Opposition wants to set rules on prorogation

ALTHIA RAJ and CHRISTINA SPENCER, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 7:48 PM ET

OTTAWA — The prorogation debate is still on fire as MPs return to work after a two-month break following Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said his party wants an emergency debate to set out rules governing when and how Parliament can be shutdown.

Layton said he was discussing with other leaders “how to stop a prime minister from stepping in and putting a stop to the democratic process.”

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said his party supports limits on the power to prorogue.

“We want to have a political system — everybody understands this — in which the prime minister has the authority to do his job, but he doesn’t have the power to ride roughshod over ... the will of the people,” Ignatieff said.

University of Ottawa Prof. Errol Mendes called lengthy prorogations “unacceptable” but said guidelines should to be in place to limit the role of government when MPs are not there to hold ministers to account.

Guidelines issued by the Privy Council Office call for “restraint” during election periods because “there is no elected chamber to which the government can be held accountable.”

United by a Facebook site, more than 225,000 Canadians said they were unhappy with the Harper government’s decision to prorogue Parliament last December.

Anti-prorogation protests were held in 60 cities, said Shilo Davis, 23, an organizer and student at McMaster University.

As a result of that action, she said, people who’d never cared about politics suddenly wanted to learn about how democracies work.

The protest movement recently morphed into a non-profit group called Canadians Advocating Political Participation to encourage further involvement in the political process.

-With files from Bryn Weese and Peter Zimonjic

althia.raj@sunmedia.ca


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