The Harper government and opposition parties failed to strike a deal Monday on granting select MPs access to secret documents on Canada's handling of detainees.
However, the NDP is signalling it doesn't expect to be part of any deal reached Tuesday, predicting the Tories will reach an accord with only the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois.
"That's becoming a very real possibility," NDP MP Joe Comartin said in an interview.
The 144-seat Harper minority government only requires one other party's support to secure the votes necessary to pass legislation or avoid a defeat. So it can do without the backing of the NDP.
Mr. Comartin told CTV's Power Play that the Conservatives made "two significant concessions" Monday. He said he expects the Tories will move further Tuesday in an effort to secure the agreement of another party, either the Liberals or Bloc Québécois.
NDP Leader Jack Layton has threatened to launch a debate in the House on the matter that would take precedence over budget issues, including approving funding for the G8 and G20 summits. But this attempt at procedural wrangling will not succeed without the support of the Liberals and Bloc.
In mid-May, all parties agreed to let a small panel of MPs from all parties full access to detainee records. They promised to hammer out a full deal by May 31, but that deadline came and went as both sides refused to budge on differences over the fine points of an agreement.
The Conservatives have responded to some of the opposition parties' concerns, but have tried to create a loophole allowing Ottawa to withhold some documents on the grounds they are "not necessary or appropriate for the purpose of holding the government to account."
For instance, a proposed version of the agreement that the Conservatives submitted to opposition parties in late May contains a paragraph allowing Ottawa to keep secret any records on detainees that can be linked to advice it received from government lawyers.
The Tory-authored proposal asked the other parties to agree that records "subject to solicitor-client privilege" are a class of "information that the Parliament of Canada has long recognized [is]not necessary or appropriate for the purpose of holding the government to account."
This could be a major exemption. The chief reason opposition MPs want to scrutinize detainee records is to determine whether Canada knowingly transferred prisoners to torture at the hands of Afghan jailers. The Geneva Convention makes it a war crime to transfer detainees to those who would abuse them and obliges the detaining power to recover transferred prisoners if they are being maltreated.
The U.S. government has waived solicitor-client privilege to release memos written by government lawyers on what constitutes torture.
Michel Drapeau, a former Forces colonel and a professor of military law, has said the Canaidan government excessively uses "solicitor-client privilege" all the time to prevent the release of documents under access to information law. "I wouldn't say it's abused but it's certainly overused," Mr. Drapeau said in May.