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MPs asked to work extra hours to pass raft of Tory bills before summer

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 14, 2014.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

The federal government is hitting the gas in Parliament's home stretch before summer, adding extra hours to the schedule in a bid to push through a series of new laws – though one of its most contentious bills appears set to remain on the backburner.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan's office announced Thursday it plans to extend the House of Commons sitting hours for the rest of the spring, estimating it would add roughly 20 hours per week onto debate. The move is not uncommon, and the House regularly sat past midnight last June.

MPs are currently on a one-week break, and return next week for a final four-week stretch before summer. Mr. Van Loan said Thursday the government will make a motion to have the House sit until midnight on most days until the break.

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"We have worked to make the House of Commons a productive, hard-working, and orderly institution which delivers results for Canadians – but we still have a lot of important work to do over the next year," the statement from Mr. Van Loan's office said. The next election is tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2015.

The government is regularly criticized by the opposition for limiting the hours of debate on certain bills, and appears likely to do so over the next month. The government is in a push to pass several of its bills – including its budget implementation bill, a bill aimed at easing the Prairie grain backlog, a victims-of-crime bill, a cyber-bullying bill, a bill prioritizing hiring of veterans and an overhaul of the Citizenship Act, among others.

Notably absent from Mr. Van Loan's statement is any mention of Bill C-33, the government's "First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act," which it placed "on hold" after the resignation of Assembly of First Nations national chief Shawn Atleo.

Mr. Van Loan's statement also didn't mention the contentious Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, though it's already passed the House and is still expected to become law before the summer.

The House is scheduled to sit until June 20 while the Senate is scheduled to sit until June 27. When MPs are in Ottawa, the House typically sits until around 7 p.m. though it has regularly gone past 10 p.m. in recent sitting weeks.

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