If it had been just another Wednesday afternoon, Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament until the beginning of March would have almost certainly created an immediate and vigorous uproar in the Quebec press. But Wednesday, Dec. 30, was no ordinary Wednesday. It was, of course, the Wednesday between Christmas and New Year's and, as such, most of the province's most senior political correspondents were (conveniently for Mr. Harper) on holiday.
The Prime Minister's announcement did not, however, pass by entirely unnoticed in Quebec. A few diehard political commentators managed to tear themselves away from the tourtière and eggnog long enough to express their disapproval of Mr. Harper and his proroguing ways. In an editorial the next day in Le Soleil, Pierre-Paul Noreau accused M. Harper of cynically taking advantage of parliamentary procedure for political gain. "Prorogation is, of course, the Prime Minister's prerogative," he wrote. "But in the present context, they're not fooling anyone. This decision does not serve the interest of citizens and the country; it serves the partisan interest of the Conservative cabinet."
In her column for Le Devoir, Manon Cornellier agreed that although "Mr. Harper has not broken any rules, [….]he nevertheless has shown a disregard for our democratic institutions." Ms. Cornellier called Mr. Harper's decision to shut down Parliament an attempt to avoid having to submit to the "constraints of democracy." She accused the Prime Minister of trying to avoid "such disagreeable tasks as being accountable and transparent, and respecting the will of the majority of parliament." Ms. Cornellier went on to contend that, if Canadians read an article about the leader of another country behaving in a similar manner, "we would conclude that the country was an autocratic state or a banana republic."
Quebec Senate predictions
Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue parliament was widely interpreted as a strategic move that will allow him to appoint new senators and gain a majority on senate committees before Parliament sits in March. In an article published on the same day Mr. Harper announced he was shutting down parliament, Le Devoir provided a rundown of the Quebeckers rumoured to be in the running to replace recently retired senator Marcel Prud'homme. According to information obtained by the paper, the two front-runners for the spot are victim's rights activist Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu and former judge Andrée Ruffo.
Mr. Boisvenu co-founded a Quebec victim's rights and family support organization following the murder of his daughter, Julie, in 2002. He has since been awarded Quebec's "Prix de la Justice" award. Le Devoir reports that Mr. Boisvenu "has met regularly with Prime Minister Harper since 2004" and has acted as "an informal advisor to Conservative cabinet ministers."
Ms. Ruffo is a former Quebec Court judge and outspoken defender of children's rights who has been spotted at several Conservative Party events over the past few years. The article highlighted Ms. Ruffo's dedication to child protection during her career as a judge as well as her tendency to find herself "at the heart of various controversies." Ms. Ruffo's unorthodox tactics - including once sending two teenagers to sleep in the provincial social service minister's office in Quebec City to draw attention to a lack of foster-care beds - often earned her reprimands from Quebec's Judicial Council and eventually led to a 2005 Court of Appeal decision that recommended she be removed from the bench. Ms. Ruffo resigned after the decision.
Le Devoir also mentioned former Mulroney-era Conservative MPs Benoît Bouchard, Monique Landry and Charles DeBlois as possible senate nominees, but concluded that "there chances appear slim" up against Ms. Ruffo and Mr. Boisvenu.
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