Prorogation not proroguing political work

Winnipeg MPs aren’t on vacation during Parliamentary break

Anita Neville, Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre, has been meeting with constituents while Parliament is prorogued.

Parliament may be prorogued until the beginning of March, but local Members of Parliament couldn’t be busier as they reach out to constituents, partake in budget consultations and return to Ottawa to aid in party politics.

“This is absolutely not a vacation,” said Anita Neville, Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament until after the Winter Olympics has forced opposition parties to assess how they will deal with the issue, deciding whether to return to Parliamentary work without the sanctioning of the House of Commons or stick to outreach at the constituency level.

“I have been meeting with constituents, some on individual issues, some on more general issues,” Neville said. “[Regardless] Liberals are going to Ottawa where we have a number of events planned.”

The Liberals have made it clear that they will return to the Hill on Jan. 25, the date that Parliament was originally set to resume, to begin discussions on a series of issues including the status of women in Canada, Neville said.

The NDP will not be returning along with them.

“Most MPs are busy with work at the constituency level,” said George Soule, NDP caucus press secretary. He added that the NDP will continue with investigations into the Afghan detainee issue.

Constituency work involves answering the questions of local residents, making oneself known to the public and attempting to do political outreach and win support in your area, said Neville.

Winnipeg NDP MPs Pat Martin and Judy Wasylycia-Leis were unavailable for comment before press time.

While opposition parties are attempting to win political points by continuing legislative work and policy-making, Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty is conducting national budget consultations focused on targeted spending and bringing down the escalating deficit.

Shelly Glover, Conservative MP for St. Boniface, is busy conducting budgetary consultations, organizing relief efforts for earthquake victims in Haiti and reaching out to France for greater exchange between the country and Winnipeg’s francophone community, which is mostly situated in her riding.

“Ottawa seems more like a battleground than a workplace,” she said. “The committee work that we do is quite often fraught with partisanship ... I’m always busier in my riding than I am in Ottawa.”

Glover is part of the Manitoba Caucus, made up of all Conservative MPs in the province. The caucus has already submitted pre-budget recommendations and Glover is now consulting with the residents of her riding on how the federal government can bring down the deficit.

Glover, as part of France’s International Visitor Leadership program, will be in meetings in France from Jan. 17 to 23 in order to aid French-speaking immigrants in Canada and promote economic exchange between France and St. Boniface, including greater investment and exchange in the culinary arts.

Mia Rabson, the Winnipeg Free Press’ Parliamentary bureau chief, maintains that the Conservatives should not be praised for budgetary consultations conducted during the prorogation because they could be done with or without Parliament in session.

“There was no suggestion that the budget was going to be tabled before the Olympics [anyway],” she said. “[The prorogation] gives them [MPs] a chance to do a lot of constituency work, and answer phone calls and e-mails ... when the House is sitting they’re literally running around without even trying to catch their breath.”

Published in Volume 64, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 21, 2010)

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