Majority no cakewalk for Harper, observer warns
Published Sunday, September 18, 2011 9:04PM EDT
A majority government may be a dream come true for Stephen Harper but there are some obvious pitfalls awaiting the Prime Minister when Parliament opens in Ottawa on Monday, according to one political observer.
"It won't be a complete cakewalk because you have seasoned people in both parties in opposition," said Bruce Hicks, a University of Montreal political scientist who was appearing on the CTV News Channel on Sunday. "I don't think (Harper) will get everything he wants but he will get a lot of it."
Even with the New Democratic Party's untested interim leader Nycole Turmel heading the Opposition, the Conservative majority government will face some sharp questioning from experienced NDPers and also from the Liberals.
"The person who's going to shine is (Liberal interim leader) Bob Rae," Hicks added. "He is the most experienced person in the House of Commons right now. He knows every file.
"I suspect he's going to steal the show because there's no one else to fill that void."
But in an appearance on CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Toronto MP Peggy Nash said the NDP will challenge the government to back away from tax cuts for corporations -- "they don't need more right now" -- and offer more support for small business.
Nash also said the party's leadership campaign could be a distraction, adding: "It's going to be challenging for us."
The sudden rise of the NDP to Opposition status in the May election and the arrival in the House of dozens of rookie MPs will make for some uncertainty in the early days, especially against the backdrop of the campaign to replace the late Jack Layton, who died in August.
"It's going to be a very interesting session," Queen's University political science professor Kathy Brock told CTV News Channel on Saturday. "The Conservatives are probably going to be more relaxed than they have been in the past."
NDP interim leader Turmel has limited time to settle into her role and ensure that more than 100 MPs — many of whom have never worked in politics before — remain on task, Brock said.
"She's got a lot of rookie members of parliament that she's got to ensure they keep on the party message, that they don't make big mistakes," she said.
Among the NDP's 102 MPs is Pierre-Luc Dusseault, a 20-year-old former student of applied politics at the Universite de Sherbrooke, who will be the youngest MP ever.
The fresh-faced Dusseault will be joined by Ruth Ellen Brosseau, a university pub employee elected in central Quebec. She was criticized for going to Vegas during the election campaign.
The race to replace Layton further complicates matters, said Brock.
"With the leadership race…people are not allowed to hold their critic portfolios, so that means some of the senior members of the NDP critic team could actually be stepping down in order to enter the race," she said in a phone interview from Kingston, Ont.
Canadians should keep their eye on seasoned NDP MPs like Paul Dewar, Peggy Nash and Thomas Mulcair who are all considered potential candidates, said Brock.
When Parliament resumes Monday morning, it will open with a tribute to Jack Layton.
Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin told CTV News Channel that he sees the moment as an opportunity to make the House of Commons "a better place to work."
"I hope it sets the tone for the upcoming session," he said. "Vigorous debate doesn't have to be rancorous."
After suggesting his fellow MPs "turn down the rhetoric," Martin recalled Layton's dying wish that Parliament become more civil with no catcalls or heckling.
He also reiterated his call earlier this month for a uniting of the Liberals and NDP.
"I think we have to grow up and come together," he said, adding that he would run for the leadership on a platform of uniting the two parties if no one else does.
"There are more of us than there are of them if you take the vote," said Martin, who warned that if the Liberals and NDP stay separate, Harper will stay prime minister "until he gets tired of it."