Proroguing Parliament: A Matter of Convention
Public Law Review, Vol. 20, p. 100, 2009
8 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2009
Date Written: August 18, 2009
In Canada in late 2008, the government successfully fought off an attempt by the opposition to defeat it weeks after a general election. The main weapon in its arsenal was its request that the Governor General prorogue Parliament for two months. The actions of the Governor General in granting the request to prorogue, rather than sending the Prime Minister back to face Parliament, brought longstanding questions about the role and authority of the Governor General back into the public eye.
In this comment, which was originally presented at a roundtable at the University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Law, addressing the role of the Governor General, I examine the nature of the Governor General’s reserve powers and obligation to act on constitutional advice. I argue that, in the current Canadian climate of successive minority governments, the qualifications for the Governor General must be rethought. The predominant purpose of the office must once again be to police the conventions of responsible government. The Governor General must enjoy the political legitimacy that that allows her to confront a Prime Minister in defence of Parliament, and to exercise independent judgment of the constitutionality of the advice that she receives.
Keywords: constitutional convention, governor general, prorogue, reserve powers
JEL Classification: K19, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation