Thursday, January 28, 2010

Start A Petition. Join The Democracy.

Today I started a petition against prorogation at my university, within four hours 168 people, consisting of students and faculty, had put their names to paper to stand up for democracy.

I've had petitions before, I've been in discussions about policies, I've door-knocked, but off all my experiences rallying support against this prorogation has been the most unifying of them all. For those who had admitted they knew very little of politics within a minute of explanation of the parliamentary procedure, not only did they feel informed enough to sign the petition but they demonstrated such a disdain for the governments actions one's hope for our democracy can't help but be revitalized.

I would wish people across Canada start and continue creating petitions to prevent a Prime Minister from abusing the power of prorogation by suspending Parliament everytime he or she doesn't like what it's doing. Petitions do not solely derive their force from being presented to the House of Commons, no, they are actually most powerful in providing an opportunity for citizens to talk and unite around a common purpose. In this instance there is no more of a noble purpose than Canadians coming together to protect our democracy.

Start a petition. Join the Democracy.

To write a petition in the appropriate form this Parliamentary website is helpful.

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Below is a copy of a petition against prorogation:

PETITION TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED

We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, draw the attention of the House to the following:

THAT proroguing of Parliament to avoid democratic accountability is not in the best interests of Canadians;

THAT proroguing of Parliament to avoid democratic accountability within the last two years has become more and more frequent;

THAT votes of non-confidence and work done by Parliamentary Committees provide democratic accountability that is necessary to balance those powers of the Prime Minister within our form of parliamentary government;

THAT the Standing Orders of the House of Commons have in the past been amended to improve accountability;

THAT amending the Standing Orders of the House of Commons would provide better protection against prorogation being used to avoid votes of non-confidence and to prevent Parliamentary Committees to function;

THEREFORE, your petitioners call upon Parliament to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to prevent a request for prorogation if a matter of confidence has been scheduled in the House unless the House consents; and to allow Parliamentary Committees to continue to function during the period when Parliament is prorogued until the start of the new session.


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Below is a copy of a flyer that can also be handed out while petitioning:

JOIN THE DEMOCRACY
IT IS UP TO YOU TO ACT

On December 30 2009 our Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid democratic accountability. Facing an investigation into allegations of Afghan detainee abuse by a Parliamentary Committee, Stephen Harper suspended our democracy, which not only dissolved the Committee doing the investigation, but scrapped the 37 Bills in the legislature, a good potion of which were Conservative crime Bills. The reason why this prorogation is important is because Stephen Harper prevented being held accountable by elected representatives. Canada’s democracy is in danger if a Prime Minister can prorogue whenever his actions are questioned or investigated, whether he or she be Conservative or Liberal.

This is not an issue of politics; this is an issue of the highest importance, this is standing up for our democracy. Email our MP Ron Cannan, ron@cannan.ca, and ask him to act to ensure this abuse of democracy never happens again.

What Is Prorogation?

There are three methods to stop Parliament, adjournment, prorogation, and dissolution. Adjournment is the ending of a sitting of Parliament that can last a few hours, days, or weeks; it is a power solely held by the House of Commons; and while Parliament is adjourned all business remains in its current state. Prorogation ends a session of Parliament; all business is terminated, that is all Bills in the Legislature (Other than the few in the Standing Orders) are scrapped and all committees are prevented from functioning; prorogation is a power enacted by the Prime Minister. Dissolution terminates Parliament and is followed by a general election.

Why Is This Prorogation Wrong?

Prorogations have occurred regularly in Canadian history, however this prorogation is different, it was used to stop our democratic process. This prorogation was used to stop a Parliamentary Committee from investigating the Afghan detainee abuse affair and from holding our government accountable. Without the ability of an opposition to hold a government accountable, any democracy is severely threatened. This is not an issue of Conservatives versus Liberals or of some other party; this is an issue of allowing our democracy to function.

“But rarely, has the leader of a Westminster democracy ever suspended the work of the country's legislature in such a brazen, self-interested manner as is now the case in Canada.” - Ned Franks, a parliamentary historian at Queen's University. (http://www.canada.com/news/Only+Canada+Harper+prorogation+Canadian+thing/2448571/story.html)

What Can You Do?

The Standing Orders of the House of Commons are permanent written rules under which the House regulates its proceedings. To prevent any Prime Minister from abusing his or her power of prorogation the Standing Orders can be amended. These amendments may take many forms, from amending the Standing Orders to prevent a request for prorogation if a matter of confidence has been scheduled in the House unless the House consents; to an amendment allowing Parliamentary Committees to continue to function during the period when Parliament is prorogued until the start of the new session. Whatever the exact amendments are, amending the Standing Orders must be made to protect our democracy. Contact our MP Ron Cannan and ask that he works to make sure prorogation is never used to abuse our democracy again, email him at: ron@cannan.ca.

