Saturday, February 13, 2010

Prorogue Facts: 2003 Chretien Prorogation

Due to certain misconceptions over prorogation and the failure of anyone in the media to clearly articulate the problem with this more recent decision to prorogue, this blog will present factual evidence to illustrate that, other than John A. MacDonald in 1893 (to avoid the Pacific Scandal) and Stephen Harper in 2008 (to avoid a vote of non-confidence) and today (to avoid Afghan detainee abuse scandal), no other Prime Minister in the history of Canada has abused the power of prorogation to avoid democratic accountability.


2003 Prorogation by Jean Chretien

Misconception: In 2003 Jean Chretien prorogued Parliament to avoid the Auditor General's report on the sponsorship scandal.
Fact: In 2003 Jean Chretien prorogued Parliament in order for Paul Martin to become Prime Minister.

Jean Chretien prorogued in 2003 because of the problem that would have existed had Parliament sat with him as Prime Minister and Paul Martin as the new Party Leader, this is not only shown in the multiple articles below as well as others like this 2003 CBC story, but it is also supported by the Conservative Party itself.

In 2007 the Conservative Party of Canada to justify the government's decision to prorogue circulated other past examples of prorogation, one talking point in particular deserving particular interest:

November 12, 2003 – Jean Chretien announced that Parliament was prorogued on the eve of the Liberal leadership convention (so Chretien and Martin didn’t have to sit together in the House of Commons and face a dispute over who was Prime Minister). Martin did not become Prime Minister until December 12, 2003 and Parliament did not resume until February 2, 2004 – almost four months later
In addition to the Conservative Party's statement, there are other numerous articles that show that Jean Chretien prorogued due to Paul Martin being elected the new Liberal Leader.

From the front page of the Sept. 20 2003 Globe and Mail:

"With the prospect of two leaders of the governing party both sitting in the House of Commons, Liberal government insiders said there was increasing speculation that Mr. Chretien would prorogue the Commons by Nov.7, closing Parliament until he leaves office.

That would prevent the two leaders' sitting on the government benches facing opposition politicians who would try to drive a wedge between them."

From the Nov. 1 2003 Globe and Mail:

"Mr. Chretien may prorogue Parliament as early as next week to prevent MPs from sitting while the governing party has two leaders."

On the front page of the Nov.13 2003 Globe and Mail:

"Prime Minister Jean Chretien made clear yesterday that he will leave office by Jan.12 as he shut down Parliament on the same day that Liberals from across Canada began congregating to elect Paul Martin as party leader.

Mr. Chretien's announcement that he will prorogue Parliament signals the end of his 10-year regime and begins the transition process to a Martin government.

The Prime Minister said he will meet with Mr. Martin on Tuesday and give him his departure date. "I will discuss with him the changing of government," Mr. Chretien said, "The time has come to move along.

The government announced yesterday that it will prorogue, or shut down, Parliament until Jan.12. Because parliamentary proceedings might be a problem for a government with one prime minister but a different party leader. Mr. Chretien had been widely expected to leave office before the resumption."

Current commentators who suggest the 2003 prorogation was an attempt to postpone the Auditor General's report are confusing causes, and even do that erroneously as this updated Montreal Gazette article proves. The article reads:
"Jean Chretien's decision to prorogue Parliament in September 2002 prevented the delivery of a report, written for the House of Commons public accounts committee, into the sponsorship scandal."
This is false. The Auditor General did not have any report on the sponsorship scandal in 2002 (see here); the writer of the Gazette article confused two completely different prorogations. It was in 2003 that the Auditor General had written her report.

To conclude this post has presented numerous relevant articles illustrating why the 2003 prorogation was necessary to deal with the transition of prime ministers and was not meant to avoid a scandal. In reviewing numerous opinion pieces suggesting Chretien prorogued to avoid the sponsorship report, besides finding falsehoods, I have found none that provide any evidence.


RuralSandi said...

Well done. As I understand it, it was Chretien who went to the RCMP and the Auditor General to look into the sponsorship issue, so it doesn't make sense to me that he'd try to hide something he wanted to investigate himeself.

Dan in NS said...

In the first inset quote, it ends with the statement "...almost four months later." I have a question: wouldn't November 12th to February 2nd be almost THREE months later? Or is there an extra month there I am missing? said...

Dan, I've contacted David Akin the journalist who posted that Conservative press release in 2007 and he states that is what was printed.

I would guess either the press release was referring to when rumours were being circulated about prorogation or that like all party literature they stretch the truth a bit. So where prorogation was close to lasting three full months, if it lasted three full months and a day it would technically be in its fourth month.

You may think that is a stretch but I could point to a recent Liberal press release that does the same thing.

Patrick Ross said...

So then the Auditor General's report must have just been, like, a coincidence or something... said...

Patrick you are a very nice guy, and maybe you can then help me out.

When I see numerous articles written in 2003 from the Globe and Mail, the CBC and others, not to mention the Conservative Party themselves saying Chretien prorogued because of Paul Martin being the new Liberal Leader, I take that to be the truth, so please if that is wrong could please provide presentable evidence (other than just your words) to the contrary?

Perhaps there are other articles from 2003 that say otherwise that you could refer me to, or perhaps the Conservative Party retracted their press release and could provide that?

