FIN IN THE NEWS: Shutting Down Parliament Is Anti-Democratic

From the World Journal; translated from the Mandarin

Calligrapher Wang Xizhi once said “you should examine yourself daily. If you find faults, you should correct them. When you find none, you should try even harder”.

In Canadian politics, the issues are not always cut and dry. Rarely is one party always right or always wrong.

It is through dialogue and debate that we often strike a balance and ensure that all views are included, or at least listened to.

Late last year, that dialogue was cut off by the Prime Minister, when he asked the Governor General to prorogue, or suspend, parliament.

In a rarely used procedural move, the Prime Minister effectively stopped all debate in the House of Commons, killed all government legislation on the order paper and prevented Members of Parliament from working on their House committees. In effect, he shut down democracy in Canada.

Prorogation has traditionally been used by a government that is near the end of its legislative agenda to create some space outside the cut and thrust of the Parliamentary arena in which to develop a new agenda and to launch a new Throne Speech. This latest prorogation of Parliament had nothing to do with proper procedure, and everything to do with evading political difficulties the government was facing late last year (that being the transfer of Afghan prisoners to places where torture was allegedly taking place).

Over the past few months, this action more than any other by the Prime Minister, received the biggest reaction from my constituents, and those across the country. Huge numbers of people spoke out expressing their anger and dismay that the Prime Minister would abuse his powers and shut down Parliament, shutting out democracy.

This action was decisively wrong. Rather than providing the space for debate by all duly elected Parliamentarians and to plan our country’s moves forward, prorogation shut down debate and stopped us in our tracks.

Recently,(Parliament has finally resumed), I was proud to stand up and vote in favour of a New Democrat motion to prevent such abuses of power from happening again, which would see any future prorogations of Parliament longer than seven days seek approval from the House of Commons.

As Xi Zhi said, we must examine ourselves daily. It is only through meaningful reflection, discourse and debate that we can hope to correct our faults and build towards a better, more sustainable Canada.

As a new member of Parliament, elected in November last year, I was excited to go to work for the people of my riding - New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody, so you can imagine my disappointment when the doors of Parliament were slammed shut in my face.

I am now happy to finally be back in the House of Commons, and will continue to work hard on behalf of the people of my riding, but it's important that I, along with all other Members of Parliament across the country be given the opportunity to "examine ourselves daily". This is what a truly representative democracy does.

Fin Donnelly, MP New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody