One must assume that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is definitely in the know as to events that may transpire in the coming weeks and months. With warnings coming from all over the place as to some kind of economic or financial breakdown this fall, is he setting himself up to be able to rule by executive power when this happens?
Is it happenstance if Harper decided to dissolve the Canadian Parliament as warnings of economic turmoil become more urgent and pressing? On Monday, August 3, just a day after Harper launched the election campaign, Michael Snyder published an article on Infowars.com asking, “What is going to happen in September 2015?” Does Harper know?
Dissolution terminates a Parliament, ending all business in the Senate and the House of Commons, and is followed by a general election. However, the Prime Minister remains in power – without the check and balances of a sitting Parliament that will not reconvene before the latter part of the month of October at the earliest.
The Speaker of the House, the Deputy Speaker and the Members of the Board of Internal Economy, which governs the House, also retain certain administrative responsibilities until they are replaced or re-elected following the general election.
This is an unprecedented window of over 3 months where Harper will for all purposes be ruling by executive power alone. Let’s not forget that a Canadian prime minister serves at “Her Majesty’s pleasure”, meaning the post does not have a fixed term.
In Canada, the Governor General remains the representative of the Queen of England and the highest legal authority in the land. Once appointed and sworn in by the Governor General, the prime minister remains in office until he resigns, is dismissed, or dies. According to the Parliament of Canada website, a prime minister ceases to hold office when the Governor General accepts his or her resignation or when a prime minister is dismissed by the Governor General.
So, on Sunday August 2, Harper essentially emerged from Rideau Hall as “King of the land” as he confirmed he had asked Governor General David Johnston to dissolve Parliament, and for a general election to be held Monday, October 19. Harper thus launched the longest federal election campaign in recent Canadian history, lasting 11 weeks, or 78 days. The longest race in recent history was a 74-day campaign back in 1926.
The Conservatives under Harper are seeking a fourth consecutive mandate, but he himself will remain in power until the elections – it is only the Parliament that has been dissolved. Furthermore, it is also possible for a general election to be delayed should Canada be embroiled in a war or insurrection. This provision was enacted to allow Prime Minister Robert Borden to delay a federal election for about a year during World War I. Since then, the provision has only been used twice, both times by provincial governments, but it remains in place.
So, the big surprise for me is not that we will be having elections this fall: the Canadian Constitution limits the duration of a Parliament to five years, except in the event of “war, invasion or insurrection”. And in 2007, the Canadian Parliament passed an act requiring fixed election dates in Canada every four years. The Canada Elections Act now requires that a general election be held on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the previous general election.
So, what do you know that we don’t, Mr Harper?
■ Henri Thibodeau
Sources: Elections Canada, Parliament of Canada, Wikipedia.