To prevent future abuses of prorogation, the Liberal Party of Canada will seek to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to:
• Require at least 10 days written notice from the Prime Minister of his intention to seek to prorogue, together with his specific reasons for doing so;
• Require the Prime Minister to bring the issue of prorogation before the House of Commons for a full debate;
• Prevent a request for prorogation within the first year after a Speech from the Throne, unless the House consents;
• Prevent a prorogation longer than one calendar month without the consent of the House;
• Prevent a request for prorogation if a matter of confidence has been scheduled in the House unless the House consents; and,
• Allow Parliamentary Committees to continue to function during the period when Parliament is prorogued until the start of the new session.
The above moves power away from the whims of a Prime Minister to our elected legislature. The Prime Minister can still prorogue, but he must justify his reasoning, he must face Parliament and debate merits. The item curtails future abuse, denying any prorogue request, should a matter of confidence be forthcoming. In totality, all these measures congeal to create a new climate, wherein the PM is subjected to the will of Parliament, to a certain extent. Prime Minister's will think twice before they decide to prorogue, because their decision will be under scrutiny. I applaud these measures all around.
Last week, Ignatieff resisted calls for prorogue reform, arguing instead that it was more a question of THIS Prime Minister abusing, rather than an inherent flaw in the system. I was quite critical of this argument. I note that during last week's online townhall, there was much resistance and criticism directed towards the Liberals, failing to offer any concrete reform, only offering the mostly useless and non resonating "trust us" argument. The fact that the Liberals have reconsidered demonstrates a nimble approach, criticism was digested and revisions were made. This reaction illustrates that Ignatieff is listening, these exercises of outreach are more than just public relations fluff.
On the strategic front, the Liberals have seized the agenda, they have put themselves at the center of the reform debate. In terms of frame, it is critical important that we redefine the Liberal brand. Steps such as the above might be a small step, but it does allow for some sense of differentation between the two main parties, as well as speaking to voter "drift". Is there a political motivation here? Well hello, isn't there always to a certain extent, no matter the party. This fact doesn't detract from a sense of dialogue, responsive policy, which is never a negative.