MPs prepare for the House's
[PoliticsWatch posted 4:30 p.m. September 12, 2006]
|MPs prepare for the reopening of Parliament
After a long summer recess, MPs are making preparations this week
for the return of the House of Commons.
Three of the four parties are holding caucus meetings this week in advance of
Parliament's return next week.
The fall sitting of Parliament is expected to be action-packed, with
a confidence vote on the softwood lumber deal and a free vote on gay
marriage to be among the expected highlights.
The governing Tories will hold a two-day caucus retreat in Ottawa
beginning on Thursday.
The last time the Tory caucus met was earlier this summer in
Cornwall while the conflict in the Mideast was at its
This time another foreign policy issue will overshadow the
Canada's military role in Afghanistan has come under greater
criticism over the past two weeks.
NDP Leader Jack Layton is now calling for Canada to withdraw
its troops from Afghanistan and one Liberal leadership contender, Gerard
Kennedy, has also put the withdrawal option on the table.
That coupled with the deaths of five Canadian soldiers over the
Labour Day weekend has created a media frenzy of negative
The prime minister defended the mission as a key part of the War on
Terror during a televised address on September 11.
The government's free vote on gay marriage will also be a hot topic
at the Tory caucus meeting.
Sun News reported Tuesday a government official expects the vote
will be held during the second week of the fall sitting.
Groups on both sides of the debate have been stepping up lobbying
efforts, putting pressure on a group of Conservative MPs expected to
vote against a motion that would reopen the previous Liberal
government's gay marriage legislation.
The NDP, meanwhile, will hold its caucus retreat in Thunder Bay
beginning on Thursday.
The NDP holds two ridings in Northern Ontario and plan to focus the
retreat on resource issues, especially the softwood lumber
The lumber deal is expected to sail through the House when it is
introduced this month after the Bloc Quebecois said they will back
the minority government's legislation.
"Liberals and Tories have sold out Northern Ontario," said
NDP spokesman Ian Capstick in explaining why the party is
holding its retreat outside Ottawa.
The Bloc Quebecois will hold its first caucus meeting in Ottawa on
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe has said he plans on increasing
the political pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He
says that after eight months on the job, Harper's honeymoon with
Quebecers is over.
Duceppe recently wrote the speaker of the House of Commons
requesting an emergency debate on the Tory government's foreign
policy positions, specifically the mission in Afghanistan and the
PM's siding with Israel during the summer Mideast conflict.
The only party that is not meeting this week is the Liberals.
They held their caucus retreat just two weeks ago in
Pat Breton, a spokesman for Interim Liberal leader Bill
Graham, said the caucus is already prepared for the return of
"House strategy and tactics were discussed at length in Vancouver in late
August," Breton said. "That conversation will continue when the House gets back next week."
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