Inside Politics

Procedural battles set to unfold in House, Senate and on the committee front

The ongoing drama in the Upper House is expected to continue for a third day later this afternoon as senators continue to debate a series of motions to suspend their three expense scandal-embattled colleagues from the Chamber without pay.

When the Senate adjourned yesterday evening, Government Leader Claude Carignan had just concluded his introductory remarks on the Duffy suspension motion -- the last of the three to be introduced -- which triggered a lively post-speech Q&A with his fellow senators, during which he was asked if he had sought legal advice before proceeding with the move to eject his former caucus colleagues for the foreseeable future, a query that Carignan considered "inappropriate in the context of the study of this motion."

Eventually, however, he deigned to answer it with a 'no,' all the while insisting that the question was "not legal" as it fell under solicitor-client privilege. (How, exactly what would apply when, according to Carignan, no solicitor was consulted, he did not, alas, explain. )

"Maybe in your version of Stephen Harper's Canada I don't have a right to ask it," shot back Senator Percy Downe in response, "But in my version of Canada I can ask anything I want. You can decide if you answer or not."

In any case, later this afternoon, Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan will move that the Duffy motion be sent to committee -- the same suggestion that he has made for the Brazeau and Wallin motions.

As for whether a vote will be held on any of the three -- or, more accurately, six, counting the Liberal amendments -- suspension-related motions that will shortly be on the floor, at this point, nobody knows. (Debate on the Wallin motion is temporarily on hold pending a ruling on the speaker on whether it is in order.)

Back in the Commons, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan will move his first time allocation motion of the new session later this morning, which, if adopted -- which, of course, it will be -- will give MPs four more days to debate the pros and cons (in principle) of the latest omnibudget bill, at which point it would be dispatched to the relevant committees for future study.

Outside the Chamber(s), nine now-officially-reconstituted House committees will get together to elect -- or, in most cases, re-elect -- their chairs and vice-chairs and pass routine motions.

Once that bit of housekeeping business is out of the way, they will turn their respective and collective attention to the proposal unveiled last week by the New Democrats, which would impose strict limits on moving future meetings behind closed doors.

Also on the committee agenda today: Later this morning, Procedure and House Affairs will resume consideration of a contentious motion put forward by the government at their inaugural meeting earlier this week to permanently prevent independent MPs from introducing amendments to bills from the floor of the House of Commons during report stage debate, a heretofore little-known perk accorded to members not aligned with a recognized party caucus, and, as a result, are unable to do so at committee.

Instead, they would be obliged to submit, via letter to the chair, any recommended changes directly to the committee charged with studying the bill, which would allow them to give a "brief" explanation of the rationale before holding a vote.

Not surprisingly, the move hasn't gone over well in the Independent corner of the Commons -- both Elizabeth May and Brent Rathgeber have expressed concern that it would dramatically curtail their ability to do their jobs .

The opposition New Democrats have also raised a red flag over the government's bid to create yet another "democratic shortcut," as NDP MP David Christopherson described it during his lengthy intervention on the motion, whose initial apprehensions were exacerbated when neither the Conservative member who moved it, nor the chair or the committee clerk were able to explain just what the implications for other MPs -- and the House as a whole -- could be.

In any case, that debate is expected to get underway at noon, and may well be worth watching, if only to see if the New Democrats manage to stave off, at least temporarily, a final vote on the matter.

On the ministerial circuit:

  • Minister of State for Social Development Candice Bergen pays a visit to the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre to "recognize the success" of the Pathways to Education Program.
  • International Trade Minister Ed Fast teams up with Public Safety Minister Steve Blaney to sell the prospect of Canada-European free trade to Montrealers during a joint appearance in front of an audience of "leading industry and business representatives."
  • Also out and about in Montreal: International Development Minister Christian Paradis, who will drop by Hudson's Bay Company headquarters for the launch of the Branded Haiti Project and Collection in Canada.
  • Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea speaks at the Fisheries Council of Canada Conference in Halifax before heading back home to Charlottetown with fresh federal support for the Farm Centre Association.
  • Minister of State for Small Business Max Bernier makes his way Edmonton to attend an awards ceremony hosted by the local chamber of commerce.

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is off to Washington, DC, where he's scheduled to serve as a panelist alongside former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Australian PM Julia Gillard at the 10th anniversary policy conference of the Centre for American Progress.

Finally, later this evening, legendary CBC News host Don Newman will hold court at the iconic Hy's Steakhouse to mark the release of his memoirs, Welcome To The Broadcast.

Tags: blackberry jungle, orders of the day

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