Scholars have joined the growing number of Canadians opposed to Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament for the second time in his term. More than 175 academics, including 17 University of Toronto faculty members, have signed an open letter expressing concern about proroguing Parliament.

“It doesn’t have to do so much with party politics or Harper specifically, but with the idea that you can suspend Parliament, which is the only democratic part of our political system,” said signatory Lawrence LeDuc, a political science professor who focuses on elections and party politics.

University of Montreal philosophy professor Daniel Weinstock wrote the letter and circulated it among professors and lawyers. It was published in several newspapers on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Parliament was to resume from Christmas break on Jan 25. On Dec. 30, Harper decided to prorogue Parliament until March 3. This delay pushes the throne speech to March 3 and the budget to March 4.

Prorogation closes the parliamentary session, terminating all bills introduced and worked on. Harper’s decision wiped away the Consumer Product Safety Act and bills related to auto theft, email spam, and sex offenders, as well as the special Commons committee probing the issue of possible Afghan detainee torture. The Military Police Complaints Commission, also investigating Afghan tortures, is also effectively suspended until a new commissioner is appointed.

“Given that our political system depends on norms and conventions as well as written rules, it’s establishing a pattern that could well define how Parliament functions in the future. The way this plays out will determine whether this becomes regular practice in our politics or whether it’s a one-off situation,” said LeDuc.

This is the second time Harper has suspended Parliament. Governor General Michaëlle Jean previously granted the prime minister’s request to prorogue Parliament from Dec. 4, 2008 to Jan. 26, 2009, effectively eluding an expected vote of no confidence.

Harper faces criticism from not only the ivory tower. Fifty-three per cent of Canadians disagree with the prorogation, according to a Jan. 7 Angus Reid poll. The Economist, an influential right-leaning magazine, slammed Harper’s actions in a Jan. 7 editorial, particularly condemning his decision to make the announcement on the same day as five Canadians were killed in Afghanistan and the Olympic hockey team was announced.

Protests across Canada are planned for Jan. 23. The Toronto protest will take place at Dundas Square, with details to come. The rallies are being organized through the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, who hope they’ll see better turnout than Tuesday’s protest against college strikes, also organized through Facebook. (Over 300 people said they would participate; no more than 20 actually did.) Read the story here.