Canadian Prime Minister Shuts Down Parliament to Avoid No-Confidence Vote
He hopes it will give him and his Conservative government enough time to develop a stimulus package that could prop up the economy.
Mr Harper said: “The opposition’s criticism is that we have to focus on the economy immediately and today’s decision will give us an opportunity – I’m talking about all the parties – to focus on the economy and work together,”
He said a budget will be the first order of business when Parliament resumes.
Three opposition parties have united against Harper, accusing him of failing to protect Canada from the global financial crisis. The credit crisis and a global sell off of commodities have slowed Canada’s resource-rich economy, and the finance minister said last week he expects a recession.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion said the opposition would seek to oust Harper unless he makes a “monumental change” in dealing with the economy and other parties.
“For the first time in the history of Canada the prime minister is running away from the Parliament of Canada,” Dion said.
The opposition was also outraged by a government proposal to scrap public subsidies for political parties, something the opposition groups rely on more than the Conservatives.
Although that proposal was withdrawn, the opposition has continued to seek Harper’s ouster, saying he has lost the trust and confidence of parliament.
Governor General Michaelle Jean, who represents Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, had the power to grant the unusual request to suspend parliament. Had she refused, Harper would have had two choices: step down or face a no-confidence vote he was sure to lose.
Harper would not offer details on their a two-and-a-half hour long conversation, citing constitutional tradition.
Opposition politicians blasted Harper’s methods.
“I have friends calling me from other countries saying ‘Oh well, don’t worry, we’ve seen this happen in third world countries before, we’ve seen Parliament’s get suspended, and people pull fast tricks in order to not face the will of Parliament,’ but in Canada?,” Liberal Bob Rae said. “I frankly don’t regard his government as legitimate any more. His government is there because he avoided the will of Parliament.”
Opposition New Democrat leader Jack Layton called it a sad day.
“He’s trying to lock the door of Parliament so that the elected people cannot speak,» Layto said. «He’s trying to save his job.”
Layton said the shut down only delays Harper’s inevitable defeat.
Analysts said a governor general has never been asked to suspend parliament to delay an ouster vote when it was clear the government didn’t have the confidence of a majority of legislators.
Nelson Wiseman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, said Jean’s decision strengthened the office of the prime minister at the expense of the popularly elected Parliament.
“It’s not a good day for parliamentary democracy,” Wiseman said.