Inside Politics

Are Tories angling for early summer House break?

Are the Conservatives plotting an early escape from Parliament Hill?

Earlier today, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan released the text of a motion that would keep the Commons fires burning until midnight every night but Friday until the summer recess, which is currently scheduled to begin on June 21.

There's nothing particularly unusual about the move to extend the sitting hours -- it's traditional, in fact, although during minority days, Van Loan's efforts to do so were regularly rebuffed by the opposition, who would instead seize upon the ensuing debate to air their respective and collective grievances over his heavy-handed House management style before ceremoniously voting down his motion.

This time around, however, Van Loan is making his move more than a week ahead of the time frame provided for in the Standing Orders, which suggests that he's keen to get those extra hours added to the parliamentary clock as soon as possible.

That, combined with the unseasonably early timing of the traditional trio of Hill garden parties at 24 Sussex, Stornoway and the Speaker's Farm at Kingsmere, all of which will take place during the first week of June, suggests a concerted effort to finish up the few must-pass bills still lingering on the Order Paper as swiftly as possible, thus setting the stage for an early adjournment, a mid-summer cabinet shuffle and eventually, a Speech from the Throne to launch a shiny new session of Parliament.

That plan, however, may be complicated by Van Loan's decision to up the ante by including in his extension motion a provision that would limit the use of concurrence motions for the duration of the extended hours -- a classic procedural tactic often deployed by opposition parties to delay government business -- as well as a streamlined schedule for voting that would dispense with the early evening bells in favour of holding all recorded divisions immediately after Question Period.

At press time, both the New Democrats and the Liberals were still analysing the motion, and weren't prepared to say whether they'll back the motion when it comes before the Commons next week. If they agree to fast track it, the extended hours could come into effect that same day -- if not, a vote would likely be held on Wednesday evening.

Stay tuned! The pre-summer legislative blitz is about to begin!

The full text of the motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House, commencing upon the adoption of this Order and concluding on Friday, June 21, 2013,

(a) the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 12 midnight, except on Fridays;

(b) when a recorded division is demanded, in relation to a proceeding which has been interrupted pursuant to the provisions of an order made under Standing Order 78(3) or pursuant to Standing Orders 61(2) or 66(2),

(i) before 2 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions at that day's sitting, or

(ii) after 2 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, or at any time on a Friday, it shall stand deferred until the conclusion of oral questions at the next sitting day that is not a Friday;

(c) when a recorded division, which would have ordinarily been deemed deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business on a Wednesday, is demanded, the said division is deemed to have been deferred until the conclusion of oral questions on the same Wednesday;

(d) when a recorded division is to be held, except recorded divisions deferred to the conclusion of oral questions or to the ordinary hour of daily adjournment, the bells to call in the Members shall be sounded for not more than thirty minutes; and

(e) when a motion for the concurrence in a report from a standing, standing joint or special committee is moved, the debate shall be deemed to have been adjourned upon the conclusion of the period for questions and comments following the speech of the mover of the motion, provided that the debate shall be resumed in the manner ordinarily prescribed by Standing Order 66(2).

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