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MPs defend closing Parliament

Weston, Strahl call prorogation the right move

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By Jesse Ferreras and Paul Carlucci

Federal minister and local MP Chuck Strahl this week defended a decision by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to close down Parliament for seven weeks.

Strahl, the MP for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, which includes the Pemberton Valley, said on a conference call that Parliament has been suspended for a “60-day cooling off period.”

“I think it’s exactly what should happen,” he said. “We’ll want to use this period to prepare a budget that I think all Canadians have said is their number one priority.”

West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston echoed Strahl’s comments, calling prorogation the most sensible of measures available to government.

“I think it was the right decision,” he said moments after the news became public. “Canadians are frustrated with the logjam that’s in Parliament. They wanted this to be fixed. And they wanted their elected representatives in Ottawa to focus on the economy, and work for all Canadians and solve these problems.”

The decision to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament followed a Dec. 4 meeting between Harper and Governor General Michaelle Jean. Harper asked Jean to prorogue Parliament after opposition parties formed a coalition and vowed to defeat Harper’s Conservative party in a confidence vote.

The crisis was precipitated by the Conservatives’ Economic and Fiscal Update, which included measures to eliminate a federal subsidy for all political parties.

Parliament is now in recess until Jan. 26. The Conservatives will introduce a new budget the following day, which will be subject to a confidence vote.

Strahl said many of the measures brought forward in the Economic and Fiscal Update will be included in the budget, but proposals to eliminate the party subsidies and disallow strikes by public servants have been scrapped.

“The party funding thing, the right to strike for public sector unions, we agreed to take them off,” Strahl said. “They didn’t like them and we agreed to take them off. But the other measures will be in on the 27 th .”

The remaining measures include ensuring that public sector wages grow at a reasonable rate and enhancing credit availability to Canadian businesses through Crown agencies.

In the weeks leading up to Jan. 26, Weston will be traveling the riding in an effort to shore up support for the Conservative position.

“We’re going to get an earful,” he said. “I’m getting one right now. Canadians want the MPs to make the House work and to get back to governing the country.

“I think it’s important for constituents to know that I’ve been working on matters that relate to Whistler and Squamish while all this drama has been unfolding. I’ve got a call in with the Whistler mayor today that will deal with infrastructure issues. I’ve dealt with other mayors around the riding. I’ve been setting up offices and putting together my team, and I think that’s the kind of work constituents expect from their MPs right now.”

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said Weston’s call was a quick one, and infrastructure was the key topic. Specifically, the two discussed a list of infrastructure grant applications the municipality has put forward.

“Maybe they’re going to accelerate one of the applications,” Melamed said. “We only had the one priority project, which was the Alpha Lake Road sewer project, which has been pending for many, many years.”

Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner also spoke with Weston, also rather quickly, though no one project seems to have yet emerged as a candidate for federal interest.

This type of intergovernmental dialogue is something of a lesson module Weston would like other federal players to learn from, not only in dealing with junior governments, but also among themselves.

“I think there’s a big role for reaching out among the parties,” he said. “There’s too much distrust in the House right now. I just heard from the lips of (Bloc leader Gilles) Duceppe that the prime minister lied — and he wouldn’t dare use that language in the House. (Finance) Minister (Jim) Flaherty has asked many times for input on the budget, and he has met with the Bloc leader. Only the Bloc responded. The NDP and Liberals didn’t provide any input, and I’m hoping they will.”

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