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Michael Ignatieff hops aboard prorogation protest bandwagon

A security guard patrols Parliament Hill on Jan. 6, 2010, a week after Prime Minister shut down the House of Commons till after the Olympics.

Fred Lum

Michael Ignatieff will be protesting against prorogation at a rally planned for Parliament Hill this weekend.

Although the organization behind the nationwide demonstrations, Canadians Against the Prorogation of Parliament, bill themselves as non-partisan, Mr. Ignatieff says he will speak at Saturday's event in Ottawa. He announced his attendance this afternoon during a virtual town hall.

A Facebook page set up by a University of Alberta student protesting Stephen Harper's decision to shut down Parliament has grown to more than 200,000 members and spawned these rallies, which are to take place across Canada and in a handful of international cities. A study released today by the Rideau Institute describes the members of the group, who had been dismissed by politicians and pundits as young and apathetic, as engaged, older voters.

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Parliament was to return Monday but the Prime Minister announced last month that it would not come back until March, to give him time to prepare a Throne Speech and new budget.

In his virtual town-hall meeting, Mr. Ignatieff and his staff took questions from online readers from their Centre Block office. For the most part, the questions were friendly and easy for him to answer as Canadians (Liberals?) asked him about electoral reform, prorogation and other issues:

Ian Perkins: Mr. Ignatieff can you explain why Canadians are upset with the prorougation of Parliament?

Michael Ignatieff: Ian, Canadians want their MPs back at work and they want their Prime Minister to be accountable to Parliament.

The Liberals appear to be capitalizing on the prorogation issue, with an EKOS poll today suggesting that if an election were held today, Mr. Ignatieff could form a minority government with three seats more than Mr. Harper's Conservatives. The survey also shows baby boomers drifting back to the Grits.

New Democrats are seizing on the issue too. Leader Jack Layton, who is also expected to attend the Ottawa rally, has proposed legislation that would put future prorogations to a vote in the House of Commons.

The Tories, meanwhile, dismiss the protests as meaningless and describe prorogation as a routine procedure used by governments of every stripe. They argue they need the extended parliamentary break to recalibrate their economic agenda as they prepare a second stimulus budget.

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(Photo: Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

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