Inside Politics

UPDATED - Let's all panic about Canada's historic literacy!

Let the semi-annual wringing of the hands over the allegedly sorry state of Canada's collective historical literacy begin!

Later today, Canadian Heritage is set to kick off what the minutes from the closed-door organizational meeting describe as a "thorough and comprehensive review of significant aspects in Canadian history," including a "breakdown and comparison of relevant standards and courses of study offered in primary and post-secondary institutions" across the country, as well as an investigation into "federal, provincial and municipal programs designed to preserve our history."

According to the terms of reference, the committee's attention will be focused on -- "but not limited to ... pre-confederation, early confederation, suffrage, World War I, with an emphasis on battles such as Vimy Ridge, World War II including the Liberation of Holland, the Battle of Ortona, Battle of the Atlantic, the Korean conflict, peacekeeping missions, constitutional development, the Afghanistan conflict, early 20th century Canada, post-war Canada, and the late 20th century."

First up on the witness list: the founders of Operation HUSKY 2013, which was formed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the battle for Sicily, and Canadian Museum of Civilization officials Chantal Amyot and Xavier Gelinas.

(The committee was, it seems, unable to secure the presence of the two witnesses initially penciled in for today: The Netherlands Ambassador to Canada, and Conservative MP Randy Hoback.)

On the witness wishlist for future meetings: CBC, the Chief Archivist for the Hudson Bay Company, Kevin McLeod, Library and Archives Canada, Library of Parliament, McCain Family Foundation. National Film Board of Canada and Telefilm Canada, as well as other as yet unspecified witnesses to be suggested by committee members.

Also on the committee front today:

Ethics and Conflict of Interest Commissioner Mary Dawson will take questions from MPs on the projected budget -- and, almost certainly, ongoing operations -- of her office at Ethics, which is currently working its way through its share of the main estimates, as is International Trade, whose members will get to hear from the minister this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Justice continues to scrutinize the fine print of Bloc Quebecois MP Maria Mourani's bid to tighten the penalties for human trafficking and exploitation, with the Quebec Council on the Status of Women and the Salvation Army tagged to appear before the committee begins clause-by-clause review later this afternoon.

Back in the Commons, MPs will spend a fourth day debating the budget implementation bill, which is currently scheduled to be put to a vote on second reading approval (or, indeed, disapproval) in principle tomorrow evening, after which it will be divvied up into thematically-linked chunks, and sent off to committee for further consideration.

Before that gets underway, however, the House will embark on what may well turn out to be the final round of discussion on a Senate-initiated bill to loosen the rules on prize fights in Canada to include mixed-martial arts competitions, which was introduced by Conservative Senator Bob Runciman in the Red Chamber, and has subsequently managed to garner the support of all parties, although not the unanimous support of the House, thanks to the quiet but concerted dissent expressed by four GTA-area Conservative backbenchers at second reading.

Meanwhile, later this morning, New Democrat public safety and justice critics Randall Garrison and Francoise Boivin will join "representatives" of both uniformed and civilian members of the RCMP to share their respective thoughts -- and, given the context, almost certainly concerns -- with the government's bid to strengthen accountability within the RCMP, which is currently before a Senate committee, and which the NDP believes -- as is its wont -- doesn't go far enough.

UPDATE: According to a this-just-in advisory from the Liberals, party public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia has called a 1pm press conference to discuss VIA Rail security, presumably to provide an update on his efforts to get the committee to investigate the issue following last month's terror-related arrests. 

This afternoon, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson will host an "earth-to-space concert" at City Hall, during which 300 local children will join International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield to sing what is, according to the advisory, the official Music Monday theme song: "ISS: Is Somebody Singing/Quelqu'un Chante".

This evening, Governor General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon, attend the Champions of Mental Health Awards Gala at the Chateau Laurier.

On the government good news circuit today:

  • Human Resources Minister Diane Finley makes "an announcement on social finance" at a forum on "women in social business" ongoing in Ottawa.
  • Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore ferries fresh federal cash to a Quebec City community centre, while elsewhere in La Belle Province, Conservative Senator Suzanne Fortin Duplessis teams up with provincial and municipal officials to unveil new funding for Habitations Jean-Nicolet in Trois-Rivieres.
  • In Toronto, Veterans Affairs Minister Steve Blaney marks the launch of Mental Health Week by bolstering his government's support for veterans' initiatives at the Ryerson University athletic centre.
  • Also out and about in Ontario today: MInister of State for Science Gary Goodyear, who is scheduled to give opening remarks at CONNECT 2013 in Niagara Falls before heading to nearby Niagara College with news of new money for the local manufacturing sector.
  • Meanwhile, in Paris, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver "promotes Canada's record on the environment," as well as its "commitment to responsible resource development" in a speech to the Canada-France Chamber Commerce.

Finally, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau makes an appearance at a Kanata seniors centre, after which he'll trek to Renfrew for an early evening "meet and greet" at the legion hall.

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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