19 November 2003

Out with the old, in with the new

At last, our illustrious and beloved prime minister has announced plans to step down on 12 December rather than in February, as he had originally stated. Here is L. Ian Macdonald writing in the Montreal Gazette that "The Liberals' long and damaging agony is ending":

Jean Chrétien has finally come to his senses in agreeing to leave office on Dec. 12. Even then, it will be four weeks to the day since Paul Martin became Liberal leader, the longest transition period in over half a century. Not since Mackenzie King took three months to leave office after the election of Louis St. Laurent as Liberal leader in 1948, has a departing prime minister taken more than two weeks to leave office.

Of particular interest is Macdonald's observation concerning the constitutional difficulties of keeping parliament in session now that Paul Martin is leader of the Liberal Party:

And why was Parliament dismissed last week? So that Chrétien would not suffer the unique embarrassment of sitting in a resumed session as prime minister while no longer leader of the Liberal party. At least, the proroguing of Parliament spares the governor-general an important constitutional quandary -- normally she would invite the leader of the party that enjoys the confidence of the House to form a government. If the House had resumed sitting, Chrétien's position would have been unsustainable in terms of constitutional convention.

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