May 27th, 2006
Harper wants to give us fixed election dates every 4 years, "except in cases where the government is defeated in a House of Commons vote or is otherwise 'prevented from governing.'" (from the linked article).
Technically, in Canada, we already have them. The only difference is that the constitutional version of Harper's law provides for 5 year terms.
Let's take a quick look at our constitution:
Democratic rights of citizens
3. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.
Maximum duration of legislative bodies
4. (1) No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs of a general election of its members.
Continuation in special circumstances
(2) In time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection, a House of Commons may be continued by Parliament and a legislative assembly may be continued by the legislature beyond five years if such continuation is not opposed by the votes of more than one-third of the members of the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, as the case may be.
Annual sitting of legislative bodies
5. There shall be a sitting of Parliament and of each legislature at least once every twelve months.
In the case of Harper's law, a government that loses a vote of non-confidence will still cause an immediate dissolution of parliament and election, meaning any government that seriously wants to can bring itself down early. It's also quite feasable for any subsequent parliament to simply revoke the 4 year election law as it is not enshrined in the constitution.
It's also interesting to note that Harper's law would allow the country to go to election if the government is "prevented from governing". I'm awfully curious to hear the legal definition of "prevented from governing".
Left undefined, it could mean anything from the Prime Minister having a cold to an independent MP filibustering a motion to adjourn to the parliament buildings being locked down for security reasons to the parliamentary press gallery asking too many questions.
Regardless of all this, I don't believe it is an accident that this law is being introduced in an acrimonious minority parliament and not in a future majority parliament. If the bill fails, Harper will not lose a political advantage he doesn't really want to lose anyway, and gets all the political points of having tried.
Posted at 10:02 on May 27, 2006
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