Perusing my morning read, I see that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has set a trap for the opposition. Some trap.
By suggesting that the House sit an additional 12 days in March and April, Mr. Harper has badly outmanoeuvred Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff. With both gentlemen having been out of the country when the media-stimulated prorogation storm hit Canada, this is an offer that neither can refuse.
According to the House of Commons calendar, MPs are to sit for a week and a half when they return in March, would then have a week off starting March 15, and would then sit another nine days, following which they would have another two weeks off in April.
Perhaps that's the way business is done in Ottawa on the taxpayer's dime. However, you want to see a grassroots revolt? I'll show you one. Nor would it look particularly good for opposition MPs to put their plans for two more vacations ahead of the pressing need to examine whether Richard Colvin is to be believed in alleging that members of the Canadian Forces abetted the commission of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Speaking of Afghanistan, yesterday Mr. Harper smoothly took the option of repatriating Omar Khadr off the table.
Why is this important?
Last week's Supreme Court decision reversing decisions by two lower courts ordering his repatriation has been widely misinterpreted - if not deliberately distorted - by Mr. Khadr's lawyers, sympathizers in the media and academe - and by the large number of Canadians who'd never, ever consider voting Conservative. And still is being, as you can see in the lead of a report in today's Toronto Star: "Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be asking the United States to return Omar Khadr to Canada, despite a Supreme Court ruling that his rights were violated by Canadian officials."
Contrary to the Khadr lobby, repatriating Omar Khadr is not the only option for complying with the Court decision. In fact, the only option not open to the government is the option of doing nothing in light of the violation of his rights by Canadian officials in 2003-2004.
How do we know this to be true?
Forget about what you've been reading in the papers and seeing on television since the Court decision.
Consider instead the reaction of Bob Rae to yesterday's announcement by Mr. Harper's spokesperson that the government would not be asking for the repatriation of Mr. Khadr (as reported by CP): Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae dismissed Soudas' comments, saying the government needs to "get serious" about its response to the top court.
"The Attorney General of Canada has to tell us how the government intends to comply with a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada," Rae said.
Or consider the later, and therefore more thoughtful reaction of NDP justice critic Joe Comartin, as reported by Canwest: the government could respond to the Supreme Court ruling by trying to seek assurances from the United States that the information it obtained in its interviews with Mr. Khadr - which were passed on to the Americans - will not be used at his military trial.
"That's a step that they could try to do," said Mr. Comartin, who predicted that seeking concessions for Mr. Khadr in the United States "may well be enough to satisfy the Supreme Court."
If Opposition critics are willing to cut the Conservatives that much slack, you can be sure that Mr. Soudas saying that the government is still reviewing the court decision was all that needed to be said yesterday. And, unlike yesterday, when an announcement is eventually forthcoming, it will have already been known by the public that repatriating Mr. Khadr was not an option.
Update An earlier version of this post stated that MPs are to sit for a week and a half when they return in March, would then sit another nine days, following which they would have another two weeks off in April. That version has now been corrected