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MP defends prorogation

Local MP Brent Rathgeber says proroguing Parliament makes sense while the eyes of the world are on Canada and the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Local MP Brent Rathgeber says proroguing Parliament makes sense while the eyes of the world are on Canada and the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Prime Minister Harper made the decision last week and asked the Governor General to officially close this session of Parliament and start anew on March 3. That’s when the throne speech will be delivered, followed by the budget the next day.

MPs were on their holiday break, not scheduled to return to work until late January. The move means dozens of government bills will die on the order paper, including several tough-on-crime measures Rathgeber personally championed.

He said Canadians will simply have other things on their mind in February.

“Most Canadians don’t follow the day-to-day operations of Parliament at the best of time, but during the Olympics any attention they might have had will be quite rightly focused on what’s going on in Vancouver and Whistler.”

The suspension of Parliament also closes hearings on the Afghan detainee issue. Rathgeber said the hearings had absolutely no resonance with Canadians, but opposition parties can’t seem to let it go.

“Most Canadians are not particularly concerned about this issue, however Parliament is absolutely consumed with it.”

With so many international visitors coming to Vancouver, Rathgeber said he worries Canada’s image would suffer if they were confronted with headlines on the subject.

“They are going to be hearing all of these spurious, but very serious accusations about Canadian soldiers being involved in war crimes and that is not the kind of reputation of Canada that I think we want our international visitors to depart with.”

Rathgeber said the Conservative party’s crime agenda is going to return in March when the house resumes sitting. Although the bills will have to start again he predicts an easier passage.

The news session will feature rebalanced Senate committees that reflect new appointments that will give the Conservatives more upper chamber seats than the Liberals, and nearing majority territory.

“The next session of Parliament with a different composition on the Senate committees will be smoother and the government will actually be able to promote its legislative agenda with more ease and less difficulty.”

Rathgeber said proroguing is a common practice and well within the government’s rights.

“Democracy and Parliament are not being sidestepped — they are only being suspended.”

While some people have expressed anger about the issue, Rathgeber said local constituents do not seem overly concerned.

“We have received six emails and phone calls telling us it was a mistake. I don’t think it is a significant issue in the minds of Canadians.”