Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Prorogation Threatening Responsible Government

The principle of responsible government was forged to prevent old abuses of power and now because of Stephen Harper, here it lies threatened by new ones.

When Canada was but a collection of colonies, the unrepresentative governments in Upper and Lower Canada imposed unjust laws upon our national ancestors.

With democracy and history on their side, William Lyon Mackenize and Joseph-Louis Papineau in leading the Rebellions of 1837 stood up against those abuses of power. And though those men lost their battles they won their war; for as a consequence of their actions Lord Durham proposed that the executive must be made accountable to the legislature, that Canada must have responsible government.

In restraining Prime Ministers from violating our trust by making them accountable to Parliament the principle of responsible government protected our democracy for almost 150 years. Prime Ministers, whether they were Conservative or Liberal, were held responsible to Parliament; their interests were restrained by those of the people. And though this tradition protected our parliamentary system for such a long time against the mistreatment by self-interested leaders, today it is threatened by one.

With the recent prorogation by Stephen Harper the principle of responsible government is in grave danger. For when a Prime Minister can abuse his power of prorogation to prevent a parliamentary committee from investigating a scandal within his own government, how can he be held accountable to Parliament? How can responsible government exist?

For the sake of Stephen Harper, I hope the answers to those questions do not rest with Mackenzie and Papineau.

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