Jean Chrétien did it too
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being widely panned for proroguing Parliament--and rightly so. Notably, few academics, editorialists or pundits-even those who justified last year's more egregious prorogation to avoid defeat on a confidence vote--are defending the decision.
One argument you sometimes hear from Conservatives, though obviously not from Michael Ignatieff or his supporters, is that Jean Chrétien was not criticized for proroguing to avoid having to receive Sheila Fraser's report on the sponsorship scandal. Conservatives also say that many of today's critics actually respected him for his wiliness; some even cheered Mr. Chrétien's toughness in shutting down the Somalia inquiry, which was investigating a far more serious matter than Afghan detainees. Conservative supporters may also be right in suspecting that-aside from those who dropped the ball back then-some of today's critics grew comfortable in the one party state that Canada was becoming in the days of the "friendly dictator," and detest Mr. Harper for restoring political competition to Ottawa.
That said, nothing in these arguments justifies Mr. Harper's most recent decision to prorogue Parliament. Indeed, the fact that Mr. Chrétien got away with a much longer prorogation in 2003 is one of the better arguments for attacking that decision. Because, if there's one thing of which we can be certain, failure to criticize one erosion in our parliamentary system only makes it easier to do the same and more the next time around.