliament to do nothing for 22 days and the indirect cost of Parliament's lost time due to scrapping a portion of viable Bills, the total cost of prorogation can be justifiably approximated at $130,407,733.


-In writing this post acknowledgment of Kevin Page, our Parliamentary Budget Officer must be given. He was very effective and efficient in locating and specifying parliamentary costs.

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For the possible response claiming the Treasury Board's numbers are just estimates and therefore invalid, the table on the right is the actual cost of Parliament for the 2008/09 year, and it can be seen that these current estimates are fairly realistic. The 2008/09 costs can be found here (Section 20).

17 comments:

Ted Betts said...

Excellent work.

(ps. It's prorogation not proroguement.)

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Thanks a lot, corrections made.

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Doyen said...

How about we look at the numbers for the length of the last session in comparison to past sessions before it.

While some people are suggesting this last session of parliament was abbreviated, reality would suggest otherwise. Of the 144 sessions of parliament since 1867, for length this session ranks as number 117. A whopping 116 (~80%) were SHORTER than the last session. If you want to talk short, 42 of the sessions were less than 100 days long. Heck, a full 88 (~60%) of the sessions were less than HALF as long (169 days) as the last session. (Here's some trivia - 3 of the sessions were less than a week long!)

In terms of actual sitting days, the result is very similar. The last session ranked as 111th out of 144, leaving only 32 sessions that had more sitting days.

So have we been getting ripped off all these years with short sessions?

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Doyen: It is not short sessions that this post is about, it is about the cost created by the unilateral decision by our Prime Minister to prorogue government, scrapping viable Bills, and going against the will of Canadians.

You can cite average session lengths, but this Parliament was supposed to sit for another 22 days, now we are paying for them to do nothing. That is wrong economically and democratically.

Leeky Sweek said...

"...unilateral decision by our Prime Minister to prorogue government, scrapping viable Bills, and going against the will of Canadians."

Your statement assumes that the Liberals in the Senate and the House would have passed the Conservative bills that were "scrapped." Not very likely.


"now we are paying for them to do nothing."

Just because the House isn't sitting doesn't mean the government isn't at work. The quick federal response to Haiti is evidence of that.

You're helping to inflame a misconception in that if the House isn't sitting, the government is doing nothing. That couldn't be further from the truth. The sitting government, be it Conservative or Liberal, is always functional even when a prorogue is called.

Ted Betts said...

Doyen:

You can't compare to 100 years ago when train and horse travel required much shorter sitting times.

You have to look to 1982 and forward as the sitting rules were radically changed then.

Since 1982, Parliament has sat on average 191 days per year. If you discount forced elections, it is up to about 200 days.

The Conservatives had our MPs sit a mere 108 (though I've heard 128 too, haven't see 144 so I don't know where you got that). So the Conservatives had Parliament sit for almost half as long as average.

More importantly, in almost all cases, Parliamentary sessions had passed the bulk of the government's legislative agenda. By contrast, Harper has cancelled over half of his.

Ted Betts said...

"Your statement assumes that the Liberals in the Senate and the House would have passed the Conservative bills that were "scrapped." Not very likely."

Don't know why you make stuff up like that.

While Harper threw out over half of his own legislative agenda, about 40% of it, including some crime bills, were passed and are now law. That only happens when the Senate passes it too, bud.

In addition, one of the three bills in the senate were introduced by the Conservatives and immediately deferred so they haven't voted on it at all. On one of the crime bills, the senate moved to fast track the bill, but the Conservatives defeated that motion.

Almost all of the bill that Harper killed were in the control of the government as to timing.

You guys can't keep passing the buck and blaming everyone but Harper. We've had 4 years of "it's someone else's fault, it's always someone else's fault" and Canadians are getting fed up with it.

Leeky Sweek said...

"While Harper threw out over half of his own legislative agenda, about 40% of it, including some crime bills, were passed and are now law."

So then 60% didn't get passed...would these bills have passed? I'm not sure they would have.

Ted Betts said...

Leeky:

Your logic is leaky to assume they wouldn't pass when so much of what actually came before them was passed.

Would it all have? Who knows. But the evidence is there to suggest you are just making excuses for Harper's wasting of $130M just out of self-interest, ordinary Canadians be damned.

Leeky Sweek said...

I'm not a card-carrying tory and I'm certainly not making excuses for Harper. I'm also not actually pro-prorogue, either by either Conservative or Liberal governments. I'm just trying to be a realist by suggesting that with the senate stacked the way it is, there is no motivation for Liberals senators to pass Conservative legislation.

Also, have similar prorogues inaugerated by previous Liberals governments been this expensive in adjusted dollars? If so, then what can your justification be for that? If not, then why is this current prorogue so much more expensive than other ones? It has been suggested by a previous poster that this certainly isn't the longest prorogue and you yourself said "...It is not short sessions that this post is about."

If the cost of this prorogue is similar to previous one and the length of it isn't the issue, what exactly is your point? Are you suggesting the government isn't operating during this period...because if you do, that would suggest that previous Liberal administrations were also wasting taxpayer money when not in the House.

Ted Betts said...

"I'm not a card-carrying tory"

My apologies for the insult.

"I'm just trying to be a realist by suggesting that with the senate stacked the way it is, there is no motivation for Liberals senators to pass Conservative legislation."

They have been passing lots and lots of Harper's legislation at roughly the same pace as when the Liberals had a majority. They have had the same motivation then and for the part of the legislative agenda they have passed as they do for the balance of this session's bills. To suggest that they will not do their jobs just because they might not when they have been doing their jobs is worse than groundless Tory spin.

