After a more than a month off, parliamentarians have resumed their seats at the House of Commons. A week into the winter session, the government is turning its focus to the upcoming federal budget.
Cariboo-Prince George MP Dick Harris said everyone is anxious to to see how the budget rolls out.
"Personally I want to see how that's going to affect my riding and I know [Prince George-Peace River] Bob Zimmer is looking, as well, for things that we can find in the budget that will be of help to our riding," Harris said.
Zimmer, who accompanied the province's regional minister James Moore to Prince George last week for pre-budget consultations, said he expects the budget to build on the Conservative government's economic action plan.
"At the same time, we will not engage in big, risky new spending schemes that will increase deficits and force higher taxes on Canadians," he said.
Harris said he's expecting a very busy session of Parliament, and that his in-Ottawa time has ratcheted up by 30 to 40 per cent since the Conservatives took power in 2006.
Friday, he will address the House on the Fair Rail Freight Service Act - a bill currently under debate that would give companies that ship goods by rail the right to a service agreement with railways.
"This will greatly assist the lumber producers and other shippers in our riding who have been plagued with rail service that was not as good as they needed," Harris said. "I'll be doing a speech which focuses in on challenges that our lumber industry has had and how this new agreement is going to force the rail companies to fulfill their promises of service and there'll be penalties if they don't."
On the other side of the aisle, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen stood up in the House Thursday as part of the New Democrats' first opposition day of the session to speak on First Nations issues.
"Talking about not only some of the problems, but I also want to highlight the successes that we've had in the northwest and that there's a model available to this government if it chooses to listen as to how we can have progress and certainty in resource development and peace in the lands," Cullen said. "And if the government is smart, it will start to listen to some of those successes."
The debated motion, from a Vancouver Island MP, asks for the government to make "improving the outcomes of First Nations, Inuit and Metis a central focus" of the upcoming budget.
Harris said the government is taking aboriginal communities into account and that there will be an emphasis on education in the budget.
"The prime minister and [Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan] have made a huge commitment to increasing the education levels at the schools on the reserves," said Harris. "Also, we see aboriginal youth as a huge pool to train and put into skilled worker jobs and there's a big focus on that as well."
NDP House Leader Cullen is also working during this session of Parliament to improve the tone of politics.
"One of the things we're trying to tackle is civility and decorum in the House," he said. To do this, he's launched the Civility Project, aimed at "trying to get people in elected office to behave a little bit better."
Among the prescribed fixes, is the power of the Speaker of the House to suspend members without pay for bad behaviour.
"We've watched a drop off in civility and decency towards one another. When that happens, it becomes impossible to have a good conversation and to govern the country," said Cullen.