Until not very long ago, "prorogue" wasn't a four-letter word.
Until Prime Minister Stephen Harper discovered its usefulness in side-stepping normal democratic procedures in Canada's Parliament, prorogation was commonly used to allow the government to take a breather, as it were, to offer time to rethink and re-establish policies and commitments to accomplish new and important objectives.
Prorogation has been a staple of the British-style parliamentary system for centuries. Most Canadian prime ministers before Harper used it to take a break to prepare, for instance, a new Throne Speech, or to reorganize and prepare new cabinet ministers after a significant change to cabinet shuffle-such as the recent shuffle instituted by Harper.
In general, Canadians were mostly unaware of the word, or how it fit into the parliamentary process, until the past few years, when Harper used it several times to save his own political butt: thwarting a no-confidence vote in one case, and to stop embarrassing questions that threatened to topple his government in another. No wonder that people who are bothering to pay attention at all are leery of the prime minister's announced intention to ask (actually, it comes off as more of a command) the governor-general to prorogue Parliament once again.
He has given all the good reasons for doing so: he wants time to present a new Throne Speech, and to ensure that all of his newly minted cabinet ministers are all up to date on their responsibilities so that the business of government continues smoothly.
But he's also in the middle of the senate minefield-shades of his previous antidemocratic use of that four-letter word. Fortunately for Harper, most Canadians aren't paying attention as the holiday season transitions into the back-to-school season.
Fortunately for Canadians, NDP and Liberal MPs will have extra time to formulate their senate-scandal questions.
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