The House returns: What I'll be watching -

The House returns: What I’ll be watching

The politics and the possibility of reform


John Geddes looks at how the last two months will impact the agenda as Parliament returns today and Paul Wells considers the situations of Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper. Here are the things I’ll be watching for as the House of Commons reconvenes.

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.

The cabinet. If the Prime Minister sticks to his promise of a mid-term reset, the cabinet will be shuffled this summer. That sets up the next five months as an extended audition: a chance for ministers to demonstrate why they’re due a promotion or demotion and an opportunity for parliamentary secretaries and backbenchers to make their cases for a spot at the cabinet table.

The budget bill. After two budget bills were subject to parliamentary protests in 2012 and after Idle No More rallied around complaints about C-38 and C-45, are the Conservatives willing to table another omnibus bill this spring and ram it through the House or are they willing to compromise?

The New Democrats. The official opposition has to do two things: continue to build its case against the government and begin to explain precisely what it would do different. While the Liberals are picking a new leader in April, the NDP will be in Montreal for a policy conference. Thomas Mulcair says they’ll be spending that weekend “laying the groundwork to defeat Stephen Harper in the next election and form the first ever New Democrat government.” It will be interesting to see what that means.

Thomas Mulcair. The leader of the opposition has two and a half months left before his status as the number one challenger is challenged by a new Liberal leader. What can he make of this time? And, maybe more importantly, how well does he hold up when the Liberals receive an inevitable post-leadership bump in the polls?

Stephen Harper. He has based his leadership on the idea of economic and fiscal management. What happens if the economy starts to stall? Do the impacts of spending cuts begin to sway public opinion against austerity? And who does he pick to be the next parliamentary budget officer?