Most recent entries for March 2010

Question of the Day


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As reported earlier today, later this afternoon the government -- or, more specifically, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, speaking on its behalf  -- will submit its much-anticipated response to the three outstanding questions of privilege currently before the House, so I'll be liveblogging the ensuing debate -- from Nicholson's arguments to the replies from the opposition. It should get underway just after 3pm, depending on whether QP runs late, and how many points of order ensue, so check back for full coverage. 

Unfortunately, due to the previously noted and really, I've got to say it, pretty suspiciously awkward timing of this afternoon's privilege-related intervention, I may well end up missing at least the first part of this afternoon's Afghanistan committee meeting. Which is a pity, really, since today's witnesses sounded awfully interesting. Don't worry, I'll do my best to scurry over to the Railway Room to cover the last hour or so -- depending, of course, on how long the privilege debate goes. I'll keep you posted.

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Reps for the cause

The corridors of Parliament Hill are awash in blue ties this afternoon as MPs show their support for prostate cancer.

NDP Leader Jack Layton is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and MPs are showing their support.

Members are no stranger to sporting bits of ribbon on their lapels in support of many causes, but this is the first time that I can remember that MPs have changed their ties.

As Caucus ended this afternoon many came out wearing them.

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau tied his under his white shirt, in what appeared to be akin to an Ascot.

Conservative Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen sported hers in a loose knot and carried a second in her hand.

Stewart Olsen said she was wearing the tie in " of Jack Layton who is fighting this disease that affects so many men."

It can be strange how politicians can switch from being fiercely partisan, to all being on the same team.

One person whose chose not to sport the blue tie was Michael Ignatieff who stuck with his salmon toned stripes.

Now for people who are particular about their ties, these are light and medium blue rep stripe, bend dexter.

The label says they are 100 per cent silk and made in Canada.
For the government's response to the questions of privilege raised earlier this month over its refusal to comply with the order to produce uncensored copies of detainee-related documents requested by the Afghanistan committee last year, that is? 

That's the unofficial word on the Hill, it seems, where as yet unconfirmed reports are circulating that Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will rise in the House after routine proceedings to plead the government's case before Speaker Milliken. 

Given the Wednesday order of business -- shortened day, no morning session -- that would probably take place sometime after 3pm, thus setting up a potential conflict with the committee itself, which is scheduled to meet this afternoon to hear from two witnesses: Cory Anderson, past political director for the Provincial Reconstruction Taskforce in Kandahar, and Brigadier General Denis William Thompson. 

The potential time conflict is particularly awkward for two of the three MPs in whose names the privilege questions were raised: Bloc Quebecois MP Claude Bachand and NDP MP Jack Harris, who are also, of course, members of the committee, who may now be forced to choose between being present for the government's response, or attending today's meeting. 

I'll update this post when we know more, but at the moment, I'd set the PrivilegeWatch-o-Meter on medium-high. 

UPDATE: Thanks to the NDP, we can now confirm that yes, today does appear to be the day; they've been told to expect both Nicholson and Tom Lukiwski -- the parliamentary secretary to the government house leader, and no, I still don't know why he isn't simply the deputy house leader -- to speak to the issue. Not surprisingly, Jack Harris - who, as noted above, is one of the three members with a privilege question before the House -- will be delivering the NDP's reply to the government's response. I'm still waiting to hear back on the other two privilege claimants, Derek Lee and Claude Bachand. 

PROGRAMMING UPDATE: I'll be liveblogging the debate here!. 
I wasn't, alas, able to make it the Chamber to witness the opening salvo from Senator Doug Finley on "the erosion of freedom of speech" in Canada, but I did manage to keep one ear tuned to the audio feed, and as soon as it was up, I went straight to the official transcript to find highlights suitable of posting, if only as part of my lonely but relentless campaign to convince the vast majority of my fellow Canadians that the Senate can be every bit as lively as the House of Commons, depending on the day. 