Since you were clearly sarcastic, and doubt it was a coincidence and that somehow there'd be a PM who isn't his Party Leader, I know you'll be nice enough to present the evidence you must have.

Patrick Ross said...

Well, Scott.

If the reasons outlined by the Liberal Party in this Globe and Mail article are supposed to represent the reasons why Parliament was prorogued, then perhaps we'll also have to accept the reasons outlined by the Conservative Party for the current proroguement.

That makes sense to me -- or at least about as much sense as what you're saying here. said...

Patrick, I thought I had written that if you were to respond to evidence that Chretien prorogued because Martin was elected the New Liberal Leader you were to provide evidence in your response to the contrary, not just your own opinion, I probably was not clear and I apologize.

Patrick I hope you were testing me, because if you weren't your logic is seriously flawed. Under your logic, if a crazy liar believed the Liberal Party in 2003, then in 2010 the Liberal Party should believe that crazy liar now, which is of course ridiculous.

To reiterate for both our sakes, the 2003 and Dec 30 2009 prorogations are nothing alike.

In 2003 the Liberals prorogued Parliament, not only did article after article describe why they had to, but the Conservative Party agreed as well.

In Dec 30 2009 Harper prorogued Parliament, not only do articles after articles question the Conservative's explanation, but so do hundreds of scholars, from professors to experts in parliamentarian and constitutional law. Not to mention the Liberal Party also denounces the Conservative government's actions.

If you choose to return to your original comment and suggest that Chretien didn't prorogue because of Martin becoming the new Leader, I suggest you present actual evidence to support your argument.

Patrick Ross said...

I'm afraid this still doesn't hold water for me, Scott.

Let's not forget that one of the reasons why Chretien resigned as Liberal Party leader was to avoid the shitstorm that was coming his way vis a vis the report on the sponsorship scandal.

No matter how you slice it, that still puts the auditor general's report on the Sponsorship Program at the very centre of the 2003 proroguement.

You've made a valiant effort, Scott, but I'm sorry to respectfully tell you that I just don't find it very persuasive.

...Perhaps we should settle this via a steel cage match? We could call it the "grudge match of the Rosses ;) said...

Patrick you seem to have me at a disadvantage. For me I can't comment without responding to what someone wrote, whereas you don't seem to have that problem.

Indeed this is your third comment which not only disregards my previous comment that showed your logical inconsistency (and if I didn't please respond to that) but you also disregard your previous comments as well.

I should add that I've asked you twice to present any evidence to support your opinion and yet I have received none.

And no, no one believes Chretien resigned as leader to avoid the Sponsorship scandal. Chretien was forced out by the Liberal Party in something called the Chretien-Martin war. It devasted the Liberal Party.

Perhaps my comments are just not being posted? That would explain your failure to respond to my comments, your lack of acknowledging your errors in logic, and the continued absence of any evidence to support your opinion.

I will contact Blogger and see if this is the case, if it isn't and you can read my comments, no steel-cage is needed, just actual responses.

Lastly as someone was nice enough to point out to me, it's prorogation, not proroguement.

Patrick Ross said...

It's funny you should bring up the Chretien-Martin war, Scott, because as I recall Chretien once prorogued Parliament just to derail Martin's efforts to push him out of office.

(Which somehow isn't an abuse of that power -- who knew?)

Chretien seemed awfully resilient in the office of Liberal Party Leader until the report on the sponsorship scandal (by the way, the sponsorship program was run out of his office, by his own insistence) was coming down the tubes.

An odd detail, that. said...

Patrick forgive me, it seems Blogger isn't posting my responses to your comments, as that is the only thing that explains why you keep ignoring my comments.

For anyone else who may read these comments, Patrick must have forgotten the post upon which he is commenting because in that post it clearly explains why Chretien prorogued in 2003.

Because Martin was elected the new Liberal Leader, and the party leader is the PM when Parliament is sitting, PM Jean Chretien had to prorogue so there wouldn't be parliamentary chaos resulting from two leaders in the House of commons at one time. For evidence of that see the post and articles supporting it.

And if by some miracle you get this comment Patrick, due to Blogger hampering our conversation, in the future I when you comment I will post a link to this discussion so you or anyone else can perhaps review it.

Patrick Ross said...

Well, Scott, it seems that you just don't understand the greater implications of your argument:

If we're to take what the Liberals report the reasoning for the 2003 proroguement as the gospel truth, despite the fact that one can see the various self-serving motives behind that proroguement, then one should accept the 2009 proroguement for what the Harper government says that it is.

After all, it isn't as if the Chretien/Martin Liberals didn't accumulate a legacy of scandal, and of using public resources to dodge accountability. said...

Patrick let me explain this to you, or would you please ask someone to read our comments so they can explain it to you.

The Conservatives didn't believe Chretien prorogued in 2003 to avoid two leaders in Parliament just because that was the reason Chretien gave, they believed him because it was the truth.

The Liberals aren't going to believe the Conservatives now because the reason Stephen Harper has given is not the truth.

I will refer to a comment I made earlier that you seemed to have ignored:

"Under your logic, if a crazy liar believed the Liberal Party in 2003, then in 2010 the Liberal Party should believe that crazy liar now, which is of course ridiculous."

Please try to understand the implications of your own argument, or please seek help.