Canada to suspend Parliament until after Olympics

Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:51pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government will suspend Parliament until early March, a spokesman said on Wednesday, giving it political advantages but bringing an angry backlash from a sidelined opposition.

Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said the government would present a new policy speech on March 3, and a new federal budget the following day.

That means Parliament won't resume on January 25 as previously scheduled, and debate on hot-button topics will cease.

"We're not out of the woods (economically) yet but we're not facing the same catastrophic possibilities of just one year ago," Soudas told reporters in a conference call.

"So we want to make sure not only that the economy stays on track but also that we are preparing for future growth, prosperity and a return to balanced budgets."

Postponing the reopening of Parliament until after the Winter Olympics in Vancouver means the government will be able to avoid persistent questions on the treatment of prisoners who were handed over to Afghan authorities by the Canadian military in 2006-07.

The government will also be able to take control of committees in the upper house of Parliament, the Senate. The Senate has been dominated by the opposition Liberal Party until now and the Liberals have blocked efforts at Senate reform.

All three opposition parties charged that Harper was trying to duck parliamentary accountability.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper arrives at the morning session of United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen December 18, 2009. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins</p>