Also, have similar prorogues inaugerated by previous Liberals governments been this expensive in adjusted dollars? If so, then what can your justification be for that? If not, then why is this current prorogue so much more expensive than other ones? It has been suggested by a previous poster that this certainly isn't the longest prorogue and you yourself said "...It is not short sessions that this post is about."

I didn't say that. Regardless, this is costly because of the wasted work and time. Many bills had gone through several stages of approval and some were pretty much ready to become law. That is all wasted now. Even private members bills, which do survive at the stage they were at, have thrown out the committee work so that has to be re-done.

If the cost of this prorogue is similar to previous one and the length of it isn't the issue, what exactly is your point?

I think it is more costly because of the waste. But the point of the Scott's origin post is clearly that Harper has voluntarily chosen to waste $130M, our taxdollars, and then turns around and says we have to tighten our belts, we need to cut funding to this and that.

So he spends our taxdollars on his ridings. He spends out taxdollars on his advertising campaign. He throws our taxdollars out the window. And then he has the gaul to say we have to suffer the consequences. And guess which programs are going to be cut and which ones aren't???

Leeky Sweek said...

Sorry, Ted, I did mistake you for the poster...the hazard of multitasking, I guess.

"They have been passing lots and lots of Harper's legislation at roughly the same pace as when the Liberals had a majority. They have had the same motivation..."

That is not quite true. The senate has been holding up a lot of bills, something they did NOT due with the Liberal majority.

"Many bills had gone through several stages of approval and some were pretty much ready to become law."

That is true, but that was also the case when the Liberal government prorogued parliament. That's one of the reasons I'm not a fan of the prorogue.

"So he spends our taxdollars on his ridings. He spends out taxdollars on his advertising campaign. He throws our taxdollars out the window."

Yup, that sounds right. But Chretien did the same thing for his riding and he spent money on advertising as well. And the reason? They're both politicians.

MY point is all of this is that if prorogue is okay for Liberals then it's okay for the Conservatives as well. Either this procedural tactic is accepted as part of our parliamentary system or it's not, in which case it should be scrapped. It makes no sense to politicize a procedure that both the Conservatives and Liberals use

Ted, thanks for the civilized debate. Your one of the few Liberals I've chatted with that made some good points and didn't get overtly nasty about my rebuttals.

This will be my last post...duty calls. Have a great day!

Ted Betts said...

"That is not quite true. The senate has been holding up a lot of bills, something they did NOT due with the Liberal majority."

Sorry, but your statement is historically false, Tory talking points notwithstanding. There have been very very few bills that have been "held up". The Tories think "not rubberstamping" and suggesting amendments means holding up. Don’t buy their spin.

An analysis was done a little while ago about how quickly bills passed through the senate since 1993. The average was about 5-6 months. Harper starts screaming about "holding up" after about a month.

The Accountability Act - which was so full of holes, typos, incorrect section references, blank spaces that had not even been filled, that it would have been thrown out in court had the senate not amended the bill against Harper's wishes - was being "held up" by the senate when they suggested it was not good to require the government to release the home address and phone numbers of employees of registered lobbyists. The Conservatives demonized them for this.

This BS about the Senate holding things up has to stop.

The one thing they truly did hold up was Senate reform. I like all the ideas behind Harper's senate reform bill but most of them are unconstitutional. In my opinion at least, as well as in the opinion of a lot of people. But asking that question is, according to Harper, undemocratic and "holding things up".

"That is true, but that was also the case when the Liberal government prorogued parliament. That's one of the reasons I'm not a fan of the prorogue."

Again, not at all true as stated above. No one has ever prorogued Parliament before even the middle of their legislative agenda except Sir John A when he wanted to shut down discussion about the railway scandal (he was trounced in the next election just by the way). Prorogation occurs when almost all of the bills have been passed. I'm not aware of any bills on the verge of coming into force dying on the order paper because of prorogation. Are you?

"Yup, that sounds right. But Chretien did the same thing for his riding and he spent money on advertising as well. And the reason? They're both politicians."

Are you seriously comparing the partisan spending of a few million dollars on Chretien's riding to the multi-billion dollar partisan spending of Harper's Economic Action Plan???????? The sheer incompatible scale of what Harper is doing makes your excuse for Harper absolutely mind boggling.

MY point is all of this is that if prorogue is okay for Liberals then it's okay for the Conservatives as well. Either this procedural tactic is accepted as part of our parliamentary system or it's not, in which case it should be scrapped. It makes no sense to politicize a procedure that both the Conservatives and Liberals use."

And my point is that they can't be compared. And the few illusory lines of comparison are not even justification for trying to avoid accountability.

Ted Betts said...

[cont.]
Prorogation is a useful and healthy thing. Like much of our Constitution though it relies on convention and restraint, not arbitrary self-serving over-use. It is a fundamental part of the historical concept of responsible government. Responsible government has truly been on the wain since Trudeau, the first real outsider to be PM (and maybe that's the reason).

To abuse prorogation for partisan purposes and avoid accountability weakens our democracy, weakens our Constitution and shows the weakness of constitutional convention when someone feels no obligation to follow it.

So in that case, I do favour getting rid of it or restricting its use.

Good talking with you. If any comment of mine seems uncivil, please take it to reflect frustrations and anger toward this government and its undemocratic actions and not to you. I always appreciate a civil discussion.

Of Mice and Cats said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis said...

Thanks for doing the research and posting this. See you at the rally on Saturday.