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Will Prorogation Bring “Sexy” Back to Parliament Hill?
Will the break result in a new session that is “suggestive, attractive, stimulating or interesting”?

Parliament has been prorogued until after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, with a new session set to begin on March 3. While many don’t know what this actually means, the subject has been water cooler conversation fodder anyway. So, what’s so sexy about prorogation?

Prorogation of Parliament is a bit like a big time out. Essentially it shuts down Parliamentary processes, ending the current session of Parliament without calling an election. At the end of the time out, it’s a restart of Parliament with the same MPs and Senators in place, except the Prime Minister will likely have filled any Senate vacancies occurring during the period of prorogation (a key to having a Conservative majority in the Senate before March). Committees are disbanded and will have to be reappointed. Committee chairs and memberships come to an end. No petitions, reports or other documents may be presented until the new session begins. In fact, MPs are technically released from their duties, as if an election had been called, but odds are high that you will find conscientious Members in their constituency offices over the next two months as they are still on the payroll.

One penalty absorbed by the government when it takes this action is that all government bills before the House and Senate are “entirely terminated.” Any legislation the government would like to proceed with in the new session will either have to be reintroduced or, with permission of the House, reinstated at whatever stage it had reached when Parliament was disbanded.

Over the next few weeks, we will be offering commentary on this blog about some of the legislation affected - government bills we would like to see reintroduced, perhaps modified slightly, and some that we suggest would be best left off the agenda altogether. I had a brief conversation with someone on the bus the other day who had invested years of effort in a bill that died just shy of Royal Assent (the final formal step before a bill becomes law). Not a happy camper was he.

Private members’ bills, however, are not like government bills, and survive prorogation at the stage to which they had arrived, and so will get a bit of a running start on government business. Regrettably, this will delay proposed changes to the law on human trafficking, which is projected to explode during the Olympics but certainly won’t end with the closing ceremonies. Also delayed will be the second reading vote on Francine Lalonde’s “three peat” bill on euthanasia and assisted suicide. In the coming weeks, you can anticipate CFPL bloggers’ reflection on private members’ bills we stand for or against.

Prorogation is less expensive than an election, yet intended to give Parliament a fresh start. It’s kind of like hitting restart when you’re not sure what to do with your computer. Everything’s still there, but you might lose a few documents.

As for the title of this blog – will prorogation bring “sexy” back to the Hill? It’s difficult to say. Will it result in a new session that is suggestive, attractive, stimulating or interesting (according to Webster’s definition)? That remains to be seen.

To be frank, I tried to come up with an interesting spin on the topic of prorogation and simply couldn’t think of one. So in lieu of an interesting slant on the topic, I opted to start this New Year with an attention grabbing title à la Justin Timberlake…

You can’t fault a guy for trying, right?

The above article may be republished with permission in print publications. For more information contact Gail Reid: reidg@efc-canada.com.

Don Hutchinson is Vice-President, General Legal Counsel with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Director of the Centre for Faith and Public Life.

Originally posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2010  at the EFC’s ActivateCFPL blog.

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