A new session is welcomed

Back to school, but not back to Ottawa.

“Canada’s new government”, which has been in power for more than a year and a half, announced this week that the current session of Parliament would not resume this month. Instead, a new session of Parliament, with a Throne Speech and a confidence vote, will open in October.

This is a good sign — an indication that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives may actually present a plan for the country, rather than merely manage affairs while waiting for the polls to show they could form a majority.

“It’s time to launch the next phase of our mandate,” the prime minister said. “We delivered on all the major commitments we made to Canadians during the 2006 election.”

How well anyone delivers on commitments is open to interpretation, and the prime minister is entitled to his interpretation. But a review of the Conservatives’ Stand Up for B.C. platform, launched five weeks before the Jan. 23, 2006 election, shows a list of modest goals. Some of those commitments, such as mandatory prison sentences for drug dealers, unmanned aviation vehicles for surveillance of “the Pacific and Arctic regions” and restoring a regular army presence in B.C., were more closely tied to Conservative ideology than British Columbia’s priorities. Other commitments, such as promoting Asia-Pacific trade, were less impressive when you got down to the details. The Conservatives pledged to expand trade agreements with “Japan and India and other democratic trade partners”, while the B.C. government has its eye on the big undemocratic trade partner, China. The Conservatives also promised to “Deliver at lest the five-year federal funding commitment of $591 million for the Pacific Gateway Initiative,” which they did, but the funding will stretch out over a longer period than five years.

There have been some successes, too. The soft wood lumber dispute has finally, if unsatisfactorily, been resolved and the Conservatives followed through on their word to support the 2010 Winter Olympics, even when Olympic organizers came to the federal and provincial governments asking for more money.

Some other Conservative commitments to British Columbia, such as additional seats in House of Commons and a new funding deal for cities and communities, will have to be re-introduced as new legislative bills because bills that have not been passed prior to the end of a parliamentary session die.

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