Politics of Canada
3 min

Back to work – sort of

It was a study in contrasts, yesterday morning, as both the Liberals and the NDP were keen to show the press that they were “back to work” in Ottawa.

The NDP went first, and summoned the media for ten o’clock. Fifteen minutes went by before the caucus filed out from the opposition lobby doors, stood in front of the closed doors of the House of Commons to sing “O Canada” – English version only – and then we had to wait another two minutes before Jack Layton descended the stairs to begin his press conference.

He spoke mostly about Haiti, and said that if Parliament were sitting, we could be having a more fulsome discussion on the reconstruction of that country with suggestions like debt forgiveness, grants not loans, and more focus on women. And when he broached the topic of his prorogation-limitation bill, he invited the other opposition parties to join him. But when I asked him whether any member of his caucus were willing to give up their Private Members’ Business slot for this bill, Layton hesitated and said that they hadn’t yet worked out the logistics, but that he hoped the other parties would help them out. Okay then…

The NDP then went off to have a caucus meeting to decide how they were going to deal with the prorogation schedule (despite the fact that they just had one in Wakefield last week), and said that because they preferred to be out among Canadians rather than bring them to Ottawa, they would soon be “fanning out” to “consult” with Canadians. So, they’re not going to be in Ottawa much longer.

(The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports an inoffensive start to the New Year – a black suit with a grey top, with dark grey heels and a necklace with a thick rope of red beads.)

Not thirty minutes later, the doors to the Commons were thrown open – both the outer and the inner doors – but the bar was drawn inside the chamber to show that it was closed. The Liberal caucus – MPs and Senators – filed out, and Ignatieff appeared at the podium immediately, and he laid out his party’s proposal to limit prorogation, and he laid it out in four key points, and then added that they wanted to attempt to do so by changing the Standing Orders by way of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee before going the legislative route, and that their proposals go further than the NDP’s because it also affects a majority government situation. When the press grilled him on the issues (such as whether this was constitutional, or if it was simply another fixed election date law fiasco in the making), Ignatieff stood his ground.

And the NDP? Welcomes the “support” for the NDP proposal. Erm, didn’t they just trump your proposal with a more detailed one than your own, with the logistics already worked out? But hey, declare victory, right?

And the Conservatives? Sending out all kinds of press releases to show that their MPs are hard at work too.

I spoke briefly to Senator Sharon Carstairs yesterday about what has become of her bill on Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR). It seems that prorogation has killed the bill, end of story, and with no mechanisms in the Senate to resurrect it, the decision must now be made whether to re-introduce it, or to simply focus on Judy Wasylycia-Leis’ CAMR Bill, which is now headed to the Industry Committee when the House resumes.

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea got pied yesterday by PETA protesters. And while being pied was bad enough, it was a tofu pie. That’s just cruel and unusual.

Apparently there’s grumbling in the Green Party about Elizabeth May’s leadership. Kind of like any other political party.

Despite the government totally not stonewalling Richard Colvin as he attempts to testify about Afghan detainee abuse, he can’t get the money he’s owed for hiring independent legal counsel. Imagine that.

Up today – the Liberal “round tables” are on democratic governance and will hear from three of the fired independent watchdogs. Sounds like fun!
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