Inside Politics

UPDATED - Orders of the Day: Second day back and it feels like they never left.

After a somewhat haphazard First Day Back that saw a widespread, if mercifully fleeting, outburst of cartoonishly high expectations on the parts of both the occupants and their ever-faithful observers in the gallery over the return from an extended parliamentary hiatus, the nadir of which involved opposition members lambasting the government for not preempting private members' hour to present what amounted to a hybrid of a Speech from the Throne and a budget, the House of Commons will, one hopes, return to something approaching business as usual when the Chamber reopens this morning.

Topping the legislative to-do list for today: the government's pitch for pooled registered pension plans, which will almost immediately be preempted by the now traditional motion to impose time allocation at second reading. The opposition will, predictably -- and, to be fair, not unreasonably -- make crystal clear its vociferous objection to such ramrodding tactics, but at the end of the day, the tactic will succeed, which should see the pension bill sent off to committee by mid-week.

On the committee front, Natural Resources embarks on a truly serendipitously timed study of "the current and future state of oil and gas pipelines and refining capacity in Canada", with departmental officials and representatives from the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute heading the witness list for this morning's session.

Meanwhile, over at Ethics, the much-anticipated statutory review of the Lobbying Act will hear from its first non-governmental expert: Capital Hill Group "senior consultant" and former Liberal MP Joe Jordan.

Also this morning: Canadian Heritage continues -- no, seriously, it's still going -- its investigation into Canada's 150th anniversary party plans with appearances by National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay and representatives from the Royal Canadian Mint. So ... commemorative coins and jaunty city-wide bunting, then? Maybe a very special episode of the Canada Day noontime show? Can we book Will and Kate this far in advance, or should we just leave the Royal spot open for now? Oh, I can't wait to read that report, presuming the committee ever finishes studying it.  

Meanwhile, over at Public Accounts, committee members are set to discuss unspecified business in public, although given the recent trend of the government forcing all such matters behind closed doors -- not to mention the ghost of the Wallace manoeuvre that hangs over the fate of future business like a guillotine -- that may change as soon as the gavel drops. 

UPDATE: After wishing his colleagues a Happy New Year, Andrew Saxton -- who, as parliamentary secretary, is the de facto leader on the government side -- moved the non-debatable motion to turf the public from Public Accounts. 

You can read more about the creeping in camera-itis currently plaguing the committee structure here, but the short version is this: motions to do so can be moved at any time, and are non-debatable, which means that the government has a free hand to clear the room whenever it wishes to do so.

Finally, later this afternoon, newly installed RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson will field questions at Public Safety.

Over in the Senate committee front, representatives from the Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (FAIR) take their concerns over the appointment of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion, and "end the muzzling of civil society organizations" on the state of the beleaguered office that he now leads, to National Finance.

Also on the Hill today:

The Association of Colleges and Universities of Canada provides an early morning opportunity for university presidents to meet with MPs and senators over breakfast in the Parliamentary Restaurant.

Later this morning, interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel meets with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo to discuss last week's Crown-First Nations Gathering.

This afternoon, "hundreds" of Falun Gong practitioners are expected to convene on Parliament Hill to call on the prime minister to demand "an end to atrocities" during his upcoming trip to China, with representatives from the Falun Dafa Association slated to hit the Charles Lynch Press Theatre to reiterate that message. Interestingly -- and somewhat uncharacteristically for this particular group -- the advisory does not include the names of any supportive MPs expected to be present at either the rally or the press conference.

Elsewhere in Ottawa, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities releases a report on the housing market, and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq makes an "important health research funding announcement" at the University of Ottawa.

On the one-man ministerial circuit: Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, whose office appears to compiled a seemingly inexhaustible list of mining and energy sector-centric events prepared to offer him a speaking spot from which he can expound on the need for regulatory reform, as will likely be the case when he addresses the Canada Mining Innovation Council in Toronto today.

Finally, NDP leadership candidate Thomas Mulcair spends the day in New Brunswick. 

 For up to the minute dispatches from the precinct and beyond, keep your eye on the Parliament Hill Ticker below -- or, alternatively, bookmark it and check back throughout the day. 

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