Canadian Parliament suspended

The Parliament of Canada has been suspended until January 26, 2009, by Prime Minster Stephen Harper. On Thursday, Harper obtained the consent of the Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, to prorogue Parliament, a procedure which suspends the legislature without dissolving it. This prevents the Parliament from overthrowing the government and avoids calling a new election.

A coalition of the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party had looked ready to overthrow the Conservative Party of Canada’s minority government led by Harper.

“The first order of business will be the presentation of a federal budget,” Harper told reporters outside of the Governor’s Rideau Hall residence. “Let’s get on with actually working on a package. That’s what I think Canadians want us to do, is work on the economy and work together, work together in the interest in Canada.”
Stéphane Dion, the leader of the Liberal Party, who was positioned to become the new Prime Minister, said the coalition would still seek to replace Harper barring a “monumental change” in his policies.

“For the first time in the history of Canada, the prime minister of Canada is running away from the Parliament of Canada,” Dion said. He said Harper has “placed partisan politics ahead of the interest of all Canadians.”

“Nothing has changed for us,” added Dion. “We are more committed than ever with the coalition.”

New Democrat leader Jack Layton said it was a “sad day for parliamentary democracy,” and that Harper was trying to “escape accountability.”

“He’s put a lock on the door of the House of Commons and he refuses to face the people of Canada through their elected representatives,” Layton said, addressing press at the House of Commons.

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Harper spoke to Canadians in a televised address.

“The Opposition is attempting to impose this deal without your say, without your consent, and without your vote. This is no time for backroom deals with the separatists; it is the time for Canada’s government to focus on the economy and specifically on measures for the upcoming budget. This is a pivotal moment in our history,”

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