The committee plans to hold hearings into late February, ending with new testimony from Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney. It would likely take months more for a yet-to-be-named inquiry commissioner to commence hearings.It seems fairly clear that each opposition party's strategy is related at least somewhat to its preferred election timing. The NDP and the Bloc, which are eager to topple Harper ASAP, both want to see an inquiry underway in time for a spring election. In contrast, the Libs seem happy to keep the matter in committee for now in hopes that an inquiry will be in full swing by this fall.
"There are potentially embarrassing deadlines ahead. If they can punt this late into the spring, it opens up horizons [for them] in the event of confidence votes," New Democratic Party MP Thomas Mulcair said. "I'm not a seer, but I'm also not an ostrich."
The Bloc Québécois and NDP suggested yesterday that the committee might speed its work, but Liberals on the committee argued that the scope of the public inquiry was too narrow and therefore the committee might need to do more, not less.
The question based on the parties' initial reaction is then whether or not it'll be possible to agree on some common goals to make sure the committee hearings are as useful as possible.
It would seem to be in the interest of each opposition party both to make sure there's enough committee testimony to keep the Cons on their heels for the bulk of the upcoming Parliamentary session, and to make sure that the committee hearings end soon enough to force Harper to call the inquiry early this year (at a time when the opposition parties still have some kind of leverage over the Cons). And on the surface, it should be possible to do both while still gathering the evidence needed by both the committee and the inquiry.
But that will require enough cooperation between the opposition parties both to keep the hearings moving along, and to prevent the Cons from picking up any support for their efforts to derail the process. And if the committee is instead used more for grandstanding than for concerted evidence-gathering, then it's all too likely that neither the hearings nor any inquiry will get far either in further damaging the Cons, or in getting to the bottom of the Mulroney/Schreiber dealings.