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A stop sign is seen near Peace Tower in Ottawa on December 30, 2009. (BLAIR GABLE)
A stop sign is seen near Peace Tower in Ottawa on December 30, 2009. (BLAIR GABLE)

Ottawa Notebook

Liberals 'not interested in mock Parliaments' Add to ...

The Facebook page Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, which urges MPs to return to the House on January 25 despite prorogation, lists a number of high-profile Liberals among its members.

But the Office of the Leader of the Opposition is not on board.

"We are interested in working with the opposition parties in regards to the Afghan detainee file but we are not interested in mock Parliaments," Michael O'Shaughnessy, a spokesman for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, said Monday.

Although NDP MP Bruce Hyer has told The Globe he likes the idea of a " Parliament of the willing," his fellow New Democrats do not appear to be rushing to join the protest.

Karl Belanger, a spokesman for NDP Leader Jack Layton, said he is unaware of any widespread desire within caucus to show up for work during prorogation.

But there is a retreat NDP MPs scheduled for mid January, said Mr. Belanger "and it will probably be discussed then because, if one MP is thinking it is a good idea, he will probably move it forward."

Christopher White of Edmonton, who created the Facebook page, said in an email that he is trying to get as many MPs as possible, regardless of their party affiliation, to be in their seats on the day that Parliament would normally have returned after the Christmas break.

"While they won't constitute a legal parliament, it will demonstrate who is willing to listen to their constituents and stand up for an accountable government," Mr. White said.

"I don't feel that this issue is defined along partisan lines. We've got Liberals, Conservatives, Greens, NDP and people that don't particularly care for Canadian politics tuning in and demanding accountability. If this is going to work, we need to think beyond 'armchair activist' and mobilize in the streets."

Mr. White and others who oppose the prorogation have cited historical precedent in arguing that MPs should not stay home.

There is, of course, the question of whether the politicians would even be allowed into the House during prorogation.

On the other hand, the image of opposition members banging at the closed doors of Parliament could be just as damaging as having them in their seats.

But demonstrations against the government are unpredictable events and can backfire on the protagonists.

Back in 1999, Reform Party leader Preston Manning was angry with Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien for delaying the opening by three weeks and held a press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons to say so. It did not go well.

Mr. Manning ended up making a hasty exit after being reminded by reporters that his party had supported ending Parliament early the previous spring with 19 pieces of legislation on the table.

(Photo: Blair Gable/Reuters)

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