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How McGuinty Slapped Democracy in the Face

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Dalton McGuinty's decision to prorogue parliament shows his contempt for Ontario's Legislature. It is a slap in the face of democracy.

Proroguing parliament for partisan advantage violates the very premise of responsible government. It says that a democratically elected legislature is an inconvenience that can be shut down when the going gets tough. This is wrong. And it is dangerous for democracy.

The people elect MPPs to do a job. A major part of that job is to sit in the Legislature -- to review and pass laws, to hold the government accountable and to extend or withdraw confidence. Prorogation prevents the Legislature from fulfilling these fundamental responsibilities.

The Premier's rationale for this decision doesn't pass the sniff test. He claims the government needed to hit the pause button on negotiations with public sector unions on a wage freeze. Well, Mr. Premier, governments of all political stripes have negotiated with unions while the Legislature sits for years.

What the Premier doesn't say is that his government is under fire for decisions of their own making. Prorogation effectively terminates an ongoing investigation of contempt against a Liberal cabinet minister. It precludes possible contempt motions against the Premier and an additional cabinet minister until a new session. In short, it prevents MPPs from holding the government accountable. This is an abuse of power.

Premier McGuinty is a decent and dedicated politician. For this he deserves our thanks. It's unfortunate, however, that he has tarnished his legacy with his decision to use prorogation for partisan purposes.

The Premier called for the renewal of the Liberal party. I think we need to renew democracy. Rather than prorogation, let's demand that the Premier get the Legislature back to work.

The people of Ontario expect our elected officials to govern. We need to demand that they do it in a way that puts the public interest ahead of their political interests. It's time for politicians to rise above the partisan heckling and political games to tackle the big economic, environmental and democratic challenges of our time.

Premier McGuinty has an opportunity to right a wrong. Not only should he recall the Legislature. He should also put forward legislation that prevents future Premiers from abusing prorogation. Mr. Harper and Mr. McGuinty's contemptuous use of prorogation in recent years makes the need for reform quite clear. Our democracy is too precious to abuse.

Mike Schreiner is the leader of the Green Party of Ontario. Comments can be directed to leader@gpo.ca.