To begin with, Finley's opening speech was filled to overflowing with the colour and flourish for which he has -- actually, come to think of it, never really been known, what with being a shadowy background character until his ascension to the Upper House. 

"Censorship," he intoned to fellow senators in his dulcet Scottish tones, "reared its ugly head" at Ann Coulter's ultimately aborted appearance at the University of Ottawa last week, as "an unruly mob of nearly 1,000 people, some of whom had publicly mused about assaulting her, succeeded in shutting down her lecture after overwhelmed police said they could not guarantee her safety." 

After his introductory remarks had drawn to a applause-generating close, the debate -- yes, as it turned out, there actually was a debate -- got underway. 

One of the first senators to rise during questions and comments was former Chretien chief of staff Percy Downe, who wondered whether, given his impassioned defence of Coulter, Finley believed that the government "has made a mistake by restricting people who want to come to Canada to speak by not allowing them entrance to the country?" 

Finley's response, and Downe's rejoinder, and much much more after the jump:   
As reported by the Telegraph Journal -- and confirmed by CBC --  PMO communications director John Williamson is moving on after just eight months on the job. He's heading back to his home province of New Brunswick to run for the nomination in the soon-to-be-vacated seat currently held by longtime Conservative MP Greg Thompson, who announced that he would be retiring from politics earlier this year. 

So, who will be moving into Williamson's office in Langevin? We don't know yet, but we're trying to find out -- in the meantime, feel free to speculate wildly in the comments!

UPDATE: As far as the Hill berryvine goes, the early favourite to fill Williamson's shoes seems to be Dimitri Soudas, currently the associate communications director, and one of the very few PMO staffers who can claim to have been there since before the PM took power in 2006. 

A few other possibilities, in no particular order: Current PMO staffers Andrew MacDougall or William Stairs, deputy press secretary and director of issues management, respectively. Another potential candidate for internal promotion would be Dan Robertson, who joined the PM's office last year as director of government communications, and former Conservative Resource Group director Jason Lietaer, who always seems to end up on the rumoured short list, which, of course, may bear no resemblance at all to the actual short list. Come to think of it, current CRG director Garry Keller was no slouch at pressing the flesh with the press during his past stints in media relations

ANOTHER ADDITION TO THE RUMOURED SHORT LIST: Transport Minister John Baird's chief of staff, Chris Froggatt. 
It's Wednesday, which means party business takes precedence over parliamentary affairs for the morning. This afternoon, the House kicks off second reading of the budget implementation bill, which I'm almost certainly not going to henceforth refer to as The Jobs and Economic Growth Act, despite the minister-foisted moniker under which it appears on the Order Paper. 

Outside the confines of the Commons, the Afghanistan committee has been promoted back to the A-list, as far as room assignment. No leisurely and very possibly lost-getting trek through the sedate halls of East Block will be required this afternoon -- we're back in Centre Block, and in one of the Big (and Television-Friendly) Rooms to boot! 
Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Canada for a meeting of Arctic coastal countries. She noted Canada failed to invite other interested parties, such as Finland, Iceland, Sweden and aboriginal groups -- which prompted her first slap up the back side of her host's head.
So we've been hard at work going through the comments, tweets and emails that have been streaming into the Inside Politics mailboxen since we posted the latest batch of detainee-related documents and invited our readers -- and everyone else -- to take part in our first official crowdsourcing challenge. 

We're still working our way through your observations, and we'll be posting more of your discoveries in the days ahead, but we figured that we may as well share one of the more intriguing irregularities to surface so far. 

In response to our request, reader Attentive pointed out, via the comment thread, that, despite the fact that many of the documents contained in COLVIN43 had previously been tabled at committee -- and submitted to the Military Police Complaints Commission -- last year, several of the emails in the latest batch appear to be considerably less redacted than in the original submission. 

Here, for instance, is the version of KBGR0018 that the committee received last December: 

Question of the Day


Got a question? Have a story to tell? We want to hear from you.

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View all March 2010 posts »