One of the most often stated objections made by the Conservatives when Michael Ignatieff indicated a desire to force an election last fall was that the country did not want to waste $200 million on another election, and that they wanted the government to focus on rebuilding the economy and creating jobs.
However, it is also fair to say that Canadians wanted a government that would govern, not one which wanted to take an extended Christmas-through-Olympic vacation. For thousands of Canadians looking for work, the fact that the Government doesn’t feel that it needs to do the job we are paying them to do for three months is an affront. Here in Ottawa, there is a more direct cost as over 220 support workers on the Hill have been laid off for the duration of the prorogue, with almost half of them at risk of losing enough work days to lose their pensions. While the Government certainly benefits from direct savings of laying off those employees, this is offset by the social costs of their collecting EI and their loss of wages buying goods and services in the community. The irony of being laid off while the cause, Mr.Harper, states that the reason was so that he could “recalibrate” his position on the economy and job creation must feel like adding insult to injury to those directly affected.
The CBC also notes that the fixed costs of running the government total nearly $50 million in expenses for the 22 days that this government had decided to take off. What cannot be determined is how to calculate the total costs lost to restart legislation and committee work due to the Prorogue. Everything from the costs of reprinting draft bills for the new Parliamentary session, to bringing up to speed new members on the various committees that will be reconstituted following Parliament’s opening. If one were to estimate that this prorogue cost even just one eight of a year of work to wasted effort on Bills now killed, and on necessary rework to restart many Bills, then this would double that $50 million as a direct cost of this action. In other words, this prorogue has probably cost the taxpayers at least half of the amount that Harper claimed would be wasted on an election, and with similar results: A country without active governance, the ending of all current Parliamentary work, and no ongoing action being taken on the issues that matter most to the country.
Although most Canadians this past year have had the good fortune to remain employed and are thankful for that fact, everyone knows someone who has been adversely affected by the recession and most have felt some impact on their own lives. For those who have been looking for work, the year has not been kind to many as the opportunities have been scarce and pay rates for what work has been available has often been depressed.
Most would love to have the ability to prorogue their job for a couple of months. To get paid for not working at their own discretion. Few citizens, however, will ever have that luxury. For many who are still looking for work, they must be wondering what job creation projects that might have got them back to work are simply not happening while the government takes its extended break.
The Liberal Party had taken the lead on this issue, being the first to promise to show up and do what work they can despite the prorogue. While the NDP initially resisted doing the same, it appears that they have come around and decided to come to work as well. The Conservatives, meanwhile, try to label this as nothing more than political posturing, but to the unemployed there must at least be some sense of gratification that the opposition at least to want to be working at the jobs that we are paying them for.
All across Canada this Saturday, including here in Ottawa, protests will be held against the prorogue. Initially there was some discussion of holding these on the Monday when Parliament was scheduled to return, however those Canadians fortunate enough to be working but unable to afford to prorogue their own jobs for the day would have been unable to attend. As it is, citizens will be taking hours away from what little time off they have with their friends and their families to tell this government to get back to work.
As Michael Ignatieff stated in his open letter to the members of Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament ” Canadians believe in their institutions and have clear, common sense expectations of their politicians: Get to work, work together and get the job done. It’s what’s expected of every Canadian all day long, and politicians should not live by a different set of rules.”