Everyone take the winter off!

I just bought something from an Ottawa merchant and he launched into a chat, of the hey-you-write-for-Maclean’s-and-I-sometimes-see-you-on-TV-so-I-will-now-make-small-talk-about-the-headlines variety. “So, has Harper put you guys out of work for the next two months?” he said.

I always find these questions difficult to answer, because in real life I’m not a witty fellow. “Uh,” I said. “Hmm.” Finally I came up with, “Naw, we’ll just make stuff up instead.”

“I can’t believe he’s doing this,” the Ottawa merchant said. “I mean, a year ago I could sort of see it, but this time there’s no excuse.”

Oh no, I thought. A procedure wonk. He’s going to start citing Cromwell and the Long and Short Parliaments and Chanak and the Pipeline Debate to me. I’m trapped in a store with the dybbuk of Jerry Yanover. “I’m not sure people — ” and here I had to search for the appropriate word, for in real life I’m not a witty fellow — “care.”

“Well, you know what? I care,” he said, and I steeled myself for a jesuitical parsing of Part X of the Rules of the Senate of Canada. “I care because I don’t get two months off for Christmas.”

Hey, wait a minute, I thought. That was painless. And it made a bit of sense, in a Common-Sense-of-the-Common-People meaning of the word “sense.” The guy continued: “I don’t get to say, ‘It’s not working out with my boss, so I’m going to go away for two months and then see if it works better then.'”

I don’t want to put too much significance into what this guy said — after all, he wasn’t a taxi driver, and everybody knows columnists get their best stuff from taxi drivers — but what struck me was that (a) he’d noticed this prorogation thing; (b) he didn’t like it; (c) he didn’t like it for reasons that couldn’t possibly have less to do with the 900-constitutional-scholars-dancing-on-the-heads-of-Marleau-and-Montpetit reasons that so animate the likes of Ralph Goodale and, ahem, some people around here.

Remember when the Liberals were running up strings of majorities and an upstart named Stockwell Day suggested the House of Commons wrap up its week on Thursday so MPs could spend more time in their ridings? The Liberals cut that two separate ways — “three-day-weekends” and “lazy” — and they rammed it so far down Stockwell Day’s throat he couldn’t pronounce vowel sounds for a month. Back then, of course, Liberals preferred to win arguments. Now they prefer to polish their arguments until they’re suitable for publication in the Canadian Parliamentary Review.

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