Inside Politics

Ethics watchdog to share thoughts on conflict of interest rules at committee

In what the Conservatives are doubtless hoping/plotting will be a fortuitously-timed appearance, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson is set to testify before Ethics later today as part of the committee's ongoing statutory review of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Dawson's conflict of interest Q&A - which was originally scheduled to take place last month, but was preempted by Commons votes -- could explain the heretofore somewhat inexplicable decision by the party to push out its new call for an inquiry into NDP MP Pat Martin's robocalls-related defence fund on a Sunday afternoon.

Dawson will, after all, almost certainly find herself fielding questions about her recent wrist-slappings of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and parliamentary secretaries Colin Carrie and Eve Adams over letters of support sent to the CRTC in support of local bids. 

The Martin complaint would, in theory, allow members on the government side to pepper her with similar queries on the propriety of Martin's extraparliamentary fundraising activities. 

This particular defence tactic, however, depends on the NDP chair of the committee finding such questions to be in order, which he could decline to do on the entirely reasonable grounds that neither Martin nor any other opposition or backbench government member is actually covered by the Conflict of Interest Act. They are, of course, governed by the Members' Code of Conduct, which falls under the exclusive aegis of Procedure and House Affairs.

Meanwhile, back in the Chamber, members will kick off the final round of debate on the government's efforts to increase accountability within the RCMP via C-42, which was reported back from committee just before the Christmas break, with proposed changes to the witness protection regime on the agenda for this afternoon.

Before that discussion gets underway, however, New Democrat MP Finn Donnelly will have his first opportunity to make the case for his private members' bid to outlaw the importation of shark fins, which, at last check, seemed doomed to failure, due to a distinct lack of support amongst Conservative MPs.

Also on the Hill today: Representatives from the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives release the latest military procurement report by researchers Michael Byers and Stewart Webb.

Finally, Veterans Affairs Minister Steve Blaney pays a visit to the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre, where he will "personally deliver hand-made valentines ... created by students from across Canada" to residents of the facility. 

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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NOTE: Updates added in reverse chronological (newer to older) order.

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