Orders of the Day - If those caucus room walls could talk ...

... well, one suspects the word "robocall" would come up with remarkable frequency, at least as far as the opposition parties, with "Vikileaks" running a close second. 

Yes, it being Wednesday, the halls of Centre Block will seem deceptively serene this morning as MPs from all parties disappear behind closed doors for the traditional Wednesday rap sessions. Don't worry, they'll almost certainly make up, and then some, for the temporary dearth of sound and fury during the equally traditional caucus outs. 

On the agenda for the House of Commons today: the proposed free trade agreement between Canada and Panama -- which up until this moment, I hadn't noticed has been branded the "Canada Panama Growth and Prosperity Act," leaving one to wonder whether there is any item of parliamentary business that can't be converted into a talking point. 

As far as I can tell -- and I may be wrong -- the bill itself has not yet been placed under time allocation, which is somewhat odd, given the cheerfulness with which the Official Opposition has successfully stymied the passage of similar free trade proposals during minority parliaments past, to the point that I started thinking of its occasional cameo appearance at the top of the order paper as a tacit admission that the government house leader had simply run out of useful business to keep the Chamber occupied, and was simply running down the clock. 
Hit the jump for the full post. 

Order Paper Watch: NDP wants info on government money going to RackNine, RMG and Campaign Research

The ongoing robocalls controversy makes its first -- but likely not last -- appearance on the Order Paper today, courtesy of NDP MP Pat Martin, who has filed a series of questions that appear to have been inspired by the now semi-infamous 2010 photo posted to Facebook by RackNine CEO Matt Meier, in which he noted that "government does pay." 

Not only does the Official Opposition want to know exactly how much the government has paid Meier and RackNine over the last five years, and just what services were received in exchange for the payment, but also whether any federal cash has gone to Responsive Marketing Group and/or Campaign Research, and, if so, for what purpose. 

So, will the government hand over the requested info? Check back in 45 days -- which, by my calculations, works out to mid-April -- to find out!

Hit the jump for the full text of the NDP's questions. 

Vikileaks Watch: Pack your bags, Adam Carroll, you're going to (the wrong) committee!

Hot off the undisclosed source listserv comes the following motion, which will, we are led to believe, be debated at Ethics this Thursday: 

Motion
Dean Del Mastro, MP
February 28, 2012
 
 That the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics call Mr. Adam Carroll, former Liberal Research Bureau employee, for one meeting to examine his use of House of Commons resources in order to conceal his anonymous public attacks on a Member of Parliament and that this meeting take place by Thursday March 8, 2012.
 

Yes, it appears that, once again, and for reasons that are, perhaps, best left to the motion's sponsor to explain, the Conservatives are about to make an attempt to do an end run around the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the seemingly far too easily overlooked committee that has the sole responsibility of investigating allegations of misconduct on the part of MPs as well as the administration of the House of Commons, which would include the use of its resource "to conceal ... anonymous public attacks."  

As far as I can tell, the Del Mastro motion doesn't even try to squeeze itself within the broad but not unlimited mandate of the ethics committee, which includes, among other matters, the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, as well as the Conflict of Interest Act, which deals the conduct of designated public office holders. 

It was under those statutes -- ATI and CoIA, specfiically, that ministerial staffers Sebastien Tognieri and Kaz Nejatian were called to testify on their activities as ministerial staffers by the previous iteration of ETHI. Employees of party research bureaus, like MPs' staff,  are not covered by that particular law, which is why issues related to the conduct of non-ministerial Hill staff -- including the alleged use of House of Commons resources -- fall under the aegis of Procedure and House Affairs. 
 
For that reason, the Del Mastro motion will almost certainly be ruled out of order by the chair, a decision that the government side will, with equal near certainty, use its majority to overturn, whereupon the requested meeting will go forward, despite the fact that it will be doing so in the wrong parliamentary venue. 

Hit the jump for the full post. 

Orders of the Day - Pay no attention to the Vikileaking former Liberal staffer behind the curtain

Undaunted, it seems, by yesterday's revelations regarding the origins of the @Vikileaks30 twitter account -- short version: it was a now-former Liberal research staffer wot dun it -- Her Majesty's Loyal Backup Opposition Party will devote their sole allotted day of the current supply cycle to a motion that calls upon the House to recognize "the fundamental right of all Canadians to the freedoms of speech, communications and privacy," and for the prime minister to ensure that any legislation brought forward by his government "respects the provisions of the Charter and its commitment to the principles of due process, respect for privacy and the presumption of innocence." 

(Yes, Bill C-30, they're talking about you.) 

Hit the jump for the full text of today's motion and the rest of today's OotD. 
Apparently, the Speaker's office was able to follow the virtual ball of twine back to the Liberals -- specifically, a staffer with the Liberal Research Bureau, who he subsequently identified as Adam Carroll. According to Interim Party Leader Bob Rae, over the weekend, Carroll offered his resignation, which was, not surprisingly, accepted. 

Hit the jump for the full post. 

