On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he will be proroguing Parliament until September 23rd, at which point he will then deliver a throne speech outlining the updated Liberal plan to recover from the pandemic. A throne speech would provide an opportunity to openly and directly debate the long-term plan once parliament returns, and would then trigger a vote of confidence.
Prorogation allows for a parliamentary shutdown which kills all bills currently under consideration and suspends all parliamentary committees, including those in which he is under investigation at this very moment.
Although prorogation isn’t used too often, it does have significant precedent. In 2002, Jean Chrétien prorogued parliament to dodge scandal, but after its resumption, he was forced to resign and his party was limited to a minority government. In 2008, Stephen Harper prorogued parliament to delay a vote of non-confidence, but was then re-elected to a majority government. Again in late 2009, Harper used prorogation to keep parliament recess during the upcoming winter Olympics to be hosted in Vancouver, but this move was widely suspected to be simply a way for Harper to avoid the ongoing investigations into treatment of Afghan detainees during the war there.
Clearly, prorogation has been used in the past for the main motives of dodging scandal and consolidating power. This seems to be no different with the current Trudeau administration. Even though it is definitely necessary for the government to take time to regroup and form a new plan for dealing with the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, there is hardly any justification that parliament would need to be prorogued for the Liberal government to do this. The prorogation is a direct and obvious strategy to kill parliamentary committees for the time being and to quash the WE charity scandal once and for all.
The Conservatives, as official opposition, have been unequivocal in maintaining that they will continue to press the governing Liberals regarding their nefarious intentions with the now quashed WE Charity student volunteer grant. Reacting to the proroguing of parliament, Conservative Ethics Critic, Michael Barrett points out that, “If this was about introducing a speech from the throne – the reset that [the Prime Minister] was looking for, he could’ve prorogued on September 22nd and delivered that speech on the 23rd. This is about one thing and one thing only – it’s about hiding from the truth, avoiding accountability, and it’s his architecture of a cover-up.”
Shutting down parliament for over a month does not reflect well on this Liberal administration, and having a throne speech trigger a vote of confidence may end up being something that these Liberals live to regret. Even NDP Ethics Critic, Charlie Angus laid out that, “It’s going to be very hard to support [the Liberals] at this point because of this real breach with the Canadian people. This is the biggest economic and medical crisis in a century and they shut up shop and left town to escape an ethical scandal – that’s not acceptable.”
As the Bloc Quebecois are already openly calling to topple this government, the left-of-Liberal NDP not showing too much faith in it and its leadership in such trying times, and the Conservative Party set to elect a new leader on Sunday, opposition parties are gearing up to ravage what’s left of an already crippled Liberal administration on its last legs.