Inside Politics

Hill braces for arrival of up to 20 K protesters at annual March for Life

As previewed yesterday, the annual March for Life rally is expected to bring thousands of pro-life protesters to the Hill for a day-long demonstration under the theme of "ending female gendercide" -- which is, of course, the very same issue that triggered last month's mini-crisis within the Conservative caucus over the government's ultimately successful efforts to scupper backbencher Mark Warawa's non-binding private members motion to condemn the practice of sex-selective abortion.

Last night, the House of Commons sent out a notice on the "enhanced security measures" that would be in place throughout the day -- barricades, limited vehicle access, stricter requirements for displaying ID and only pre-reserved tours of Centre Block -- which predicted that the total number of demonstrators "is estimated at 20,000," although it's not clear precisely where that number originated.

According to the notice, the event is slated to kick off at noon with a rousing rendition of O Canada, an opening prayer and a "tweet-a-thon," which will be followed by speeches from organizers and supporters, including, according to the latest programme, "at least 10-15 MPs," although no names are listed. After that wraps up, marchers will take to the streets of Ottawa, returning to the Hill at approximately 4pm.

Before the main event gets underway, Back to Life Canada organizer Faytene Grasseschi will hold a mid-morning press conference to discuss "women being bullied into unwanted abortions."

Back in the Chamber, MPs are set to spend the entire day debating an NDP motion that would, if passed, compel the government to hand over any and all records to back up the claim that the $3.1 billion in public safety funding that the auditor general was unable to track down is not, in fact, "missing," but was duly reported in the public accounts.

Later this evening, the House will transform into Committee of the Whole for a special after-hours estimates examination, with relatively newly appointed Aboriginal Affairs Mnister Bernard Valcourt slated to be in the hot seat until just before midnight, fielding questions from opposition members over his department's spending plans.

In the Upper House, meanwhile, that much-anticipated report on Senate expenses is expected to be released today.

Meanwhile, the budget bill hits the table at two House committees -- Finance and Human Resources -- where MPs will have just two hours to put questions to the phalanx of senior civil servants -- a full 40 from 13 departments at Finance -- who will be on hand to respond to queries on the fine print of the proposed provisions.

Over at Public Safety, MPs will be briefed on rail transit security, as initially proposed by Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia in the wake of last month's terrorism arrests, with officials from Public Safety, the RCMP, CSIS and VIA Rail set to appear

Later this morning, Status of Women begins clause-by-clause review of the government's bid to modernize matrimonial property laws on First Nations reserves.

Veterans continues its analysis into comparative benefit programs offered by Canada and its allies by videoconferencing with US Veterans Affairs Department director Robert Reynolds, with members also slated to begin consideration of the "subject matter" of a Conservative private members' bill to create a national day of remembrance for Korean war veterans.

Day of the Honey Bee founder Clinton Ekdahl joins Munro's Honey and Meadery president David Bryans, as well as Health Canada officials and the Canadian Honey Council, to share their thoughts on the decline in honey bee colonies at Agriculture.

Other committees on the agenda today:

  • Procedure and House Affairs hears from still more Ontario MPs on proposed riding changes
  • Commissioner Graham Fraser talks main estimates at Official Languages
  • Industry holds a private meeting with an delegation from Finland.

Also on the Hill today: Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who will team up with representatives from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcements agencies, as well as Conservative MP John Weston, to mark National Prescription Drug Drop-Off Day.

Elsewhere on the ministerial circuit:

  • Transport Minister Denis Lebel makes his way to Amos with new money for local "community facilities," while Minister of State for Science Gary Goodyear attends the "grand opening" of the McMaster Automotive Research Centre in Hamilton.
  • Back in the capital, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird joins cabinet colleague Ed Fast for "Europe Day celebrations" at the Government Conference Centre, where the pair will "underline the mutual benefits of a Canada-EU trade agreement," and tout a new "business-to-business ... initiative" for Canadian and European firms, while elsewhere in the city, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley drops by the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Red Cross to make an "important announcement."
  • In Calgary, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai makes an appearance at the "inaugural Canada-India Oil and Gas Forum," where he will share his government's interest in "two-way trade and investment" with that country.
  • On the other side of the Atlantic, both Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are in London, albeit at separate events: Oliver will continue his pro-oil sands European speaking tour, while Flaherty takes part in a "Finance Ministers Panel" hosted by the IMF before going behind closed doors to meet with his G7 counterparts.

Finally, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau treks to St-Eustache, where he will meet with Nova Bus employees, as well as "members of the public."  

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