Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff held a media availability this morning in the foyer of the House of Commons. After joking with reporters about hoping they’d enjoyed time with their families before their families kicked them out and told them to go back to work – which he said also happened to him – he began his statement.
“He thought Canadians didn’t care, and it turns out they do care,” he said of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament. “They want their Parliament to work, and they didn’t the way he did it. They didn’t like the way that he gambled on their cynicism, and it turns out they’re not as cynical as he thought.”
He says that his party is listening and they will be back to work in Ottawa on the 25th, after his tour of 11 colleges and universities where he will engage students there, and encourage them to get involved in politics.
“We’re coming back to work, and not just show up for one day,” Ignatieff said. “We want to run a series of public hearings, public discussions, and public policy forums, from the 25th when Parliament should be returning. We’ll be working right through until the Olympics. We’ll be doing pre-budget consultations, focusing on jobs.”
After all, with no finance committee currently in existence, the consultations that the government is holding will be entirely without opposition voices at the table, which this would seem a counter-balance to.
“We’ll have public consultations on governance,” Ignatieff continued. “There’s been a record through four years of this Parliament, Mr. Harper shuts down every independent regulator or every independent body that stands up to the power of the Prime Minister, shutting down Parliament is part of that pattern.
“We’ll be looking also at the environment – let’s not forget this government has had four years to come up with an environmental plan. It’s had four years to tell us what Canada’s going to do to meet the climate change crisis – we’ve got a big fat zero here.”
He then answered questions from reporters ranging from Harper’s continually going too far – such as shutting down Parliament when the road gets tough, to his firing of Linda Keen from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Peter Tinsley of the Military Police Complaints Commission, or the RCMP watchdog. “We think this is a crazy way to run a democracy.”
He also answered questions on Senate reform – he doesn’t agree with Harper’s trying to institute term limits of eight years because it gives a single Prime Minister the power to completely fill it in an eight-year term, but he also knows enough that Harper’s plans require a constitutional amendment and consultation with the provinces. (And no, he doesn’t have a concrete opinion on the matter).
He assured reporters that “we don’t play half-team.” All MPs and Senators will be expected to show up on the 25th. “One of the things a productive opposition does is says here’s some good ideas which we think the government ought to adopt when it brings in its budget. That’s one thing we’ll be doing. Another thing we’ll be doing is looking at the detainee issue and working with other Parliamentarians.”
But he’s not ready to threaten an election over this, saying he got the message loud and clear. But isn’t threatening to bring down a government the way to keep it in line?
“Do Canadians want minority Parliaments always functioning with threats?” he asked back. “That’s exactly what Stephen Harper does. I’ve done this job for a while, and I got the message from Canadians – do your darn job, lower the volume. Do what you’re elected to do. And that’s what I’ll be doing in January and February.”