Parliament resumes and the blessed tumult is rejoined

The NDP moves to question the Prime Minister

The New Democrats are not impressed with the government’s attempt to reinstate legislation that was killed by prorogation, particularly the government’s move to link reinstating those bills to the reinstatement of the parliamentary committee charged with considering the matter of missing and murdered aboriginal women. Reinstating business from the previous sessions is not a particularly novel move—see here for background—but it could, Kady O’Malley suggests, now get slightly awkward for any opposition MP who wishes to vote against the reinstatement of legislation.

Under normal circumstances, however, a motion to do so is either adopted unanimously, or put forward as a stand-alone item, which can then be brought forward for debate, and, if necessary, a vote…

Instead, it appears that the government wants to put opposition MPs in the awkward position of having to choose between giving cabinet what amounts to a blank check to override the usual effect of prorogation, or forcing a full debate on the omnibus motion  — at which point, of course, the Conservatives will almost certainly accuse them of trying to back out of the pro-parliamentary accountability measures that were unanimously endorsed by the House in June, and again at a special extra-sessional meeting of the procedure and house affairs committee last month. 

In June, as part of the deal to adjourn Parliament, the Conservatives accepted an NDP motion to study the board of internal economy and the oversight of MP expenses. The Liberals moved ahead yesterday with their own proactive disclosure.

But before the Conservatives can move forward with their motion, the New Democrats are going to make their own move—rising on a question of privilege to allege that the Prime Minister misled the House of Commons in June.

On June 5, the Prime Minister answered one question quite definitively.

The NDP leader wondered finally how the Prime Minister’s spokesmen could thus comment on this matter if they were not involved. Mr. Harper now at least clarified the extent of his staff’s ignorance.

“Mr. Speaker, as I have said repeatedly, it was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers,” the Prime Minister reviewed. “Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office.”

A month later, the RCMP’s application for a production order—part of its investigation of Mike Duffy—was unsealed and in that we learned that Nigel Wright recalled telling three members of the Mr. Harpers’s office.

Of that revelation (and thus the apparent contradiction between what the members of his office knew and what the Prime Minister told the House the members of his office knew), the Prime Minister pleaded ignorance.

But on Saturday, the Prime Minister told reporters “when I answered questions about this in the House of Commons, I answered questions to the best of my knowledge.”

Since a question of privilege takes precedence, the House will conceivably have to hear it before it can begin consideration of the Throne Speech. I’m told it will be Charlie Angus who gets the honour of raising the question.

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