The Turmoil Surrounding the Prorogation of Canada’s 40th Parliament & the Crown

Kenneth Munro

Abstract


The prorogation of the first session of Can- ada’s fortieth Parliament awakened Canadians to the intricacies of their political system and it brought the Canadian Crown to the fore of our history once more. Acceding to her Prime Min- ister’s advice on that cold, dreary, snow-covered morning of 4 December 2008, the Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, sparked the interest of Canadians in their monarchical institutions. A docile and politically bored population refused in large numbers to cast their ballots in a general election in October. Less than two months later, the prorogation of the first session of their new Parliament sparked a new-fired enthusiasm for politics, and throughout the country Canadians became constitutional experts overnight. They voiced their opinions on talk shows, at work and at leisure, in bars and over formal dinners, sud- denly manifesting astonishing skill at discuss- ing the strengths and weaknesses of their sys- tem of government with particular emphasis on the Maple Crown. Many based their opinions about the Crown on whether or not they liked the Prime Minister. Only a handful focused on the essential issue of the prorogation: was Prime Minister Stephen Harper abusing the preroga- tive and reserve powers of the Crown for parti- san political advantage? This issue was raised by David Smith over a decade ago in his book The Invisible Crown1 and it remains an unresolved question for constitutional observers today.



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