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Ignatieff to speak at anti-prorogation rally

Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff will speak at an anti-prorogation rally on January 23rd, but does not support an NDP proposal to limit the power of a prime minister to prorogue.

"Provided a Prime Minister respects Parliament and its authority, legislation isn't needed," Ignatieff replied during an online question-and-answer forum this afternoon.

"Mr. Harper used prorogation to duck a confidence vote and to evade tough questions in the House. That's wrong. I've already pledged not to use prorogation that way," Ignatieff continued. "The problem is not the power itself, so much as its abuse. Mr. Harper has abused his power."

The Liberal leader also pledged to participate in one of the dozens of rallies organized by Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament.

"I will talk at the Ottawa rally on Saturday," Ignatieff replied in response to the first question.

Ignatieff's virtual town hall came just days after he posted an open letter of support for the 208,000-member Facebook group.

This afternoon's hour-long online event appeared heavily moderated. Most of the questions Ignatieff fielded would have been considered softballs had they been posed in a press scrum; many appeared designed to cue well-worn Liberal Party talking points. Prorogation, Haiti, and jobs were recurring themes.

Among the exchanges related to prorogation and electoral reform:

Jeff Jedras: Many Canadians feel the current First Past the Post system doesn't fairly value or reflect their votes. Do you believe we should consider a new voting system, and what do you think that system should look like?

Michael Ignatieff: I'm prepared to look at reform of our voting system provided that reform doesn't fragment the country and weaken the ability of national parties to hold the country together.

After responding directly to the question about the NDP proposal to restrict prorogation, Ignatieff deflected two follow-up inquiries. First this:

Josh Jensen: As you know, the anti-prorogation cause is a non-partisan issue. As we do not have an executive branch of government in this country, it is troubling to see a Prime Minister act as though he has Presidential powers. What will you do to restore the parliamentary and democratic principles that we as Canadians have always been proud of?

Michael Ignatieff: We need a Prime Minister who accepts and welcomes the fact that his or her power is limited by Parliament, by independent regulators and by independent institutions like the courts.

And near the end of the hour-long exchange came this:

Glynn Pearson: I am very concerned about your response about prorogation. Harper was elected on promises of accountability and transparency after a debacle with the Liberals of the day (including a long prorogation). I don't know you and I don't want you to feel disparaged but it has been demonstrated that we cannot trust the person in power to act with the public's best interests in mind. Would a new Liberal government consider committing to legislation to ensure the responsible use of prorogation?

Michael Ignatieff: As a great writer once said, rules are for people with no character. Meaning, that you need to legislate when you can't trust the people who hold power. My view is that we don't need to legislate limits on prorogation. We just need to return to the basic understanding that used to limit prerogative power, namely that you don't use it to duck tough questions in parliament and you don't use it to duck a confidence vote. Harper used it this way and it was wrong, and Canadians are telling him, don't ever do that again.

In British Columbia, anti-prorogation events are planned for Duncan, Kamloops, Kelowna, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, Penticton, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Terrace, Vancouver, Vernon and Victoria.

Monte Paulsen reports for The Tyee.

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