Prorogation purely a duck-and-cover tactic

When 18th-century British writer Samuel Johnson observed that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” his intent was not to impugn actual patriots, but rather to cast shade on those cynical and dishonourable politicians whose put-on displays of patriotism are merely façades to conceal duplicitious deeds.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/08/2020 (771 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When 18th-century British writer Samuel Johnson observed that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” his intent was not to impugn actual patriots, but rather to cast shade on those cynical and dishonourable politicians whose put-on displays of patriotism are merely façades to conceal duplicitious deeds.

And if cynicism, duplicity and dishonour are the hallmarks by which the late Mr. Johnson categorized certain sorts of politicians, one can’t help wondering if the Georgian-era essayist — were he alive today — would be inclined to describe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a scoundrel.

While there’s no legitimate reason to question Mr. Trudeau’s patriotism or the depth of his abiding love of country, recent events — most notably the prime minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament until mid-September — have certainly left the impression he’s capable of employing levels of cynicism and dishonour that would meet Mr. Johnson’s benchmark for scoundrelship.

There was, and is, no good reason to prorogue Parliament in mid-August

Unleashed as it was in the midst of a pandemic and during an increasingly probative series of Commons-committee hearings into the WE Charity scandal, Mr. Trudeau’s request to the Governor General for prorogation can only be interpreted in one way: as a desperate duck-and-cover exercise aimed at forestalling further embarrassing questions about the entanglement of Mr. Trudeau and erstwhile finance minister Bill Morneau with the charity that was, albeit only temporarily, handed an untendered contract to administer a massive government program.

Mr. Trudeau last week sought to defend the prorogation by calling it “an unprecedented opportunity” for his government to “embrace bold new solutions to the challenges we face and refuse to be held back by old ways of thinking.”

Such innovative thinking and visionary leadership will be revealed, he promised, when Parliament resumes with a throne speech on Sept. 23. The prorogued interim will be required, one is clearly expected to assume, to make sure all the details are attended to with due diligence and the most thoughtful of consideration.

Which is, of course, pure hogwash. Hokum. Flapdoodle of the highest order.

There was, and is, no good reason to prorogue Parliament in mid-August, particularly since the House of Commons was only scheduled to sit for one day — Aug. 26 — between now and the proposed Sept. 23 throne speech. Had Mr. Trudeau’s actual intent been to clear the way for a breathtakingly inspired new direction for his government, he could have set Sept. 22 as the date for requested prorogation and proceeded directly to the throne speech.

The only true achievement of shutting down Parliament for five weeks is a cessation of the Commons committees investigating the WE Charity scandal

The only true achievement of shutting down Parliament for five weeks is a cessation of the Commons committees investigating the WE Charity scandal, which had become more intriguing by week’s end with the release of heavily-redacted government records that included emails suggesting civil servants may have been encouraged by political operatives to favour WE Charity for the controversial government contract.

As such, prorogation cannot be viewed as an opportunity seized, as Mr. Trudeau would have Canadians believe. Rather, it’s a simple case of accountability eluded, through use of a procedural tactic that was decried by Liberals as a cynical abuse of power when Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper employed it in 2008 and 2009.

Five weeks isn’t very long, however, even during a pandemic. Canadians won’t forget, and will see this shutdown for what it is: a waste of time.

Patriotism might be, as Mr. Johnson suggested, the last refuge of a scoundrel. But if that’s the case, surely unwarranted prorogation is a convenient bolt-hole situated somewhere along the same shady road.

Five weeks isn’t very long, however, even during a pandemic. Canadians won’t forget, and will see this shutdown for what it is: a waste of time

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