For the second consecutive December, Stephen Harper is putting Parliament on ice. In the act, the Prime Minister is turning prorogation, a sometimes sensible parliamentary procedure, into an underhanded manoeuvre to avoid being accountable to Parliament. In the interests of political expediency, the government will diminish the democratic rights of Canadians.
Proroguing stops committee work and makes all legislation pending before Parliament vanish. Historically, it has been used when a government has implemented most of its agenda. Until Mr. Harper's innovation, it was not an annual occurrence; the last minority government to use it more than once was Lester B. Pearson's Liberal administration in the 1960s.
Today, the Conservative agenda remains unfulfilled. More than half of all government bills – 37 of 64 – introduced since January, 2009, have yet to be passed into law. Eleven of these are justice bills, dealing with such weighty matters as elimination of the faint-hope clause (which still needs to be taken up by the Senate) and tougher sentencing for white-collar criminals and drug traffickers. These can be re-introduced when the new Parliament resumes in March, but they will need to go through the legislative process anew. In any case, Mr. Harper's decision means Parliament will lose more than 20 days: time that could have been used debating, amending and passing these bills.