The Canadian Press, Tom Hanson/AP
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Governor General Suspends Canada's Parliament

December 04, 2008 03:26 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Canada's Parliament has been suspended at Prime Minister Stephen Harper's request, a move that is being described as "unprecedented."

Harper to retain power through January

Harper's win extends his leadership at least through January. In what Reuter’s calls an "unprecedented move," Governor General Michaelle Jean, who represents Queen Elizabeth, said that the House of Commons would shut down through January 26.

"Today's decision will give us an opportunity—and I'm talking about all the parties—to focus on the economy and to work together," Harper told reporters after meeting Jean. In response to the move, the Canadian dollar rose one percent against the U.S. dollar, Reuters said.

Earlier this week Harper temporarily deflected attempts by the opposition to overturn his Conservative Party leadership, announcing that he would not allow Parliament to vote on the opposition party proposal until Dec. 8.

Harper's suspension came in response to a Nov. 28 statement by the Liberal Party that stated that oppositional parties could introduce a motion as early as Dec. 1 to topple Harper’s government and create a new political body with the help of other Canadian political groups opposed to Conservative Party rule.

In addition to the Liberal Party, other opposition parties include the New Democrats and Bloc Québécois. The group has been in talks over the creation of a coalition government since the Oct. 14 vote that put Harper back in power without a majority. The opposition parties argue that the current leadership has no specific plan for dealing with the economic crisis.

Earlier, the government attempted to stop public party financing, which opposition parties utilize more than the Conservative Party. According to USA Today, political analysts believe Harper made a mistake in proposing the measure, as it inspired angry opposition parties to unite against him. The proposal was later withdrawn.

Harper's opponents have argued that the Prime Minister has made limp efforts to improve the nation’s economy, noting that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced plans to wait until 2009 to examine the budget and determine whether a stimulus package would be necessary.

According to Bloomberg, Scott Brison, the Liberals’ finance critic, told reporters in Ottawa, “Until Stephen Harper presents a proposal to Parliament that helps people during these tough economic times, we won’t support him. There has been no plan, no ideas and no investment at a time when he’s out of step with all other industrial leaders across the planet.”

Background: Harper pushes election, gets a flimsy win

Voice of America explained how the Canadian electoral process works: Canadians vote for their local members of parliament; the party with the most seats creates the government, and the head of the winning party becomes prime minister.

Harper was re-elected on Oct. 14 after calling for an early vote. Despite his haste to get people to the polls, the Conservative Party was unable to achieve the votes necessary to garner a governing majority. The Party won 143 seats, but remained short of the 155 necessary to control the legislative agenda. Before the election, the Party had only 127 seats out of 308 in the House of Commons, making the Conservatives vulnerable to no-confidence votes, Chinese news service Xinhua said in September.

The House of Commons had previously passed legislation scheduling elections for October 2009. The Xinhua article suggested that the prime minister set the earlier date because “he sees now as the best time for his party to secure a fresh mandate, and possibly a long-coveted majority government.”

Instead, the election gave Canada its third minority government in four years. According to The Guardian, “Voter turnout was 59.1%, the lowest in Canadian history and down nearly 6% from the 2006 election.”

Reference: Canadian politics

Related Topic: Harper Delivered Plagiarized Speech in 2003


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