NDP won’t join Liberal plan to protest Harper’s suspension of Parliament

OTTAWA — It looks like the Liberals will be all alone when they return to Parliament Hill for work later this month.

OTTAWA — It looks like the Liberals will be all alone when they return to Parliament Hill for work later this month.

The NDP has no plans to join them in holding hearings and discussions in Ottawa starting Jan. 25 to protest the Harper government’s suspension of Parliament.

“We will not be doing what the Liberals are doing,” said an NDP source.

The Bloc Quebecois will make sure they have a high-ranking MP present in Ottawa, but haven’t given any indication they’ll join in the Liberal hearings.

Both parties said they are co-operating with the Liberals on how to best hold more public hearings into the Afghan detainee controversy.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said later Monday that he would seriously consider any solid ideas from other parties for collaborating against the Tories.

“We’re always open to hearing from other leaders,” he said.

Opposition parties accuse the Tories of shutting down Parliament in order to avoid tough questions about allegations that prisoners handed over by Canada to Afghan authorities were later tortured.

But for now, neither the NDP nor the Bloc sees much point in joining the Liberals for weeks of hearings on the Hill. NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe are expected to lay out their plans for the prorogation period this week.

“We’re formulating a thoughtful, reasonable response,” NDP spokesman Rick Boychuk said.

NDP insiders said that while they agree with the Liberals that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue was a major mistake, they are leery about the Liberal strategy. They said they’re not sure the hearings will accomplish much, and believe the protest could easily appear hyper-partisan and poorly organized.

Party sources said they think their time would be better spent preparing for an eventual election, working with constituents, and targeting vulnerable Conservative ridings.

Layton, like Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, is spending much of this week touring university and college campuses, delivering lectures and meeting with interest groups. But Layton is expected to continue touring for much of this month and next, while Liberal MPs have been told to stay put in Ottawa for most of the time between Jan. 25 the Olympics in mid-February.

Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale said MPs will be holding hearings with experts and interested people on three key topics: the treatment of Afghan detainees; the economy and economic security of the middle class; and the integrity of the democratic process.

By the end of the hearings, the hope is to have put together an agenda that would guide a future Liberal government, Goodale said.

“We’ll be using this to put substantial meat on the bones.”

He said it doesn’t matter whether the other opposition parties join them on the Hill for their hearings. But he is hoping for their co-operation in finding a way to keep the investigation into the treatment of Afghan detainees alive.

Ignatieff kicked off a cross-country speaking tour in Halifax on Monday, vowing that he would never prorogue Parliament to avoid controversy if he became prime minister

“To use it every time you’re in a tight spot seems to me is a flagrant abuse of a constitutional power and that’s why Canadians are angry about it,” he said.

When the Liberals hold their meetings on Parliament Hill, Harper will be jetting off to Switzerland to deliver a speech to global leaders and thinkers at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.

And Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is holding public consultations on what to include in his March 4 budget.

Meanwhile, a group of university professors has now joined in condemning the government’s decision to suspend Parliament.

Over 100 professors have signed a letter written by University of Montreal philosophy Prof. Daniel Weinstock that accuses Stephen Harper of violating “the trust of the Canadian people” and “acting anti-democratically.”

The letter is to be published Tuesday in a number of Canadian newspapers.

Weinstock told CBC News that Harper should be using the great power of the PMO for the public good rather than for partisan reasons or to evade accountability, as he believes was the case in the latest decision to prorogue Parliament.

Industry Minister Tony Clement responded to the criticism by saying ordinary Canadians don’t consider prorogation to be a big issue.