On the occasion of the House of Commons returning to business on Monday, a rough guide to all the questions you might have about the fall sitting.
Is summer over already?
Alas, all the traditional signs of autumn are here. The children are back at school. The leaves are beginning to turn. And Gary Bettman is about to initiate another work stoppage in professional hockey. Goodbye summer of 2012. We’ll always remember you for that brief moment when we thought the Avro Arrow was coming back and for those doctors who kept shouting at Bal Gosa.
So where were we?
When last our elected representatives were yelling in each other’s general direction, the Harper government was being battered about its handling of the F-35 procurement, its use of omnibus legislation and its handling of environmental protection (particularly as it pertains to the development of natural resources like oil).
What should we expect now that everyone’s had a few months to go back to their ridings, relax and reflect?
See the previous answer.
So more of the same?
To some extent. At some point the Harper government will have to present new estimates for the cost of the F-35. Until those new estimates are revealed, one imagines the Conservatives will be pestered about what’s taking so long. Once those new estimates are provided, and if the new numbers are higher than the old numbers, the Conservatives will no doubt be pestered about the discrepancy. The Conservatives are promising a second budget implementation act and if it’s anything like that the last one, the opposition parties would seem almost obligated to put up a fight similar to the one they collectively mounted in the spring. And the ramifications of previous budget cuts are going to be continue to become clear. Beyond and around all this will be the debate about what precisely constitutes “responsible resource development.”
What if I’m not feeling any of those issues?
Well, Justin Trudeau promised to clarify the extent of his leadership ambitions this fall. And maybe some other people will enter the Liberal leadership race too. Omar Khadr could (conceivably) be let back into the country. The NDP has talked about being a party of proposition (not just opposition), so perhaps we’ll have a policy proposal or two to debate. Economic trouble of some kind is always just a housing bubble or bad employment report away. And surely someone in a position of power will do or say something ridiculous. (They collectively never, ever, let us down in that regard.)
Is there anything else that we might debate in a reasonable and measured manner?
Stephen Woodworth’s motion on the legal definition of a human being is due to be debated this month. Conservative MP Rob Clarke wants to overhaul the Indian Act. Conservative MP Russ Hiebert wants to change the rules for financial disclosure by unions. And Pierre Poilievre has mused of making it possible to opt out of paying union dues.
What about some by-elections?
There are at least three that will need to be called: Durham (vacated by Bev Oda), Victoria (vacated by Denise Savoie) and Calgary Centre (vacated by Lee Richardson). A fourth could be added, depending on what the Supreme Court decides to do with Etobicoke Centre. I’d expect the Prime Minister to wait for the Supreme Court to render a decision on Etobicoke Centre and then call all three or four for the same time. With the exception of Etobicoke Centre, the incumbent party should be highly favoured in each race, but strange things can happen in by-elections. If nothing else, it will be a welcome bit of electioneering for addicts who can’t bear to think about waiting until 2015.
What about a cabinet shuffle?
Alas, your baseless cabinet shuffle speculation will, per the Prime Minister’s comments in July, probably have to wait until next summer. Not that anything has ever stopped anyone from speculating about a cabinet shuffle before.
Other than the constant and unending search for new and imaginative ways to describe Justin Trudeau’s hair, what are you most looking forward to this fall?
An extended opportunity to watch Thomas Mulcair and the NDP go head-to-head with Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. Everyone’s had time to settle in and size up the other side. The polls put them in a two-way race and the Liberals won’t be worth worrying about too much until they figure out who their leader is going to be. Three times per week (presuming the Prime Minister continues to skip out on Monday, but otherwise shows up regularly), the Prime Minister and the prime-minister-in-waiting are going to face each other in the House to really start what should be a three-year brawl. It should be fun*.
*Note: your definition of fun may not perfectly match mine.