Here in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has twice prorogued parliament to avoid political challenges, first the threat of a coalition of the three opposition parties and second a rather unsuccessful attempt to avoid nasty questions about the treatment of Afghan detainees.
When Harper porogued parliament, all the government bills on the order paper died and had to be reintroduced in the new session of Parliament. In Canadian democracy, federal or provincial, the same thing happens when the prime minister (or premier) goes to the governor general (or lieutenant governor) to “drop the writ” and call an election.
The outrage among Canadians at Harper’s tactics was loud and clear and many, even some Conservative supporters, consider the second proroguation an affront to democracy.
But there’s a silver lining to all that…… in our nuanced world, nothing is ever black and white.
If a government is facing the electorate, the death of those bills is a key element in democracy, any bills should be stopped until a new parliament can consider them.
Not apparently at the Mother of Parliaments, at Westminster, where there is what my friends in the UK call the “mash-up.” The actual political term is apparently “wash-up.” That means after the election is called, the not-so-honourable members get to push through bills at the last minute. “Mash-up” is certainly a more appropriate term.
Based on my Canadian experience, I was rather surprised at the blogs, tweets and Facebook entries from the United Kingdom that said the controversial digital economy bill was still alive and to be voted on in Parliament, even after Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the Queen to ask for the disolution of Parliament for an election.
In the wee small hours, Friday, Apr. 9, 2010, with only a few members in the House, the highly controversial Digital Economy as reported by The Guardian: Digital economy bill rushed through wash-up in late night
The government forced through the controversial digital economy
bill with the aid of the Conservative party last night, attaining a
crucial third reading – which means it will get royal assent and become
law – after just two hours of debate in the Commons.
The bill claims to promote the “digital economy” by what some say are draconian copyright provisions. As a creator and writer, I am very much in favour of copyright and copyright enforcement. This UK law (or will be law as soon as the Queen signs it) is largely the creature of the giant media companies and follows their agenda. There are even fears that the bill could lead the UK to block Google and sites like Wikileaks..
So the law is not a step forward to protect creators but a step by the media corporations to protect their empires. The only outcome will be more income from media lawyers, bureaucrats and whatever copyright police come into existence, rather than a real attempt to create a 21st century copyright framework.
Also according to The Guardian, the outraged digital community in the UK are now going take a very active part in the coming election and lists of MPs who voted for the bill, voted against the bill and just didn’t show up are already available on blogs.
See the Guardian’s: General election 2010 Digital economy bill backlash dominates e-election debate
The Conservatives who appear on shows like the CBC’s Power and Politics, routinely dismiss the Facebook group as meaningless. (They were saying that it was meaningless with the first 80,000 in the day after the FB group was created and still say so). But there is no election on the Canadian horizon.
So the UK election will be a big test of how engaged and energetic the digital generation will be (that is if they have someone to actually to vote for since MPs from all three parties, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat supported the monstrosity.)
Canada does need an up-to-date copyright law that respects the real creators of content in the 21st digital ecosystem. So far, no new law is on the horizon here, likely because of the minority government.
Although the Conservative government (and the Liberals before them) pull all kinds of parliamentary tricks, which each time they are used, take politicians to a new low, Canadians can be thankful that the great election mash up doesn’t happen here. *Yet.*
Note Until March 31, when I took early retirement, I worked for CBC News.