Interview with a Parliamentarian

Here’s a link to my Q&A with Peter Russell, one of our foremost constitutional scholars who has a new book out on the virtues of minority government. Prof. Russell’s previous book, Constitutional Odyssey, is one of the best primers on the quest to patriate the constitution; it wasn’t till I read that book that I fully grasped how the amending formula is essentially a definition of the country. 

I’ll get to a proper review of the new book eventually, but this interview should keep you thinking for a bit.  Here’s my favourite part of our conversation:


AP: On that note, you punctuate your discussion of the infamous King-Byng affair by saying the chief lesson is that the smooth functioning of parliamentary government requires all the parties involved to behave honourably.

 PR: Yes, and I know that’s motherhood, but I consider Mr. Harper’s request “dishonourable.” I made that submission to the Federal Court as part of Democracy Watch’s legal action for judicial review. Yes, it was dishonourable, it violated a pretty serious commitment that he — and not just himself and his government, but all the parties — entered into. And I consider that dishonourable.

 AP: Was Mr. Harper putting the Governor General in an untenable position?

PR: Oh, for sure. I mean, it’s always very, very tough when a prime minister does a dishonourable thing. I consider it dishonourable to promise a confidence vote and then, a few days later, make it impossible by asking for a prorogation of Parliament. People might have other adjectives; I’ll stick with dishonourable.