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ATAMANENKO: Prorogation and nation building

When the government has completed the legislative agenda they have put forward in the session following a Budget speech it is usual and perfectly fine to prorogue the House.  In fact Parliament can be prorogued on one day and a new budget speech introduced the following day if the government chooses. 


It is not okay for any Prime Minister to use this privilege as a tool to prevent the defeat of his government in a confidence vote or to avoid being held accountable in the face of contentious issues. Stephen Harper has prorogued his minority Parliament twice since the 2008 election for both of these partisan reasons and this must be viewed as a self-serving and flagrant abuse of his discretionary power. 


While it could never be said about this Parliament, some of the greatest acts of nation building have been accomplished in minority Parliaments during difficult economic times, because the tone which was being set by the Prime Minister of the day was one of respect, consultation and collaboration. The Canadian Bill of Rights, Universal Healthcare, the Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance and even our Canadian flag would never have come about had it been otherwise.  The most striking thing about Stephen Harper is that he has been both unable and unwilling to set the necessary tone in the people’s Parliament for any great things to be accomplished. 


In fact the character and legacy of this Prime Minister is being defined by his great determination to tear down the institutions we have built as a country, many of them over decades.  Nothing is sacred whether it is Canada Student Loans, the Canadian Wheat Board, the Canada Grain Commission, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada Post, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Canadian Council on Learning or the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to name a few – It seems that if it says ‘Canada’ anywhere in its title, then it is off to the chopping block.


Instead of building on our vast wealth of raw natural resources we see them plundered without regard to future generations and at a great environmental cost only to be exported to create manufacturing jobs in other countries. We see our international reputation as peacekeepers being diminished as our military becomes more aligned with U.S. oil interests in the Middle East. We see our country being awarded “Colossal Fossil Awards” in Copenhagen, the international forum where we just turned our back on those countries who will suffer the most from the ravages of a changing climate.  We see a complete unwillingness to cooperate with those Parties and countries who understand that movement toward a fairer, more sustainable system of economic generation is critical to our collective wellbeing as the world’s eco-systems become increasingly fragile.


Canadians are being offered precious little by the Harper government in the way of nation building even though it has never been more urgently needed.  I am trusting that my constituents will take the time to demand that the Prime Minister bring Parliament back to work on schedule and seriously consider for once the many ways he might exercise his power to create an atmosphere in the House of Commons where greatness might flourish once again.