UPDATED - Robocalls Watch: Conservative Party linked to calls directing voters to different polling stations

Breaking as we speak (or, in this case, type): What could very well turn out to be a major  development -- or, at the very least, an intriguing new angle -- on the robocalls controversy, courtesy of the Toronto Star: 

Callers on behalf of the federal Conservative Party were instructed in the days before last year's election to read scripts telling voters that Elections Canada had changed their voting locations, say telephone operators who worked for a Thunder Bay-based call centre. 

These weren't "robo-calls," as automated pre-recorded voice messages as commonly known. They were live real-time calls made into ridings across Canada, the callers say.  

In a new twist on new growing allegations of political "dirty tricks," three former employees of RMG -- Responsive Marketing Group Inc.'s call centre in Thunder Bay -- told the Star about the scripts. 

 A fourth remembered directing people to voting stations but did not remember passing on any message that a voting station had changed. However, one employee was so concerned that something was amiss she says she reported it to her supervisor at the RMG site, to the RCMP office in Thunder Bay and to a toll-free Elections Canada number at the time.

Read the full story here

Hit the jump for the full post. 

Orders of the Day - Just another manic Monday. (Thanks, robocall story!)

First, my deepest apologies for the tardiness of today's dispatch -- blame it on breaking robocall-related developments, which is something that I suspect may become a regular occurrence over the next few days/weeks. 

In any case, MPs have reconverged on the precinct after spending the last week in their respective ridings, and given the firestorm currently engulfing the Hill over the very same robocall story, one can only hope that they do so rested, rejuvenated and ready for what is likely to be an action-packed week. 

On the House agenda today: The government's proposal to revamp the Senate, which is currently at second reading -- and not, at least at press time, under time allocation, although that could change if the discussion drags on longer than Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan would like. 

We're also expecting Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae to rise after Question Period to formally request an emergency debate on alleged voter suppression, which - spoiler alert - is unlikely to succeed, although depending on how long the speaker humours him before rejecting his plea, it may allow representatives from all parties to put their positions on the record before it wraps up.  

On the committee front:  

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee is set to wrap up its work on the omnicrime bill later today, with the now infamous Cotler amendments having been passed, with (presumably at least a little bit sheepish) government support earlier today. 

That means the bill will have to go back to the House for concurrence before Royal Assent -- which is obtained through the passage of a motion in the Chamber that is both debate-able and amendment, although also potentially subject to time allocation and/or closure. 

Still, the delay -- which, it bears repeating, was entirely avoidable had the government simply accepted the Cotler amendments at the time -- could jeopardize that 100 sitting day deadline imposed by the PM, which seemed positively generous back when the bill was introduced. 

Meanwhile, back on the House side, C-11 (copyright) committee officially kicks off its study of the government's proposals to modernize the existing regime this afternoon, with witnesses to include various law professors, as well as the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, the Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators and the Canadian Photographers Coalition. 

Over at Foreign Affairs, the Mining Association of Canada, Canadian Labour Congress and Revenue Watch Institute provide perspective on the role of the private sector in "achieving Canada's international development interests". (Style note: "Achieving"? Wouldn't "advancing"  be more appropriate? Since when does a country "achieve" its "interests"?) 

Agriculture 
continues its review of Growing Forward 2, with appearances by representatives from the Canadian International Grains Institute, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, the Consumers' Association and Humane Society International, who will share their respective views on "meeting consumer demands".  

Meanwhile, Fisheries resumes its investigation of closed containment salmon farming, Human Resources looks into skills development in remote rural communities "in an era of fiscal restraint" and Government Operations gets advice on considering estimates and supply from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and former Liberal MP turned consultant Joe Jordan

Finally, Status of Women meets to discuss "committee business" - in public, at least according to the schedule, and thus providing yet more evidence that, contrary to the assertions of some doubtless well-intended but misinformed Conservatives, such matters are not traditionally exclusively dealt with in private. 

 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. 

Mobile-friendly auto-updating text feed available here or hit the jump for the full CoveritLive experience. 

Liveblog: NDP Leadership Debate (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

The seven remaining candidates still vying for the privilege of serving as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition converged on the Pantages Playhouse Theatre Sunday afternoon, where, under the tantalizingly nebulous theme of "connecting people and regions," they engaged in debate -- or, if no one actually disagrees with the notion of doing both, at least a lively discussion -- in front of a live audience.  

Watch the debate again here.

Mobile-friendly text feed of the live blog available here or hit the jump for the full CoveritLive experience.

Election Robocall Data Dump - 12 Conservative candidates on the 2011 RackNine client list

For the latest news on the still unfolding saga of those misleading automated calls that attempted to send voters to bogus polling stations, read Laura Payton's report right here

Hit the jump for the full list. 

Orders of the Day - Bad Robot!

Well, the respite from the sound and fury of political sabre-waving was nice while it lasted, but  the eerie still of a precinct at rest has been well and truly shattered by a fresh set of potentially politically incendiary revelations -- courtesy of PostMedia reporters Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher -- on an ongoing Elections Canada invesgiation into the origins of some of those heretofore unexplained misleading phone calls that went out during the final days of the last federal election.    


New Democrat MPs Pat Martin and Robert Aubin hit the National Press Theatre to share their thoughts on the latest development later today. 

Hit the jump for the rest.