Just A Few Bills Scrapped Because Parliament Was Prorogued:

S-6 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to political loans)
S-7 An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits)
C-8 An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
C-26 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (auto theft and trafficking in property obtained by crime)
C-34 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act)
C-42 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Ending Conditional Sentences for Property and Other Serious Crimes Act)

8 comments:

Patrick Ross said...

The Liberals and NDP have both jumped on the Proroguation reform bandwagon, but there's little question about one thing:

The credibility of reform for this will come from the people.

I don't agree with you regarding this particular proroguation. But I see a strong argument for reform.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

On what points do you find this prorogation valid?

Patrick Ross said...

The preparation of a new government agenda, based around "phase two" of the economic plan, featuring an austerity budget, with the reorganization of the Senate in support of that agenda.

Big Winnie said...

Sorry Patrick, that is right out of the CON talking points. I don't buy it for the very fact that budgets have been prepared, in the past, without having to prorogue. In addition, CON MPs have been saying different things (ie, need to stack the Senate, the Olympics are coming, financial instability, etc) as reasons for prorogation yet none of them mentuoned the 37 bills that were scrapped nor the fact that the Afghan detainee committee has been prevented from performing it's work.

In my opinion, this prorogation is nothing more than an abuse of power by Harper.

Mark Francis said...

Let's not forget that Flaherty himself said he did not need a prorogue to do this budget.

DJN said...

Ah, the lost art of petitioning. Too many people dismiss it too quickly. The point of petitioning is to talk to people, to engage people and also to hone your own political skills and arguments. It's amazing how many students I know who can write a 20 page paper defending a certain idea or principle but can't articulate a response to a simple probing question from a passerby. Petitioning helps recover the lost art of "on-the-spot" debating that can draw an audience and have a profound effect on those who crowd around to hear the spontaneous debate. It's basically soapbox politics, something that is lost in the internet era (and probably before).

In addition, petitioning is excellent for pulling people into activity - what I remember campus socialists calling "recruitment". In fact, that's why some socialist groups on campus were so good - they petitioned and talked to lots of people and could build support around campaigns that would otherwise be just a sentiment.

If you want to make your petitioning even more successful do a "street poll" in which you put a big bristol board on an easel and have two columns "yes or no" on whether you support Harper's prorogation. If someone checks "no" then ask them to sign the petition. It pulls more people in and will get you more signatures, and thus more potential one-on-one conversations. And when you start seeing the lopsided "no" vote (and it will be lopsided) it will attract even more people but also create a buzz on campus and deliver some confidence to those who are thinking nothing can be done.

Petitioning: the foundation of a truly grassroots campaign.

Patrick Ross said...

"Sorry Patrick, that is right out of the CON talking points."

It also happens to fit the reality of the situation.

"I don't buy it for the very fact that budgets have been prepared, in the past, without having to prorogue."

It's more than just a budget. It's a change of course in the direction of government.

In the last government agenda, laid out in the past throne speech, the government had prepared a budget featuring rigorous stimulus spending.

An austerity budget represents a drastic shift in the direction of this government. Therefore it not only requires a new budget, but a new session of Parliament and a new throne speech.

"In addition, CON MPs have been saying different things (ie, need to stack the Senate, the Olympics are coming, financial instability, etc) as reasons for prorogation yet none of them mentuoned the 37 bills that were scrapped nor the fact that the Afghan detainee committee has been prevented from performing it's work."

Any of these bills that have passed a second reading in the House can go directly to the Senate with the passage of a simple motion in the House.

Moreover, you're making a serious logical error here. You're assuming that the decision to prorogue can have one reason, and only one reason.

Apparently, it doesn't occur to you that the decision to prorogue could have been made for a combination of all these reasons.

"Let's not forget that Flaherty himself said he did not need a prorogue to do this budget."

Mark, shouldn't you be somewhere weeping again?

Apparently, it just hasn't sunk through your skull yet that this could have to do with more than just the budget.

I could sit here all day and try to explain to you that the shift from stimulus spending to austerity reflects a new government agenda, new session of parliament, new throne speech, etc, and about how Harper appointed himself a sturdy "Dr No" to the treasury board in support of that, and that reorganizing the Senate is a key step, but I think we all know at this point that you're just going to start ranting about how "progressivism needs an enemy" (it doesn't), "everyone be afraid" (sheesh), how talking with people who disagree with "puts you on your knees" (I hope you do get up off your knees), or whatever other silliness you have floating around inside that thick skull of yours.

Mark, you had the opportunity to have this conversation with me before, and you decided to capitulate.

I'm willing to have that conversation with you, but I don't think this is the place for it. If you want me to indulge you in this, you really ought to cut out the silliness and we can have that conversation at Section 15.

I'm even prepared to be a lot more civil to you in future than you've been to me to date.

You should think that over and get back to me.


In the meantime, I'll just reiterate that petitioning is implicitly the best way to spur proroguement reform, and I certainly think that couldn't hurt.

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