Inside Politics

Orders of the Day - Happy Budget/Chief Electoral Officer Speaks Out On Robocalls Day!

In what can only be described as a deeply unfortunate bit of scheduling business, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand is set to make his first public statement on the robocalls controversy at committee later this morning, just hours before the budget drops, when all but a handful of Hill media -- although not, I should note, your humble liveblogging correspondent -- will be sequestered in the finance department lockup, and as such, will be unable to attend, or even tune into the livestream to hear what he has to say.

According to the committee chair -- the always affable Joe Preston -- the time clash, while awkward, was inevitable: the members, he says, had indicated that they were keen to hear from the CEO at the earliest possible opportunity, and this was the first available opening. It's fair to say that, thus far, his explanation has done little to quell the conspiracy theorizing that followed the revelation that Mayrand would appear on Budget Day. 

In any case, it's not entirely clear what new information the CEO can share with the committee, given the constraints on what he can reveal publicly, particularly with regard to the still-ongoing investigation(s) into alleged voter suppression tactics deployed in Guelph, and possibly beyond. Still, depending on how MPs approach the issue, his appearance may turn out to be an enlightening one. For more on that, read my post on the five questions that he may actually be able to answer.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the committee circuit:

  • Senior Air Canada executives go before Transport to be questioned over the closure of Aveos Fleet Performance Inc., with departmental officials and legal experts also expected to appear

  • Health resumes its investigation of the Canadian drug supply with testimony from Best Medicines Coalition, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, among others

  • Public Accounts explores a related issue: namely, the regulation of pharmaceutical drugs, which was the subject of a recent report from the auditor general

  • Finally, Defence goes behind closed doors to be briefed by unnamed parties on the "next generation of fighter aircraft"
Back in the House, members will fill the pre-budget vacuum by returning to second reading debate of the Canada-Panama Free free trade agreement, which is, at press time, not under time allocation, although that could change in an instant should the government decide it wants to hurry it off to committee.

In any case, at 4pm, regular Commons proceedings will be suspended to allow the finance minister to deliver his speech, which will likely take at least an hour.

At the same time that the minister is touting the highlights of his plan for "jobs, growth and prosperity", a committee room down the hall will play host to a swarm of lobbyists, interest groups and experts, each and every one of which will be primed and ready to share their respective thoughts on the day's developments with pretty much any reporter willing to listen.

Among those on the list of department-approved stakeholders expected to be in the pen today: The Public Service Alliance of Canada, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Canadian Medical Association, University of Calgary Professor Jack Mintz, Canadian Arts Federation, David Suzuki Foundation, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Certified Management Accountants of Canada, Canadian Labour Congress, Deloitte Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee, which will be represented by former PMO communications director Dimitri Soudas.

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.  We'll have full coverage of all things budget-related, so check back for updates! 

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