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NDP takes solace in small victories under Tory majority

Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel speaks during an Ottawa news conference on Dec. 15, 2011.

Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

As Official Opposition, the New Democrats have talked a lot about what they see is wrong with the way Stephen Harper and his majority government are running the country. But they have had little, if any, impact on the Conservatives' legislative agenda.

Government bill after government bill – on crime, on dismantling the wheat board, on ending the long-gun registry – has been pushed through Parliament this fall with limited debate and no consideration given to amendments proposed from the other side of the House.

But the New Democrats say eventually they will get the upper hand.

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At a news conference held to mark the end of the fall sitting, Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel, House Leader Joe Comartin and caucus chair Peter Julian praised their own record since being elevated from fourth party to Official Opposition in the May election.

"We have in the House revealed the non-accomplishment or the inaction of this government in most files," Ms. Turmel said.

When asked what the party could actually do to have an impact on the Conservative agenda, Ms. Turmel said: "We have talked, we have raised questions but, on the other hand we have presented solutions on making sure that it is a better Canada. And we had billboards on issues to make sure Canadians knew what was going on in Parliament. So, I believe it's a matter of time."

The massive increase in seats that came to the New Democrats during the spring vote was a phenomenon based largely in Quebec. But new polls show their support in that province has plummeted in recent months.

Ms. Turmel, who is leading the party on an interim basis until a permanent leader is chosen in March, said she doesn't pay attention to polls.

"We are focusing really to meet with Quebec people, we are focusing on issues that re really there and close to their heart," she said. "That's what we are focusing on and not on the poll right now."

And Mr. Comartin said the caucus is getting results.

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"Part of the message that comes out of this session of Parliament," he said, "is the impact we've been able have beyond the walls of Parliament."

For instance, Mr. Comartin said, the information that the New Democrats have brought forward in the House and in Commons committees about the costs of the Conservative government's omnibus crime bill has prompted almost all provinces to say they will refuse to pay for it.

"So it's that kind of effect that I believe we are having," the Opposition House Leader said. "The plan right now is to wear them down and I expect we are going to see some results in that regard.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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