Canada to suspend Parliament until after Olympics despite opposition

The Canadian government will suspend Parliament until early March, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Canada to suspend Parliament until after Olympics despite opposition

The Canadian government will suspend Parliament until early March, a spokesman said on Wednesday, winning significant political advantages but bringing an angry backlash from a sidelined opposition.

Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said the government would present a new policy speech on March 3, and a new federal budget the following day.

That means Parliament won't resume on Jan. 25 as previously scheduled, and debate on hot-button topics will cease.

"We're not out of the woods (economically) yet but we're not facing the same catastrophic possibilities of just one year ago," Soudas told reporters in a conference call.

"So we want to make sure not only that the economy stays on track but also that we are preparing for future growth, prosperity and a return to balanced budgets."

Postponing the reopening of Parliament until after the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, means the government will be able to avoid persistent questions over treatment of prisoners who were handed over to Afghan authorities in 2006-07.

The government will also be able to take control of committees in the upper house of Parliament, the Senate, which had been dominated by the opposition Liberal Party until now.

Opposition parties responded with outrage.

"Democracy in this country has been undermined by this prime minister again," Ralph Goodale, parliamentary leader of the opposition Liberal party, told CBC Television.

"The notion that this is going to somehow help the economy is just a joke."

Jack Layton, who heads the small, left-wing New Democratic Party, was even blunter.

"It's a slap in the face to the democratic process and all those Canadians -- who were in the majority, actually -- who voted for other parties and expected us to be there to hold Stephen Harper's feet to the fire and make sure he didn't go racing off too far in any one unacceptable direction," he told Reuters.

The Conservatives have only a minority of seats in Parliament and need support from at least one other party to stay in power.

A Nanos poll issued earlier on Wednesday showed the Conservatives, reelected in October 2008, would handily win an election if one were held now, although possibly not with enough seats to win a majority of seats in Parliament.

Nanos gave the Conservatives support of 39.5 percent of voters, compared with 30.2 percent for the Liberals. Under Canada's voting system, a party usually needs support from at least 40 percent of voters to win a majority in Parliament.

Nanos polled 1,003 voters between Dec. 10 and Dec. 13. It considers its survey accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Reuters
Last Mod: 30 Aralık 2009, 22:40
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