Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Bill for the $130 Million Prorogation, Had Enough?

The bill with a few mints is placed at your table, turning the carbon copy over in your hands you read, ‘One order to prorogue parliament - $130 million.’ All I can say is I hope you brought your wallet.

I know it was easy not to think about the cost of prorogation, what with the feast of news articles, facebook pages, and twitter accounts debating whether or how much prorogation was an assault on Canadian democracy and all. However just like any good time, it always ends when you get the bill, and the bill for prorogation ain’t cheap. The cost to taxpayers for twenty-two working days of the House of Commons and the Senate and all the bills now scrapped because of the premature ending of the parliamentary session has a total of $130,407,733.

Now this price tag shouldn’t come to a shock to anyone, after all government isn’t free. Every action, every bill, every particle of dust on a government bureau has a price, and we as Canadian taxpayers are stuck with the tab. Usually at least though we get something to show for it, whether it be legislation or just an entertaining question period; but in this recent case of our Prime Minister proroguing parliament, we’re still paying the exorbitant salaries of Members of Parliament and Senators, only this time we’re getting nothing to show for it.

The cost of prorogation is a result of two ways Canadians lost money. First we are stuck paying for Parliament even though it’s not doing anything; second, when a parliament is prorogued all the Bills that were in various stages of becoming law are now expunged or scrapped, and all that time that went into them is now lost.

In regards to the first way Canadians got stuck with the bill, back in the recesses of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s website, in the 2009-10 estimate the annual cost for the House of Commons and the Senate is given at just over $517 million. This with the fact that an average modern session of Parliament is 173 days, just one working day is found to cost Canadians $3 million. With twenty-two days now turned from working days to extended vacation for our Parliamentarians, this gives a sub-total of the cost of proroguement at $66 million.

Added to that however is the cost of all the time that went into the legislation that is now scrapped. There were in total 37 Bills that were tossed, and though it must be acknowledged most would not have been made into law, some, mostly crime bills, were clearly going to receive Royal Assent. If just five of those Bills were viable, as a proportion of all other legislation, $64 million is calculated to be the cost of the time it took MPs and Senators to draft, debate, and rewrite those Bills. This puts the total cost of paying for twenty-two days for Parliament to do nothing and the cost of lost legislation at over $130 million dollars.

Now as you sit there holding this bill for Stephen Harper's proroguement, looking at our government bloated before you, I must ask, “Have you had enough?”

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For a more complete discussion of the costs of prorogation see this post.

I should emphasize I also believe our Prime Minister's use of prorogation weakens our democracy and indeed that cost to our democracy is far greater than any economic loss described above.

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