08/20/2013 02:26 EDT | Updated 10/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Prorogation Shows Harper Afraid Of Questions, Mulcair Says


Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament until later this fall shows he is afraid to answer the opposition's questions.

Harper confirmed Monday during a press conference on his annual tour of the North that he will ask the Governor General for prorogation and begin a new fall session with a speech from the throne in October.

Harper did not give a date for the throne speech, but if he waits until after Thanksgiving, the earliest likely date would be Oct. 15.

The House of Commons was scheduled to resume sitting Sept. 16.

At a press conference in Montreal, Mulcair said that by the time the House of Commons resumes sitting, Harper will have spent five working days in the House over 5½ months, in the midst of a scandal over Senate expense claims that involves senators he appointed.

"The Official Opposition is saying 'enough is enough,'" Mulcair said. "[Harper] can no longer flee, he has to answer our questions."

In a statement Monday, Mulcair accused Harper of shutting down Parliament to evade accountability and avoid questions on the Senate expense scandal.

"This is clearly a desperate government worn out by ethical scandals and mismanagement. Stephen Harper refuses to answer legitimate questions from the public," the NDP leader said in a statement released Tuesday.

PM defends prorogation request

Harper defended his decision Tuesday.

"Look, a new throne speech is, as you know, completely normal," Harper told reporters following a speech in Hay River, N.W.T. "We have been able to have adopted virtually all our legislation to this point in Parliament.

"There's a need to refresh legislation. We will be very busy during the fall, as we have been very busy during the summer. And I look forward to bringing forward new legislation and continuing to focus on jobs and growth," he said.

This is the fourth time Harper has used prorogation to change the parliamentary schedule and begin a new session since he took power in 2006.

In 2008, he used the tactic to out-manoeuvre the opposition's attempt to form a coalition government shortly after the 2008 election. He prorogued again in 2010 in the midst of a controversy over Canada's treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and ahead of Vancouver's hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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