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OpEd in The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), February 18, 2010

Media wrong to publish anti-prorogation diatribes

David Tkachuk, The StarPhoenix

   Following is the viewpoint of Tkachuk, a Conservative senator from Saskatoon.

   Beware of op-eds that appeal only to your emotions, disregarding your intellect. They have no place in a reputable newspaper and the first line of defence against such drivel should be the paper's editors. Judging by the state of debate on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament, most aren't doing their job.

   The media alone is not at fault. The "fury" over prorogation is driven by opposition parties that have a vested interest in creating the false impression that prorogation is a serious breach of the rules, something out of the ordinary, and a threat to democracy.

   That is the job of the opposition, and is to be expected in a healthy and thriving democracy like Canada's. Of course, latching on to this particular non-issue smacks of the kind of desperation expected of parties that can't find anything substantive to criticize about the government: We weathered the economic storm better than any other developed country, and not one of our banks had to be bailed out; there is an all-party agreement on Afghanistan and our military effort there has been the envy of our allies; our response to the earthquake in Haiti has been flawless; and the H1N1 pandemic was managed smoothly, much to the chagrin of the opposition that desperately tried to politicize the issue.

   What is not be expected is for the media to aid and abet the opposition by publishing articles and opinion pieces that are little more than ill-informed diatribes filled with scare-mongering and baseless arguments.

   A good example, although hardly the only one I've come across, is the piece printed recently in The StarPhoenix headlined, Act to save democracy in Canada (Feb. 11) by Howard Klein, who seems to be under the impression that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's proroguing of Parliament is a strike against democracy -- his second strike, if Klein is to be believed.

   Far from being a normal and well-used instrument of parliamentary democracy, "Harper's second proroguing," Klein argues, "introduces a cancerous growth that can be doctored and cured only by an aroused citizenry that believes in democracy and wishes to save Parliament, whatever its inadequacies."

   Unless people act, Klein writes, democracy slowly dies while Harper is doing "more important work -- like 24/7 politicking to gain a parliamentary majority? If he succeeds, he will reveal his vision which may include closing down the CBC, ignoring selected rights and filling prisons. Ten years from now, will Canada exist?"

   Yes it will, I assure you. Klein's arguments would be laughable if they were just some rant on the Internet, but these are printed in a reputable newspaper.

   They include an implicit comparison of the Harper government to Hilter's Third Reich. That's despicable.

   Democracy is alive and well in Canada. There can be no better demonstration of that than the printing of Klein's ridiculous article in this newspaper.

   Prorogation has done not one thing to stop those who want to voice their opinion against the government and its policies.

   Democracy is not under threat by prorogation. Democracy is simply not that fragile. It is made up of many parts and prorogation is one of them. The recent outcry against it by the Liberals and their supporters flies in the face of the fact that the Liberals themselves have resorted to prorogation time and again throughout Canadian history for a variety of reasons, including party self-interest.

   Liberal PM Lester Pearson prorogued twice during the 26th Parliament.

   One of those times was on Dec. 21, 1963, seven months after his government's speech from the throne. Parliament did not return until Feb. 18, 1964.

   Democracy managed to survive and, surprise, Canada existed a decade later.

   Liberal PM Jean Chrétien prorogued Parliament in 2003 for no other reason than to avoid wearing a scathing auditor general's report that was due to be released imminently. Was Klein imploring his fellow citizens then to rise up and defend democracy?

   Bob Rae, the chief Liberal critic of Harper's suspension, when he was Premier of Ontario prorogued his government more often than anyone else in modern Canadian political history -- three times in five years. Now Ontario Liberal Premier McGuinty has prorogued. Another assault on democracy? Another Hitler?

   I don't think so.

   Prorogation is a prerogative of governments in Canada. If anything, Prime Minister Harper acted in the interest of democracy last year by proroguing when the opposition was preparing to rule by questionable democratic means through a coalition government.