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OP/ED: MP opposes proroguing Parliament

Alex Atamanenko, MP, B.C. Southern Interior, is accusing the Harper government of misusing his privilege to prorogue Parliament in order to suit its own political agenda. Parliament, which was scheduled to resume on Jan. 25, has now (had its leave) extended to March 3, a date which appears to have been contrived to coincide with the conclusion of the 2010 Olympics.

Stephen Harper’s justification for this move is to consult with Canadians on the economy.

“If as they say they want this time to 'consult with Canadians', they should resume Parliament on schedule and consult with the MPs who are elected and paid to make representation on behalf of their constituents to the government,” stated Atamanenko.

“I’m sure I’m not the only MP who hears from his constituents on a daily basis about the economic concerns they face.

“Harper is using his privilege to prorogue as a panic button so that he can avoid having to answer some very serious questions,” He added. “For instance, despite an order from Parliament, the Prime Minister has refused to give access to documents pertaining to the government’s mishandling in the treatment of Afghan detainees ... and now he can avoid doing so for another two months.”

Atamanenko expressed his disappointment that his own Private Members Bill (C-474) on genetically modified crops, which was to receive its first hour of debate on Feb. 3, will be now be postponed until the House is up and running again.

“I am concerned that if the government’s current actions should somehow lead to an election call shortly after the House resumes this important bill may not be debated for quite some time,” said Atamanenko.

Another motion by Atamanenko before the Standing Committee on Agriculture, to protect the Canadian Wheat Board at the World Trade Organization has also been stalled.

“The government has refused to challenge language in the current text of the DOHA agreement that would see the end of the Canadian Wheat Board by 2013,” declared the NDP Agriculture critic. “It is unacceptable that the power to make decisions on the future of this vital Canadian institution is quietly being stolen from our farmers and handed over to foreign governments while the government does nothing.”

Atamanenko noted that this government’s history over the past four years has been to disregard majority votes in the House of Commons, ignore legislation (including their own law on election dates), and to shut down committees and the whole of Parliament to avoid defeat or embarrassment.

“This move by Stephen Harper has effectively killed 36 pieces of the Conservative government’s own legislation which will now have to get through the House procedures all over again,” observed Atamanenko. “This government is not even sincere about advancing the platform they were elected on.”

Atamanenko says Harper has misjudged how much Canadians care about their democracy and referred to recent polls which are indicating that well over 50 per cent disagree with this unwarranted prorogation of Parliament.

“I believe the government’s strategy to prioritize Olympic photo opportunities over accountability to the people’s Parliament will continue to backfire,” concluded Atamanenko.