OTTAWA - Several House of Commons committees have not sat since June, and others only a handful of times, after the NDP threw up a procedural roadblock.
The aboriginal affairs, ethics and access to information, government operations, industry, citizenship, and natural resources committees have not met in months.
The NDP refuses to approve a routine motion in the Commons that recomposes the committees at the beginning of every parliamentary session. It's a tactic designed to show their displeasure with what they say is the government's overly partisan, opaque approach to committee business.
They are particularly upset with a closed-door parliamentary committee that decided over the summer that the NDP improperly used House of Commons resources to send out mail and establish satellite party offices for MPs.
The party has already blocked the ability of committees to travel outside of Ottawa.
"We've said all along that the problem of committees going in camera, the secrecy of how Conservatives approach committees, is something we don't support and we don't appreciate, so we're not facilitating the task on things," said NDP House Leader Peter Julian.
Any committee chairperson can still convene a meeting, as the finance committee has done to undertake pre-budget consultations, Julian noted.
Such meetings must rely on old committee membership lists. MPs who were elected through a byelection, for example, can only participate by being brought in through a separate procedure. Then there's the issue of the NDP MPs who now sit as independents, but can continue to occupy a committee spot.
"It kind of casts a pall over the rest who say, 'Well, we don't really have legislation and we're not really reformatted, so why would we be meeting,' so some aren't," said Conservative MP Joe Preston, chairman of the procedure and House affairs committee that oversees the issue.
The situation has not necessarily put out the government, which can now pick and choose which committees it wants to revive based on pressing legislative priorities.
All this has also meant that many members of Parliament have found themselves with much more free time than usual.
Both Preston and the Liberals attempted to pass the motion to revive the committees again Thursday, but the NDP once more rejected it.
Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux said the NDP's stalling has cost MPs hundreds of hours of committee study.
"The NDP appear to be very lazy," Lamoureux told the House, which erupted in laughter.
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