Proroguing Ontario’s government: What does it mean?

by | Oct 16, 2012 | News

Ontario’s Provincial legislature has been prorogued with Monday’s resignation by Premier Dalton McGuinty. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

By Katherine Ward and Terry Elkady

Q: What does it mean to prorogue a government?
A: Prorogation is the technical term for the end of a parliamentary session without dissolving the government.
Essentially, it is the shutting down of either a federal or provincial legislature for an indefinite period of time.

Q: Who can prorogue a government?
A: In Canada, the sitting monarch has the ability to prorogue the government.
However, the monarchy’s representative normally does this.
Federally this would be the Governor General, and provincially this would be the Lieutenant Governor of the province/territory in question.
Normally this action is taken on the advice of the current prime minister or premier.

According to Nelson Wiseman, associate professor in the political science department at the University of Toronto, no request for prorogation in Canadian history has ever been denied.

Q: Is Dalton McGuinty still the premier right now?
A: Yes he is still the current premier of Ontario.
According to Wiseman, at this point he has just announced the fact he will be stepping down, although it hasn’t happened yet.
The Liberal party of Ontario will soon have to call a leadership convention to pick McGuinty’s successor.
After that happens, and the new person is in place, McGuinty will leave office.

Listen to Terry Elkady’s interview with Nelson Wiseman:

Q: How long can it last for in Ontario?
A: The legislature has to meet once a year according to provincial law.
As a result, technically the government could be prorogued until next October.
However, according to Wiseman, this will probably not happen. He speculates the Liberals will most likely elect a leader as soon as possible around February or March, so they can pass a budget in time for next year.

Q: Who is affected in this process?
A: Wiseman says he is not sure the proroguing will have much effect on the majority of people in Ontario.
Those directly affected are the people working in the premier’s office, given that they now have to look for new jobs.

Q: Can the government still get things done at this point?
A: The answer to this question is both yes and no.
According to Wiseman, the government will continue to operate a normal.  Last year’s budget is still in place, so Ministers still have discretion over already approved spending.

The only difference is the legislature is closed, effectively shutting down any forum for the opposition. This essentially prevents any new legislation from being passed.

Q: What do MPP’s do during this time?
A: Ministers can do whatever they want during this time. They can visit their constituencies, speak with the media or work on other projects.

They are still being paid, because that money is approved in the annual budget.

The only difference now is Queen’s Park is not in session, so no new bills or legislation can be introduced.

Q: Who stands to benefit from proroguing the Ontario government?
A: Wiseman says at this time, the act of proroguing the Ontario provincial government significantly benefits the Liberal party.
“McGuinty is trying to save his party. A new leader can ask for a mandate of the people and ask for another election,” Wiseman says.

Additionally, he says all of the controversy surrounding the government has essentially just had “cold water thrown on it.”

That includes committee work on the contempt charge related to the province’s Minister of Environment Jim Bradley.