The recent decision by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to prorogue Parliament, for the second time in just over a year, reveals much about the nature of the current Conservative government. Rather than choosing to face criticism in Question Period about allegations of Canadian involvement in the torture of Afghan detainees, the Prime Minister opted to derail democracy once again by requesting that the Governor General prorogue Parliament until March 3, 2010.
This cynical use, or more accurately, abuse of governmental power demonstrates a complete lack of respect for democracy and, perhaps more importantly, an unwillingness to face up to the challenges of governing within Canada’s Parliamentary system.
In mid November, allegations emerged that Afghan authorities had abused detainees formerly held by Canadian force and the Harper government was barraged with criticism from the opposition parties for its role in the matter, as well as for the perceived cover-up of the alleged misdeeds.
With the Olympic Games in Vancouver scheduled to start in early February, many speculated that the allegations and subsequent Parliamentary discussion might place a dark cloud over what would otherwise be a showcase event for both Canada and the Conservative government.
By proroguing Parliament the current government will avoid much of the criticism it would have received during the games. As well, by the time Parliament resumes there will be a Conservative majority in the Senate.
Aside from showing the Conservative government’s lack of respect for democracy, it also shows an unwillingness to preform the actual functions of governing.
This government has sent out the message that it is more interested in saving face in the international community than dealing with issues of human rights and democracy
The allegations being made against the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan strike at the very core of Canadian beliefs and values, not to mention Canadian law. There is widespread public concern over the treatment of Afghan detainees, as well as a general desire to ensure that any past mistakes can be avoided in the future. Parliament, were it not prorogued, would have been the perfect and constitutionally mandated setting in which to investigate and amend the problems related to the treatment of Afghan detainees.
The current government’s neglect of its governmental duties has reached a new low. It’s reliance on prorogation to avoid discussion of its budget in late 2008 and recently to avoid discussion of potential human rights abuses in Afghanistan has demonstrated that it is not truly interested in governing this country. Participation in Parliamentary discussion and government accountability to Parliament are two of the most important aspects of our system of government. If the current government is not interested in either, they are not fit to govern.