As questions continue to linger about the Senate spending scandal, Canada’s MPs have departed for the holiday break.
The unanimous agreement Tuesday to end the fall legislative session means Prime Minister Stephen Harper, currently in South Africa, won’t appear in Question Period until at least late January. The adjournment motion included a provision that the House “shall be deemed to have sat” until Friday, its scheduled departure date, though it won’t actually sit until then. MPs are scheduled to return on Jan. 27. After being prorogued, the House sat for 34 days this fall.
The vote also came after motions seeking information on the Senate spending scandal were blocked or rejected by Conservatives.
Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella, a Conservative, on Tuesday rejected a Liberal motion to study whether the Prime Minister’s Office violated the privilege of the Senate through its attempts to manage fallout from questions about Mike Duffy’s expenses. Mr. Kinsella said the motion was made too late to be considered.
The Senate is scheduled to depart for the holidays next week, though one source expected an adjournment by Thursday.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee debated a motion over Mr. Duffy’s expenses, which are now the subject of an RCMP investigation.
NDP MP Charlie Angus proposed that the committee look into whether a PMO policy, to destroy e-mails of staff who have left the office, broke access-to-information laws. That follows the case of former PMO staffer and lawyer Benjamin Perrin, whose e-mails were at first not provided to RCMP because they were thought to have been deleted. Months later, they were found. “It’s not credible they lost track of the e-mails of the Prime Minister’s lawyer,” Mr. Angus said.
Paul Calandra, an MP who is Mr. Harper’s parliamentary secretary and who spoke on behalf of his party during the committee, said he wouldn’t support the motion and said Mr. Angus’s “ridiculous speech” was proof enough that the committee isn’t cut out to deal with the matter.
Debate at the meeting grew heated and Conservatives eventually voted to go behind closed doors, barring journalists and the public. The meeting adjourned without a vote on the motion. “Maybe just a mistake happened, but it’s hard to believe just a mistake happened in the Prime Minister’s Office over suppression of evidence when these guys are going in camera and trying to kill a motion by not letting the public know what’s happening,” Mr. Angus said.
The committee also didn’t debate a Liberal motion to call in Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein and Deloitte auditor Michael Runia. RCMP allege the two sought confidential information during the ongoing review of Mr. Duffy’s expenses. Conservatives have twice before blocked motions to summon the men to speak to parliamentarians.