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 laterIn 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.