Canadian prime minister suspends Parliament, again

| 12/9/2008

For the second time since early September, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper acted to suspend Parliament in an effort to preserve the Conservative Party’s political standing as the party in power.

The first time around, Harper convinced Gov. General Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament in September so he could call an election and retain or gain seats in the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa.

Canada has three major federal parties, the Conservatives, the Liberal Party and New Democratic Party. The Bloc Quebecois, based in the province of Quebec, is also represented in Parliament.

The Conservatives won the election and several more seats in October, but their current total of 143 is still considered a minority government because it is less than half of the 308 available in the House of Commons.

Since the Oct. 14 election, leaders of the opposition parties have made their intentions known to form a coalition and use their combined seats to oust the Conservatives.

On Friday, Dec. 4, Harper emerged from another ceremonial meeting with the governor general to say Parliament was once again suspended, this time until Jan. 26.

Harper stated in a radio address that now is not the time to break up the government. He called for unity and for the country to work together to solve the biggest issue of the day – the economy. The first order of business when Parliament resumes on Jan. 27 is to discuss the budget, he stated.

Opposition leaders have accused Harper of using political tactics to pre-empt a vote of confidence that was scheduled to take place Monday, Dec. 8. That vote could have been consequential in the move toward a coalition government according to members of the two major opposition parties and Bloc Quebecois.

The Liberals currently hold 77 seats in Parliament, the New Democratic Party holds 37 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois has 49 for a combined total of 163 seats.

Until Parliament resumes, Harper has the task of trying to get at least one of the other parties to band with him in furthering the Conservative Party platform, but all appearances indicate that such an agreement is not likely.

If the coalition wrests power from the Conservatives in the coming weeks, the Liberals would control Parliament with support from the New Democrats. The Bloc Quebecois would not be part of a formal coalition, but leaders have pledged voting support to defeat the Conservatives.

– By David Tanner, staff writer