Inside Politics

MacKay to unveil new search and rescue initiatives

As the House begins a second day of debate on the budget implementation bill that the NDP persists in calling Omnibus 3.0, Defence Minister Peter MacKay has issued an urgent -- and somewhat last minute -- notice summoning reporters to Defence HQ for a noontime announcement on the search and rescue system, which was the object of a less than glowing review from the auditor general earlier this week.

Given that the minister's press conference will take place just hours before the auditor general himself is scheduled to go before Public Accounts to discuss that very same report, it's likely that the government is hoping to get ahead of any further criticism of its management of the program.

UPDATE: According to various and sundry sources within the department, MacKay will unveil six SAR-related initiatives,including new tracking satellites and more flexible response times.  

Also on the Hill this morning: Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ives, who, according to the notice of his visit, has "strong personal ties with Canada," including a previous stint as ambassador, and will be feted by Government House Leader Peter Van Loan and both the House and Senate speakers before heading to the National War Memorial for a wreath-laying ceremony alongside Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney.

On the committee agenda today:

  • Government Operations hears from Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion and Public Service Commission President Anne-Marie Robinson as members continue their study of the main estimates.
  • Industry Minister Christian Paradis and Minister of State Maxime Bernier field questions on the projected budgets for the regional development agencies for which they are respectively responsible at Industry.
  • Fisheries and Oceans and Finance, however, will have to make do without ministerial assistance as they go through DFO's Report on Plans and Priorities for 2013, and scrutinize the estimates, respectively.
  • Aboriginal Affairs wraps up its examination of Conservative MP Rob Clarke's bid to impose new transparency requirements on band councils, which is scheduled to go to clause-by-clause review after the committee hears from First Nations Lands Advisory Board chair Chief Robert Louie.
  • Louie is also slated to make an appearance at Status of Women, which is currently considering the government's proposal to modernize the laws regarding on-reserve matrimonial property.
  • Later this evening, the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women will get an overview of the current state of affairs, according to the perspective of senior officials from Indian Affairs, Public Safety and Statistics Canada.
  • Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs looks into the situation facing Jewish refugees from "Middle Eastern Nations" with the help of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries executive director Stanley Urman and legal counsel David Matas, as well as the past president of Communauté Sépharade Unifiée du Québec
  • Over at Veterans Affairs, members take the rare step of going in camera for a briefing on the department's funeral and burial program.
  • Finally, still more Ontario MPs, including Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, are on the witness list at Procedure and House Affairs as the committee returns to its review of proposed riding changes for that province before retreating behind closed doors once again to work on the still-outstanding reports on Saskatchewan and BC.

On the Hill media circuit:

  • Green Party Leader Elizabeth Day reveals her private members' initiative to address "the democracy deficit in Parliament" with a new system for endorsement of local candidates.
  • New Democrat treasury board critic Mathieu Ravignat shares the details of his bid at strengthening protection for public service whistleblowers
  • Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis teams up with members of the Canadian Syrian community to highlight the "lack of action by the Conservative government to assist the victims of the Syrian civil war."
  • Canadian Psychological Association CEO Karen Cohen releases a new report on the "silent mental health crisis," and solutions to allow "better access to psychological services."
  • Later this afternoon, Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison will hold a teleconference regarding "a significant change to the flags worn by Her Majesty's Canadian Ships, naval vessels, Naval Reserve Divisions. and other designated units," which will be shared under embargo until 7pm this evening.

Outside the precinct, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley joins Conservative MP Phil McColeman at a local supermarket, where she will unveil new measures to "help people with disabilities" -- which is, likely not at all coincidentally, the goal of a private members' motion put forward by McColeman that is slated for debate this evening.

Also out and about in the capital: Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, who will drop by the Canada Aviation and Space Museum for the official debut of a new Canadarm display.

Elsewhere on the ministerial circuit, Minister of State for Science Gary Goodyear delivers a lunch speech on "Canada's approach to supporting research and development" in Washington, DC.

Finally, New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair is in Labrador, where he'll meet with the union president at Iron Ore Company Mines, as well as Wabush Mayor Ron Barron, while in Winnipeg, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau visits a local high school before joining Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux at a nearby food court, where the two will proceed to "meet with members of the public."  

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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