Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Governor-General's Decision to grant the p.m.'s request for prorogation

Governor-General Michaelle Jean was put in a difficult position, and probably made the best decision she could under the circumstances. She felt uncomfortable saying no the the prime minister, because there is no clear precedent for doing so on a request for prorogation. Since the government had not actually been defeated yet, she had one formal advisor to listen to: the prime minister and his government.

But here is the problem. She will have another difficult decision to make at the end of January if the budget is defeated and the prime minister requests dissolution because he wishes to go to the people for another election rather than hand power to the "separatist coalition". If on that occasion she says "yes", then Harper will have succeeded in doing in two steps what he was unable to accomplish in one step (assuming that he would not have been granted dissolution today). Can that be right? That could be a dangerous precedent, one that seriously erodes the constitutional check on the prime minister that the Royal refusal to request for dissolution has been through out the history of British responsible government. Clearly, the Governor-General will need to take steps to limit the scope of this precedent for future prime ministers in minority governments: she can do so by treating the constitutional clock as having stopped on December 4, and by refusing dissolution when the prime minister asks for it 7-8 weeks from now.

1 comment:

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