The current shut down (prorogation) of the provincial legislature by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, past prorogations of Parliament by Prime Minister Harper and Prime Minister Chretien and some premiers, and the recent shutting down of provincial legislatures by B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale, make it clear that new rules are needed across Canada to ensure fairness and democratic accountability in the opening and shutting down of legislatures.
In the past decade alone, Prime Ministers Chretien and Harper, and provincial premiers in Alberta, B.C., Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and others, have either kept Parliament or the legislature closed, or shut it down, to help themselves or their political party escape democratic accountability.
In most countries in the world, including the parliamentary democracies of Britain, Australia and New Zealand, the constitution or written constitutional conventions or laws govern when the legislature opens and closes, not the whims of the ruling party leader. A survey of 2,030 Canadians commissioned by Your Canada, Your Constitution last May showed that two-thirds want such clear, written rules established in Canada, enforced by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Please help call for important changes to make the opening and closing of legislatures more democratic!
I am writing today to call for important changes needed to make the opening and closing of legislatures more democratic.
The current shutdown of the Ontario legislature by Premier McGuinty, past prorogations by Prime Minister Harper and Prime Minister Chretien and some premiers, and the recent shutdowns of provincial legislatures by B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale make it clear that new rules are needed across Canada to ensure fairness and democratic accountability in the opening and shutting down of legislatures.
I am calling for a bill with the following measures to ensure that prorogation is not used as a partisan tool:
1) the Prime Minister or premier must be required to open the legislature within 30 days after each election;
2) the government and opposition parties must be required to keep the legislature open other than for the usual breaks for statutory holidays, summer and mid-winter months, and during election campaigns (ie. every legislature should be required to be open for at least 25 weeks each year);
3) the Prime Minister or premier must be prohibited from requesting that the Governor General or provincial lieutenant governor shut down (prorogue) the legislature for more than two weeks;
4) the Prime Minister or premier must also be prohibited from requesting the shutdown of the legislature unless the government can show that it has completed all of its pledged actions and decisions from its last proposed plan (ie. its last Speech from the Throne), or attempted to complete them (as the opposition parties may stop or delay completion of some actions), or unless the national situation has changed in such significant ways that a new government plan is needed immediately;
5) all government watchdog agencies must be given the power to release their reports and rulings whenever they are completed, whether or not the legislature is open, and;
6) when the legislature opens after a shutdown, all government and opposition bills under review before the shutdown should be continued at the same stage of review.
Please let me know what you will do to ensure that these changes are made as soon as possible. I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive from representatives in each party. I look forward to hearing from you.