Parliament formally prorogued, new session starts Oct. 16

Governor General David Johnston.
Governor General David Johnston.

OTTAWA – Gov. Gen. David Johnston formally prorogued Parliament on Friday, setting the stage for a new session to open with a speech from the throne on Oct. 16.

The prorogation gives Prime Minister Stephen Harper a chance to re-boot and map out his approach to the scheduled October 2015 election.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, though, accused Harper of trying to duck opposition MPs.

“He should stop hiding and recall Parliament now to face questions from the people’s representatives,” Mulcair said in a statement issued while Johnston’s prorogation signature was barely dry.

READ MORE: Harper to prorogue Parliament until October

The throne speech the Governor General will read in the Senate chamber next month will outline the government’s policy plans in broad terms with details to come later.

Story continues below advertisement

Harper has said he plans to lay out the government’s pre-election agenda. The core issues of jobs and the economy will mirror those the Conservatives stressed during the 2011 election. Deficit reduction and stewardship of natural resources are expected to be among the highlights.

The return of Parliament next month will also give opposition parties a fresh opportunity to push the Senate expenses scandal back under the political spotlight.

For Mulcair, the new session gives him a chance to shore up support and steal some thunder from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau has been making headlines in recent weeks with his controversial comments about marijuana and his staunch, and early, opposition to Quebec’s proposed charter of values.

Mulcair said Harper has repeatedly overused prorogations to avoid accountability.

“While many families continue to struggle, Stephen Harper is shutting down Parliament, afraid to answer questions about the economy or his involvement in the Senate expense scandal,” Mulcair said in a statement. “Canadians deserve better. New Democrats are primed and ready this fall to take on the Conservatives and get results for people.”

The NDP has ground to make up, with the latest poll numbers suggesting Trudeau is solidifying his support in some areas and leads both the Conservatives and the NDP.

A Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll suggests the Liberals are at 33 per cent support, with the Conservatives at 29 and the NDP at 24. The Greens and the Bloc Quebecois both had six per cent.

Story continues below advertisement

The numbers are a two-week average.

Pollster Allan Gregg said there is little political volatility to be found.

“We see a pretty stable pattern,” he said. “The Libs have regained their traditional base constituency and now have a solid lead over the Conservatives among the better educated, urbanites and women and have closed the historic gap among men.

“The Conservatives and the NDP have lost considerable support since the 2011 election, but seem to be able to cling to their core constituency.”

Gregg said Harper, in particular, has lost popularity but continues to enjoy extremely high favourability scores among Conservatives.

The poll was part of an omnibus telephone survey of 2,020 people conducted between Aug. 29 and Sept. 9. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.