Sunday, May 20, 2007

Revised Clean Air Act Dead

No matter your political leanings, there is something objectively wrong with a parliamentary system, that affords the government the power to simply dissolve parliament. According to Greg Weston, not only will Harper pull the plug on parliament in the coming weeks, he will also wipeout all pending matters:
Prorogation of a Parliament results in the termination of a session. Parliament then stands prorogued until the opening of the next session.

The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to terminate business. Members are released from their parliamentary duties until Parliament is next summoned. All unfinished business is dropped from or “dies” on the Order Paper and all committees lose their power to transact business, providing a fresh start for the next session. No committee can sit during a prorogation. [107] Bills which have not received Royal Assent before prorogation are “entirely terminated” and, in order to be proceeded with in the new session, must be reintroduced as if they had never existed. [108]

Since you need unanimous consent to re-introduce a bill, Harper's move means that, among other things, the revised Clean Air Act is a historical footnote. This reality begs the question, what was the point? Our elected representatives have wasted months, studying details, listening to witnesses, carefully crafting amendments and provisions, and in the end it means NOTHING.

You can't really blame the government for wanting to start fresh, eliminating any pesky matters that could cause future embarrasment, but that is really besides the point. MP's are sent to Ottawa to do the people's business. The notion of majority is primary, in any discussion of legislation. When you have a situation where the majority have come to agreement, it is just plain wrong that a simple move by the government can wash everything away.

There is clearly something amiss with a system that allows months of work to simply be erased, on the whim of what amounts to the minority. If prorogation of parliament has value, then it should be contingent on the majority of parliamentarians supporting the measure. Think of all the committee's still sifting through legislation- gone, forgotten, mirage. I don't think Canadians are particularly impressed by a system that can render work meaningless, wasting resources and time. Bill C-30, as it turns out, much ado about nothing.


Anonymous said...


I agree that the system sucks.

I guess it is one of the few ways PMSH has of leading a government without accepting the majority position of the opposition to build portions of the agenda.

That being said. The Act may not have been a good for the country. I would like to see more reviews on what the Frankenstein Bill actually ended up looking like.


Anonymous said...

The importance of C-30 is not that it was proposed as a Government bill. Its importance is that it was created through an all party committee--a committee that forced parties to vote, up or down, on each proposal put forward.

C-30 can easily be reintroduced (it does NOT require unanimous consent) by one of the other parties with the same weight and importance as it has now.

Gayle said...

It also kills bills such as the one proposing tightening the rules on campaign loans from private individuals, not to mention all those "tough on crime" bills.

Does anyone know how common this is? I see from the link that Mulroney did it several times, but is that usual?

I ask, because this appears to be yet another example of Harper refusing to be accountable to Canadians. How much time and money was wasted over the many bills before the House over the past year? He is prepared to allow all that waste just so he can avoid the CAA?

Steve V said...

"C-30 can easily be reintroduced (it does NOT require unanimous consent) by one of the other parties with the same weight and importance as it has now."

It requires unanimous consent to be re-introduced where it is now. The NDP plans to bring it up next Tuesday, so it would go to third reading. If Harper takes the prorogation route, you can bring it back, but you have to start back from square one.

Anonymous said...

"something objectively wrong with a parliamentary system, that affords the government the power to simply dissolve parliament."

That problem is called FPTP.

Anonymous said...

If think if Harper continues to pull these stunts, he'll pay dearly. Do you really think the opposition parties will let C-30 go - they'll use it as a tactic against him.

Is Harper going to keep running away from everyone? The press, the opposition parties.

I think Harper can't take any opposition to what he thinks, and if he doesn't get his way he runs away - this is truly a sign of a weakness. Very weak.

BlastFurnace said...

What is forgotten is that during the Chr├ętien Administration, the Standing Orders were altered so that in case of prorogation a bill still awaiting final approval is deemed to be automatically reintroduced from the point where they left off -- it's simply renumbered in chronological order. This is what most provinces have done for years and no one's complained.

So theoretically the Clean Air Act could survive, although instead of being C-30 it might get the number C-6 or whatever. However, as Steve V points out, the committee amendments haven't been voted on yet by the full house and it's those that would die -- not necessarily the whole bill itself.

The real problem, however, is the fact that committees won't be able to conduct business until a new Throne Speech and that's the really repulsive point. Of course, given the dirty tricks manual we learned about last week, nothing's going to get done anyway until the next election.

burlivespipe said...

This is typical Harpor. Remember that committee about making patronage appointments 'less political'? It had to be chaired by his good buddy some Calgary gint named Morgan (hmmm, wonder how much they put him down for back in the 2002 Harpor secret fundraising campaign?) or there was no committee. When the opposition dared question his choice, he pulled the legs out from the committee, and has since been lining the positions with his own special people. No accountability there, and he wasn't willing to compromise in the first part. A real demokrat, this Harpor. He's obviously read all the footnotes of his Stalin biography.