03 December 2008

UPDATED: Government has less power to act when Parliament prorogued - Dec 3 Liberal letter to GG says same

UPDATE: Here's a media release from the Liberals, with a full copy of a letter they sent today to the GG re prorogation.

So Ned Franks, of Queen's University, states. This situation could seriously hamper the government's ability to act should a serious financial situation occur - as might be expected during the next six weeks.

Governments retain many powers during periods when parliament is prorogued, including the power to make appointments to the courts, boards of Crown corporations, make regulatory changes and sign contracts...

The government gives up ... the ability to spend the people's money not previously approved... That means the government could promise an economic stimulus package, but could not start spending the money until Parliament approves a spending bill such as would occur after a budget...

Given the current political crisis where Stephen Harper is seeking to avoid a vote of non-confidence, the government could find it has lost other powers as well, such as the power to make appointments.

Franks says Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean has the prerogative to refuse to approve anything other than routine matters as would be the case during an election campaign.

"She might say she will treat it as an election because she might say she is not satisfied that Harper enjoys the confidence of the House of Commons," said Franks.

"There is no precedence for doing that but there is also no precedence for a prime minister facing a likely to succeed vote of non-confidence asking for prorogation."

"A government with little power other than make promises is not an ideal situation at a time the economy appears headed into a deepening recession," says Bank of Montreal economist Douglas Porter.

And it's not the timing of a stimulus package that worries him most.

"I'm more concerned if an unforeseen storm blows up over the next two months and we've hit with some many surprises and shocks, the odds of that are too high for comfort," he said.

"What if they had to bail out a big industry?"

The GG's role seems never to have been so crucial as it is now.

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