Was anyone surprised when Prime Minister Harper announced that he would prorogue Parliament this fall? I somehow doubt it as everyone from media types to pundits to political staff were waiting for his announcement. When it finally did come, it lacked key details such as when exactly would it happen and more importantly, when would the House return?
Outside of the above mentioned folks, I wonder how many Canadians really care? Right now the focus for most Canadians is on getting their kids ready to go back to school or trying to cram a few more activities into the waning summer. They are not waiting with bated breath for the return of our MPs and the daily display of rancor and venom that is known as Question Period.
Some politicians obviously are concerned that they won't have a chance to perform this September, but instead must wait until sometime in October. Poor Tom Mulcair was out there bemoaning the fact that the opposition parties wouldn't have a chance to hold the government to account on the opposition's time table and not the Prime Minister's, but to put it bluntly, Harper outmaneuvered them.
The Senate scandal dominated the closing days of the last session and it was expected to this September as well. No government, including Harper's, wants to return to a repeat of the same daily attacks they experienced previously. Few question that Harper is using prorogation to avoid that and by pressing the reset button, he comes back on his terms and not the oppositions.
He completed a cabinet shuffle which shook up his front bench and he will now bring in a Throne Speech outlining a new set of priorities. In other words he is trying to change the channel and move away from scandal. By doing so he has put the ball back in the opposition's court. Do they attack what they will see in the Throne Speech (knowing this will be the Conservatives blueprint leading up to the next election) or do they go back on scandal.
It's an interesting dilemma for the opposition. They largely wasted the summer months and only once in a while popped up to remind the public about Conservative scandals. Come September they will have to make up for lost time and lost opportunities, but they won't have Question Period to do that in.
Attacks on a government work best when focused and there is a daily theme that the opposition can put into play. Think back to the "Billion Dollar Boondoggle" or to the Sponsorship Scandal, it was the daily repetition and sustained attacks that did the damage to the Liberal brand.
It will be interesting to see if the opposition parties ignore the Throne Speech and remain focused on scandal or will they divide their efforts and try to cover all of the issues at the same time. At this point in time it is to early to tell who will this round, but it will be interesting to watch how each party deals with prorogation and the aftermath.