Inside Politics

Orders of the Day - Let the conversation(s) begin!

When he first brought forward his proposal to set up a special committee to study how the Criminal Code currently defines "human being", Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth was adamant, if oddly elliptical, that he wasn't attempting to reopen the abortion debate, but simply wanted to "start the conversation," and judging from the impassioned response that his gambit has garnered thus far, it would be fair to declare that particular mission accomplished, despite the fact that the government has made it clear from the start that the motion itself is all but doomed to defeat.

Before that day comes, however, the Woodworth motion will spend a couple of hours in the parliamentary spotlight, the first of which is scheduled to unfold this evening, when Woodworth gets his first opportunity to formally make his case for a "conversation" to the Chamber as a whole. Under the rules that govern private members' hour, he will have fifteen minutes to put his arguments on the record, which will be followed by five minutes of questions and comments.

After that wraps up, it will be up to other MPs to fill the remaining forty minutes; when the clock runs out, the motion will drop to the bottom of the precedent list, with the second -- and final -- hour in debate likely to take place in June, at the earliest, and very possibly not until the fall, thus virtually ensuring that its presence on the Order Paper will continue to bedevil the Prime Minister's Office right up until it goes up for a vote, particularly if the powers that be persist in their apparent belief that repeating, over and over, that the government has no intention of re-opening of the debate is an effective damage control strategy.  

Before all that gets underway, however, the F-35 procurement process will be in the spotlight at Public Accounts, where an appearance by Auditor General Michael Ferguson will kick off.the promised parliamentary inquiry.  

Although Ferguson isn't expected to provide much in the way of new information on the F-35 file -- and, with his preternaturally cautious, downright bureaucratic approach to the job, even less in the way of pithy, off-the-cuff commentary in the style of his predecessor, the sublimely quotable Sheila Fraser -- the mere fact that he will be there can be chalked up as a symbolic, but satisfying victory for the opposition, who have spent the last few weeks engaged in a running battle with their Conservative colleagues over the F-35 witness list, which reached an apex of acrimony earlier this week when the chair -- NDP MP David Christopherson -- threatened to hand in his gavel unless Ferguson was invited to appear.

Given the events above, the NDP may find it a challenge to drum up interest in today's opposition day motion, which will implore the House to rebuff the government's plot to raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement from 65 to 67 -- a plea that is, barring a sudden change of heart on the Conservative side of the Chamber or a particularly ill-timed traffic jam on the Little Green Bus Route, virtually guaranteed to fail.

Elsewhere on the committee circuit, Conservative backbench MP Brian Storseth's bid to strip the Canadian Human Rights Commission of the power to investigate complaints related to online hate speech goes up for clause-by-clause review at Justice, although not before representatives from B'nai Brith Canada get the chance to make their case for the section in question.

Also on the schedule this morning: Procedure and House Affairs goes behind closed doors to work on a draft report on its findings in the case of Vic Toews vs. Anonymous, and Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart heads to Ethics to discuss her annual report, as well as her office budget.

Later this afternoon, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page will take questions from Finance members on his most recent report on the economic and fiscal outlook, which was released earlier this week, and Jason Kenney heads to Citizenship and Immigration to expound on his latest bid to tighten the rules for refugee claimants.  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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