Inside Politics

Election bill review kicks into high gear as Sheila Fraser hits the Hill

As the countdown to the upcoming two-week Easter constituency break begins, Procedure and House Affairs continues its extended schedule with a much-anticipated evening appearance by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser, who will likely expand on her already widely publicized critique of the government's efforts to rewrite Canada's election laws, as well as former Reform Party Leader Preston Manning and erstwhile Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Before that gets underway, however, the committee is scheduled to hold a mid-morning meeting to hear from still more witnesses, including Dentons lawyer Pierre Lortie, author of an oft-referenced 1992 report on electoral reform, Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher, Council of Canadians lawyer and board member Steven Shrybman and Direct Leap Technologies CEO Simon Rowland.

Fraser is also slated to go before the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee, which will kick off its pre-study of the bill with testimony from Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand and many others during back-to-back sessions.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth hits the stage at the National Press Theatre for "an important announcement" on his backbench bid to have the Commons "affirm that every Canadian law must be interpreted in a manner that recognizes in law the equal worth and dignity of everyone who is in fact a human being" -- which is, of course, a not terribly veiled attempt to restart the 'conversation' that he had hoped to trigger with his original, more obviously abortion-targeted motion in 2012.

As he has already used up his slot on the private members' priority list, Woodworth will almost certainly not get the opportunity to see his motion go to the House floor under his name, but he may have successfully persuaded a colleague to carry on the campaign.

Back in the Chamber, MPs will spend one final day debating the pros and cons of the spring omnibudget, which will go to a vote this evening.

Also on the Hill today:

    • Greenpeace Canada representatives take the stage at the Centre Block press theatre, where they will, according to the notice, "raise serious questions regarding possible violations of the Canada Elections Act."
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy President Mike Blais joins Ottawa lawyer Michel Drapeau to "discuss the unfairness of and discrimination against veterans adversely affected by the claw back of their Earnings Loss Benefits."
    • New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair and unidentified caucus members will meet with Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Martin Lee and Anson Chan.
    • Conservative backbencher James Lunney calls for "tighter controls and strict warnings on commonly used stomach acid reducing drugs."
    • New Democrats MP Wayne Marston hosts a media availability for Bertha Oliver, coordinator of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras, which the advisory bills as "Honduras' most respected human rights organization," and who is scheduled to appear before two House committees: International Human Rights, and Trade, which, it's worth noting, is currently studying the proposed Canada-Honduras free trade agreement.

Also on the committee agenda:

    • Transport hears from VIA Rail, Unifor and Saint Mary's University professor Mark Fleming as MPs resume their review of the state of the Canadian transportation safety regime.
    • Government Operations continues its investigation into open data practices with testimony from Canadian Institute of Forestry CEO John Pineau and, by video conference, Canadian Federation of Independent Business VP Ted Mallett.
    • Over at Ethics, witnesses from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canada Revenue Agency provide a departmental perspective on the economic impact of identity theft.
    • This afternoon, retired captain Sean Bruyea, who now styles himself "advocate and journalist," will outline his thoughts on the Enhanced New Veterans Charter at Veterans Affairs, which is also set to hear from Veterans of Canada and Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones.

Outside the precinct, Health Minister Rona Ambrose teams up with caucus colleague Terence Young for an event at her departmental headquarters. which likely relates to her efforts to toughen up the rules for reporting adverse drug effects.

Also out and about in Ottawa today: Minister of State for Social Development Candice Bergen, who will join representatives from the Canadian Mental Health Commission to tout the success of At Home/Chez Soi, which is billed as "the world's largest pilot project on homelessness and mental health."

In Alberta, Minister of State for Small Business Maxime Bernier takes part in a "working luncheon" hosted by the Okotoks Chamber of Commerce, while in Iqaluit, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq unveils a new waste management plan.

Finally, back in the capital, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will muse over what, in his view, will be the "next big thing for Canada" at a Canada 2020 dinner.

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. 

Mobile-friendly auto-updating text feed available here

NOTE: Updates added in reverse chronological (newer to older) order.

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