PM defends prorogation as necessary for economic plan
Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded Friday to growing criticism about his decision to postpone Parliament's winter session by saying his government will use the two-month hiatus to plan the next stages of its economic recovery plan.
The move, which has been derided by critics as a self-centered ploy, guarantees that the Conservatives will not face the scrutiny of Parliament during the Winter Games in Vancouver.
Though the prorogation has also suspended bills on pensions and Employment Insurance, Harper said the time off is necessary for the economy.
"The government is going to take advantage of this time -- we need the time -- to look carefully at our agenda, to continue to deliver the economic measures that are being delivered here and elsewhere across there country as part of the economic action plan," he told reporters in New Brunswick.
"We need to get policies in place to better build that recovery and to build the jobs of the future ... but at the same time to do so in an environment where governments across this country will have to begin to reduce our deficits."
Earlier in the day, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff took aim at Harper's move and said that Canadians want their elected MPs to get back to work. Ignatieff also announced that his MPs would be returning to Ottawa later this month, despite the fact Parliament has been shut down until March.
It was the second time in just over a year that Harper shut down Parliament, something Ignatieff said was the latest example of Harper going "too far."
"Every time this guy's in a hole, he tries to shut down institutions that control his power. That's what's bothering Canadians and that's what we're listening to," Ignatieff told reporters.
"Do your darn job. Lower the volume. Do what you are elected to do," he said.
Ignatieff said he will send his troops -- including both senators and sitting MPs -- back to work on Jan. 25 to undertake a series of roundtables and pre-budget consultations on issues including jobs creation, unemployment, veterans' issues and the environment.
"We're not just showing up for a photo op, we're showing up to go to work. That's the point," Ignatieff said.
He said party members will also work with "other parliamentarians" to look at the issue of treatment of Afghan detainees, a thorny issue the government has been pressed about for weeks.
The Liberal leader said he will not push for an election despite what he called the "crazy way" the Tories have of running a democracy.
The Liberals' plan to head to work is the latest public embarrassment Harper has endured over his controversial decision to prorogue Parliament.
Earlier this week, Britain's Economist magazine said the move smacked of "naked self interest." The influential publication had previously endorsed Harper in the previous two elections.
The prime minister's dressing-down by the Economist followed a public poll that suggested more than half of Canadians opposed the prorogation.
"I think this is getting to be an issue that's gotten out of control for the government and the Prime Minister's Office," said CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife.
Harper has made a number of media appearances in recent days "to try to justify his decision for closing down Parliament," said Fife.
If the Liberals -- and perhaps other opposition parties -- return to work over the next two months, it will leave the Conservative government on the defensive, Fife said.
With files from The Canadian Press