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Parliament on pause

Liberals game to work through parliamentary break weeks Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff has no problem working through two scheduled parliamentary break weeks in March and April.

The Liberal Leader does have some trouble, however, with the Prime Minister addressing the British Columbia Legislature while he's shut down his own chamber here.

And today he challenged Stephen Harper to "restart" Parliament next week.

"It does seem a little odd that he is prepared to address a working legislature while he's closed down his own. I mean, go figure," Mr. Ignatieff said, referring to reports the Prime Minister is addressing the B.C. Legislature next week.

And Mr. Ignatieff joked that he's a little worried Mr. Harper is going out to the West Coast to prorogue that chamber, too.

Mr. Harper's spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, would not comment as to whether his boss is speaking in the Victoria legislature next week. He said there was no "confirmation" of that.

Mr. Ignatieff, meanwhile, was speaking to reporters in advance of his roundtable meeting on the environment.

The Liberals have been working every day on Parliament Hill since Jan. 25, the day the House was to return from its Christmas break. But late in December, the Prime Minister announced he was shutting down Parliament until March 3.

Canadians reacted angrily to Mr. Harper's prorogation decision; Conservative support has dropped dramatically in public opinion polls.

In reference to Mr. Harper's request to cancel the parliamentary break weeks, Mr. Ignatieff accused the Conservatives of being in a "scrambling act to try to catch up, catch up to the Liberal Party."

"This is a government desperate to repair the damage that its own follies have committed," he said.

The request came to light yesterday in a late afternoon email from Government Whip Gordon O'Connor to Tory MPs informing them that two previously scheduled break weeks in March and April were being cancelled.

"As you know, the purpose of prorogation is to allow time to prepare for a new Throne Speech and Budget, not to reduce the amount of time that the House sits," he wrote in his note. "Once Parliament resumes there will be a lot of work to do."

It requires the consent of the opposition parties to change the parliamentary calendar.

Mr. Ignatieff calls the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue an "abuse of power." He said Canadians are responding to the Liberals and their work on Parliament Hill right now.

"Mr. Harper has to understand the significance of what's happened in the last 10 days," he said. "Canadians are ready to make this Parliament work, why shouldn't the Prime Minister be ready to make this Parliament work?"

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