They’re back. Let the disheartening heckling and petty partisan games recommence.
Parliamentarians return from the holidays today, holding their first session in the House of Commons in six weeks. The big story on the Hill over the next several weeks will likely be the budget, the first for the Conservative government since they won a majority in the last federal election.
Although details are scant, Stephen Harper and members of his cabinet have indicated cuts are on the way. Last week, Treasury Board President Tony Clement told the Toronto Empire Club that program spending for all federal departments could be twice as deep as previously advertised—totalling $8 billion rather than $4 billion per year.
Harper also signaled big changes in his keynote address to the World Econmic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last Thursday, singling out Old Age Security as an area where government spending will be reigned in. On Sunday, NDP leadership hopefuls debating in Halifax—it was really more like a friendly policy discussion, according to the Chronicle-Herald—attacked Harper and pledged to vehemently oppose his agenda of government cut backs.
Speaking of the NDP leadership contest, that will be another story to watch over the coming weeks. Interim Leader Nicole Turmel is set to step down as head of the Official Opposition on March 24, when a new leader will be chosen to try and emulate the triumphs of the late Jack Layton. According to the politics blog ThreeHundredEight.com, Brian Topp is the current front runner. He has clinched the endorsement of former leader Ed Broadbent, and represents a good portion of Layton’s team. His main adversaries appear to be Thomas Mulcair—for his fiery debating style and Quebec appeal—Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar, who have each received endorsements from caucus colleagues.