Confidence: How Much is Enough?

Peter Neary


Did Prime Minister Stephen Harper, faced with almost certain defeat in the Commons in December 2008 on a matter of confidence, act unconstitutionally by seeking to prorogue a newly elected parliament that had been sitting for only two weeks? And did Governor General Michaëlle Jean violate the principles of responsible government by granting prorogation? These questions have been the subject of intense debate in the Canadian media and may rank with the King-Byng crisis of 1926 in future academic and legal discussion of the constitution. In my opinion, while the prime minister tested the limits of “responsible government,” the Governor General respected precedent and acted appropriately and wisely in her decision.

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