Parliament's back, but don't expect to see the leaders much

MPs are back in Ottawa today, but Canadians expecting to see the party leaders facing off every day in question period may be disappointed.

Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau set sights on campaign ahead of 2015 fixed election date

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will be trying to raise their profiles this fall ahead of next year's election, spending more time outside the House rather than in question period. (Canadian Press)

MPs are back in Ottawa today, but Canadians expecting to see the party leaders facing off every day in question period may be disappointed.

There's more than a year to go until the October 2015 fixed election date, but federal party strategists believe there are more votes to be found by travelling to communities across Canada — or across the world — than by sitting in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a series of international trips scheduled, including to China for an APEC summit and to Australia for the G20 leaders summit, both in November.

He'll also be in New York City to address the UN General Assembly this year, after leaving Canada's address to the foreign affairs minister for the past three years. The idea is to look statesman-like ahead of the 2015 election, distinguishing him in the eyes of voters from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

Mulcair, not coincidentally, also plans to be out of the House more frequently. The leader whose party brags regularly about his attendance record — NDP House leader Peter Julian mentioned it twice in one interview with CBC News this week — has found his effectiveness against Harper in question period hasn't helped his profile among voters. Getting out into communities is thought to be the way to earn support ahead of next fall.

"Mr. Harper has tried to avoid being in question period often," Julian said. "I think we're going to be looking to make sure when Mr. Harper is absent that we take the most effective strategy for folks to hear Tom and understand where Tom would be leading the country."

Trudeau, who has already made a point of travelling the country during the week, is planning on continuing that pattern, billing it as getting out of the House to hear what "real Canadians" have to say about the country.

Party leaders tend to be in the House only for question period and for votes. The government pushed through much of its legislation last spring, leaving only a handful of bills to be dealt with this fall.

Standings in the House of Commons

Mobile users, view The Canadian Press's graphic here.


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