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Back to business: MPs sharpen political chops in Ottawa ahead of election

Snow covers the front gates to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on November 27, 2013. Federal politicians will be on election footing as they resume parliamentary business today.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
January 28, 2019 - 11:00 AM

OTTAWA - MPs are back to business in Ottawa and they're gearing up for a fierce political fight ahead of the fall election — once they figure out how the place works again.

Before shifting into high gear, some MPs began the day seeking directions around a temporary House of Commons, built in the refurbished West Block while the iconic Centre Block undergoes a major makeover expected to span at least a decade.

There was also a Speaker's Parade in the tighter space on Monday morning. The ceremonial procession happens immediately before a sitting begins.

Before the parade, NDP finance critic Peter Julian said he hopes MPs will tone down their shouting in the new space.

"Hopefully we will have less heckling," Julian said. "I'm not always the best for that but I promised my new year's resolution is not to heckle and I hope other members of Parliament do the same thing because I think it will be more difficult to actually hear in this new chamber."

The new space, however, is unlikely to turn down the volume of partisan rhetoric, with the election scheduled for Oct. 21.

During question period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can expect to be on the hot seat over Canada's deteriorating relations with China, which resulted in his weekend firing of Canada's ambassador to Beijing, former Liberal minister John McCallum.

McCallum twice last week undermined the government's message that there has been no political interference in the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States, which wants her extradited to face fraud allegations.

McCallum first suggested Meng has strong legal arguments to avoid extradition and, after apologizing for those remarks and saying they didn't really reflect his views, said it would be "great for Canada" if the U.S. dropped its extradition request.

His remarks were at odds with the government's insistence that it is simply honouring Canada's extradition treaty with the U.S. and respecting the rule of law.

Since Meng's detention last month, two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — have been detained in China. A third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, who was previously convicted of drug smuggling, has abruptly been handed a death sentence.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has signalled his intention to use the diplomatic dispute with China to paint Trudeau as a laughingstock on the world stage.

However, in a speech to his caucus on Sunday, Scheer made it clear his party's primary focus heading into the election will be on what he deems the Liberal government's out-of-control spending and runaway deficits, which he predicted would mean increased taxes if the party wins re-election.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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