Inside Politics

Orders of the Day - Let the (government operations and estimates committee) doors be closed!

As predicted earlier this week, later today, Conservative MP Mike Wallace will make a second - and, given the math of majority rule, likely successful - attempt to force all discussion of future business at Government Operations behind closed doors on a permanent basis, at least for the duration of the 41st parliament. 

At least, that's what one must assume is the gist of the motion that he will bring forward for privilege-protected debate this afternoon; as that portion of the meeting is scheduled to take place in secret, which means that any explicit reference to the contents by those permitted to be in the room when it goes before the committee is under a permanent publication ban, on pain of possible contempt of parliament charges.

In any case,  that clandestine conversation is slated to take place at the end of today's meeting -- which will, it's worth noting, open up briefly for a meet-and-greet with representatives from Shared Services Canada, which could, of course, could be shut down on a moment's notice if at risk of drawing unwanted attention from the prying eyes of the public and the press. 

Interestingly, the committee is also set to review the process for considering the estimates, although as that, too, will take place in camera, we may never know just why the committee apparently feels the need to conduct an existential examination of its oversight responsibilities, or, indeed, how its members ultimately decide to proceed. 

Also going off the official record today: Foreign Affairs, which will consider 'future business' of an undisclosed nature; and Status of Women, which, at least, has a good excuse for hanging a Do Not Disturb sign outside this afternoon's meeting: its members are set to begin drafting a report on the abuse of older women.

Braving the spotlight, at least until a government member moves to kill the lights and clear the room: Human Resources, which will begin its study into Conservative MP Richard Harris' bid to prevent inmates from receiving employment insurance, and Agriculture, which will resume its review of the Growing Forward strategy.

Back in the Commons Chamber -- which is, at press time, still open to the public, but just to be safe, let's not remind the government house leader about the "strangers in the House" trick -- MPs will spend one final day on second reading of the plan to set up pooled registered pension plans, with the procedural timer set to go off later today, thus dispatching it to committee by mid-week, just like Peter Van Loan promised. 

Before all that gets underway, however, there are, of course, the usual weekly caucus meetings, which will keep MPs off the streets and out of the hallways until noon or so.

The Liberals have scheduled a post-meeting media availability to "highlight the fallout from the Conservative government's attack on pensions [sic]," a clause that really seems to cry out for an "alleged" or "rumoured" or "widely suspected within the ranks of those who have an interest in promoting the worst possible scenario as a done deal despite having no evidence to bolster the claim other than, like, three lines in the PM's speech to the World Economic Forum that his luckless speechwriter will doubtless never, ever be permitted to forget having blithely left in the final draft."

Wow, that turned into a bit of a rant, didn't it? Sorry about that. It's just starting to drive me a teeny tiny bit bonkers. I get that this is pretty much the perfect issue for opposition parties to torque beyond all recognition, and I'm sure the Conservatives would do the very same thing in their position, but it does get a wee bit wearisome to watch.

Elsewhere on the Hill, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson goes before Legal and Constitutional Affairs to give what will be, in effect,his final arguments in support of the omnicrime bill as it undergoes one final round of sober second thought. 

It may also be worth keeping an eye on the HillCam, as the Canadian Federation of Students is planning to hold a "National Day of Action" rally on Parliament Hill, which will include an appearance by Canadian Labour Congress vice-president Barb Byers.

Outside the precinct, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney hits the Canadian War Museum to serve as host for "the Government of Canada's official launch" of Black History Month, which will, according to the advisory, place "particular emphasis on the contribution of black soldiers during the War of 1812." Well, of course it would, wouldn't it? At this point, I'm expecting the 2012 budget will be styled the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 Economic Action! Plan: From Muskets to Multi-purpose Recreational Facilities. 

Meanwhile, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver will have his work cut out for him working a War of 1812 reference into a speech on "the future of the forest sector" at a PaperWeek luncheon hosted by Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada. Then again, maybe he won't: after all, they did use paper back then. Maps, battle plans, requisition lists, poignant love letters from the front: it's all good grist for the anniversary mill, not to mix commodity metaphors.

Finally, Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel speaks at the annual general meeting of the Gatineau branch of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.
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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