Justin Trudeau's Past Comes Back to Haunt Him as He Shuts Down Parliament

The prime minister had previously spoken out against proroguing, promising his government would never do it.
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, CA
August 18, 2020, 8:20pm
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference as he visits the Public Health Agency of Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, July 31, 2020. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick (CP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday he is proroguing Parliament, effectively hamstringing a summer probe into the WE Charity scandal, despite decrying the move in the past.

The decision to prorogue the government, which pauses a parliamentary session, will give Trudeau’s team the opportunity to reassess priorities and develop a long-term plan for pandemic-related recovery, the prime minister told reporters on Tuesday. 

The decision to effectively reset the federal government follows an onslaught of controversies and tensions, including conflict in Parliament surrounding Trudeau’s COVID-19 response, the WE charity funding scandal, as well as calls from the Conservative opposition for either the prime minister’s resignation or a new election. This week, Trudeau announced a major reshuffle of his cabinet as Finance Minister Bill Morneau resigned from his post. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, a Trudeau loyalist, is slated to take over the role. Sources close to Morneau told VICE News there was a growing conflict between him and the Prime Minister’s Office. Minister Dominic Leblanc is taking over the intergovernmental affairs portfolio.  

The prorogation, which comes into effect Tuesday, will temporarily halt investigations into the WE controversy.

Trudeau said committees probing the WE scandal recently received a “mountain of documents” they had asked for and there will be opportunities for investigating committees to continue to sit after prorogation.

But many Canadians want to know why Trudeau decided to prorogue the government after years of voicing his opposition against the tactic, a staple of the previous Conservative regime.  

“Marching against prorogation in (Montreal). You know it's a good day when even the Communist Party comes out for democracy,” Trudeau tweeted in 2010 when former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper reset his government. And in 2015, the Liberal government promised never to use prorogation. “Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not,” the party’s plan for a healthy middle class said.

Another Twitter account dug up a video of Trudeau decrying prorogation in 2017.

“Stephen Harper and the Conservatives prorogued government in order to shut it down and avoid a confidence vote,” Trudeau said. “We are proroguing parliament to bring it back on exactly the same week it was supposed to come back anyway and force a confidence vote.”

Trudeau said he is planning a throne speech on September 23, the same week the House of Commons was scheduled to return. It will allow Trudeau’s cabinet to introduce a new recovery plan, geared towards helping Canadians recover from the pandemic, especially those hardest like women, young people, and racialized and Indigenous peoples. A confidence vote for the forthcoming plan will be held at that time, he said. 

Trudeau said he doesn’t want a fall election, despite ongoing speculation that he’s hoping to win a majority government after he’s enjoyed a boon in support for his COVID-19 response.

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