Tease the session: The people and issues that will dominate Parliament this winter

The Maclean’s Ottawa bureau sets the stage for Parliament’s winter sitting.

Politicians are streaming back into Ottawa. Much has changed since they last deliberated in the middle of December, when fighter jets and foreign investment traded places as top issues of the day. Now, in the wake of Idle No More, Theresa Spence, and the conflict in Mali, and in advance of weeks of partisan bickering, a new federal budget, and permanent Liberal leader, the Maclean’s bureau in Ottawa tells you what to watch, why to watch it, and what might happen next.

John Geddes teases the political agenda, which will include Aboriginal issues largely unforeseen before Parliament’s break:

When it comes to assessing the performance of political leaders, there’s often a good deal of talk about how well they succeed at setting the agenda. But since the agenda rarely conforms for long to anyone’s manipulations, what matters more is how well they adjust to the unexpected.

Paul Wells casts his mind back six weeks, and then explains how much we’ve learned about the opposition in the intervening period:

On Dec. 13, the day after the Commons rose for the Christmas break, CTV’s Don Martin met Thomas Mulcair in Stornaway to talk about the parliamentary season then ending. The big news there was the F-35 procurement audit and the CNOOC/Nexen deal. When the House sits on Monday for the first time in six weeks, I’ll be surprised if either is a big issue. Politics in Canada has moved on, and it feels like we are a lot more than six weeks closer to the next election.

Michael Petrou focuses on John Baird, and forecasts a session’s worth of priorities for the foreign minister:

John Baird’s priorities for 2013 will focus on trade. Security issues, however, may force themselves to a more prominent place on this government’s agenda.

Aaron Wherry returns to his perch overlooking the House, and tells us about six things to watch, including parliamentary decorum:

Nathan Cullen’s reforms. The NDP House leader is promising a proposal to improve decorum in the House. Civility is a bit of a riddle—where do you draw the line in a necessarily adversarial environment?—but whatever Mr. Cullen puts on the table, it should start a valuable discussion about how the House functions and what might be done to improve it.

Geddes, Wherry and I talk on camera about three more things to watch during this session:

  1. What challenges does the NDP’s Tom Mulcair face as the House returns?
  2. Why should the Conservatives move soon to name a new Parliamentary Budget Officer?
  3. What did Chief Theresa Spence accomplish with her fast?

As for me, I turned six weeks of spending announcements into a map. The feds pledged lots of dough.

Whenever parliamentarians leave Ottawa for any period of time, novelty cheques tend to follow them to ridings across the land. You can always count on a reporter or two pointing out the seasonal feeding frenzy.




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