Inside Politics

All eyes on NDP as Clarity Act repeal bill goes to a vote

With the Bloc Quebecois-backed bid to repeal the Clarity Act set for a full House vote tonight, all eyes will be on the Official Opposition as the party faces its first public test of caucus unity since previously obscure NDP backbencher Claude Patry crossed the floor to join the BQ last week. 

By a twist of parliamentary timing, the vote will take place immediately following the division on yesterday's opposition day motion on the abolition of the Senate, which will make any sudden absences on the NDP benches glaringly obvious during the roll call.

Also up for Commons approval this evening: Bloc Quebecois MP Maria Mourani's bill to crack down on human smuggling, and Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant's attempt to restrict fees for providing professional assistance to those seeking determination of eligibility for disability tax credits.

Before all that gets underway, however, the caucuses will retreat behind closed doors for their weekly confabs, during which at least one of the aforementioned votes will almost certainly be a topic of lively conversation for at least one party.

Also headed to the Hill this morning: Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Gregory Thomas, who will don his most camera-friendly black-tie duds and join the organization's similarly besuited mascot, Porky the Waste-Hating Pig, for this year's Teddy Awards, which highlight wasteful public spending at the municipal, provincial and federal level by bestowing golden sow trophies on doubtless less than gratified recipients in absentia.

Elsewhere in the precinct, House Speaker Andrew Scheer joins Parliamentary Librarian Sonia L'Heureux to welcome Shaughnessy Cohen Prize finalists to the precinct, where they will take part in a book signing and group photo.

Later this afternoon, Defence Minister Peter MacKay goes before committee to defend his department's latest supplementary estimates request alongside newly ascended associate minister Kelly-Lynne Findlay and various and sundry senior civil servants, including deputy minister Robert Fonberg.

At Ethics, committee members will hear how other jurisdictions handle conflict of interest rules, courtesy of Ontario Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison and her BC counterpart, Paul D.K. Fraser.

Meanwhile, at Justice, representatives from the Criminal Lawyers' Association and the BC Civil Liberties Association will share their thoughts on the government's attempt to rewrite the rules for warrantless interception of private communications to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court, which struck down the existing provisions in R v. Tse.

Once the witnesses have finished testifying, the committee will move immediately to clause-by-clause review, as, under the timeline imposed by that ruling, the amended law has to be in place by mid-April. Taking into account the upcoming break weeks, that means C-55 has to make it through both the House and Senate by March 28th.

(It's worth noting that, for reasons as yet unstated, the minister did wait until the very last minute to bring the bill forward, so it's not like it's the court's fault that he's now at medium risk of missing the deadline.)

Finally, International Trade resumes its study on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between Canada and India.

Outside the precinct, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver continues his pro-pipeline American tour with a visit to Houston, Texas, where he'll 'witness an example' of the cross-border job-creating potential of Canadian energy while touring a refinery that processes Canadian crude oil.

Later today, he'll make an appearance at the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associate's annual conference, where he's slated to deliver a keynote speech that will 'reinforce' his message on the benefits of cooperation. 

On the other side of the world, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz offers himself up to reporters by telephone after wrapping up a trade mission through Japan.
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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