Event liveblog: Justin Trudeau vs. Patrick Brazeau

The political fight of the season is set to get underway later this evening as Liberal MP Justin Trudeau takes on Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in a fight-til-the-death-(or-at-least-bragging-rights) boxing match. The setup for tonight's match, courtesy of Colleague Janyce McGregor:

As fans of professional boxing know, all great bouts begin long before the fighters step into the ring, with furious rounds of trash-talking, odds-making and often a rancorous weigh-in ceremony.

In this respect, Saturday night's charity boxing match between Liberal MP Justin Trudeau and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau does not disappoint: The Montreal-Maniwaki match-up is a classic.

In the red corner, the well-coiffed, privileged son of the most liberal of Liberal prime ministers who took up boxing 20 years ago like his late father, returning to it "on and off" to keep in shape.

In the blue corner, the bandana-and-ponytailed blue-collar Tory Senator appointed by Stephen Harper to represent Canada's off-reserve aboriginal population, touting a background in martial arts and at least a figurative familiarity with the odd street brawl.

The shirtless promotional photos for the Fight for the Cure event, organized to raise funds for cancer research, show off both fighters' muscles and tattoos.

Local media speculation has favoured Brazeau's corner based on the black belt on his resumé and his bulging biceps.

Trudeau isn't daunted. "I'm a better boxer than him. We're not doing karate," he told CBC News' Julie Van Dusen on Parliament Hill Monday. "Boxing is muscles, yes. It's also heart and brainpower and strategy," he said, "and I think I can beat him on all three of those levels."

When asked by Van Dusen whether he meant to say he had a bigger brain than Brazeau, Trudeau said: "I think I'm smarter."

Check back at 6pm for full coverage of tonight's festivities, culminating in the main event -- the Brazeau/Trudeau face-off, that is -- at approximately 10:30 pm.

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Farewell, Angelo Persichilli: PMO loses its sixth director of communications in six years

Hot off the press gallery listserv comes a letter of resignation from Angelo Persichilli, who leaves his position as director of prime ministerial communications after just seven months on the job. 

Hit the jump for the full post. 

Orders of the Day - Fix teleprompters, ministers! There's an Economic Action! Plan to tout!

Despite the awkward timing of the budget drop, which traditionally takes place on the eve of a constituency week, thus freeing up cabinet ministers and MPs across the country to tout its marvels, the good news circuit is, it seems, up and running at maximum capacity. 

At press time -- and the advisories keep flooding in, so this could change -- it appears that PMO has dispatched no fewer than 18 (!) ministers (and one backbench MP) to the four corners of the country to deliver what will almost certainly be virtually identical speeches on the wonders of the latest iteration of Canada's Economic Action! Plan, as well as pose for the cameras at what will almost certainly be virtually identical EA!P-themed photo ops. 

Hit the jump for the full post. 
Despite fears that he wouldn't be able to provide much in the way of new information on the robocalls controversy, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand more than lived up to his billing as star witness at committee, and provided a somewhat unexpected, but entirely welcome update on the file to a packed-to-the-rafters-and-then-some committee room. According to Mayrand, as of today, the agency has accepted more than 800 specific complaints -- covering approximately 200 ridings, a number considerably higher than pretty much anyone had been expecting -- and 250 open files currently before the elections commissioner. 

Not surprisingly, that didn't go over terribly well on the government side of the table, where Conservative members, apparently unprepared for such detailed disclosure, were forced into an ad hoc defence that involved attempting to downplay the new numbers, as well as suggesting that a good number of the allegedly misdirection calls could have been inadvertent misdirection resulting from inaccurate information on the voters list.  Mayrand, however, took issue with the suggestion that a call that involved posing as Elections Canada could be explained away as an honest mistake, and chided prime ministerial parliamentary secretary Dean Del Mastro for his own "unfounded allegation" that Elections Canada itself was leaking information to reporters. (Somewhat bizarrely, Del Mastro claimed that he had been made aware of this allegation from other (unnamed) reporters, who allegedly called his office to complain about it.) 

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Orders of the Day - Happy Budget/Chief Electoral Officer Speaks Out On Robocalls Day!

In what can only be described as a deeply unfortunate bit of scheduling business, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand is set to make his first public statement on the robocalls controversy at committee later this morning, just hours before the budget drops, when all but a handful of Hill media -- although not, I should note, your humble liveblogging correspondent -- will be sequestered in the finance department lockup, and as such, will be unable to attend, or even tune into the livestream to hear what he has to say.

According to the committee chair -- the always affable Joe Preston -- the time clash, while awkward, was inevitable: the members, he says, had indicated that they were keen to hear from the CEO at the earliest possible opportunity, and this was the first available opening. It's fair to say that, thus far, his explanation has done little to quell the conspiracy theorizing that followed the revelation that Mayrand would appear on Budget Day. 

In any case, it's not entirely clear what new information the CEO can share with the committee, given the constraints on what he can reveal publicly, particularly with regard to the still-ongoing investigation(s) into alleged voter suppression tactics deployed in Guelph, and possibly beyond. Still, depending on how MPs approach the issue, his appearance may turn out to be an enlightening one. For more on that, read my post on the five questions that he may actually be able to answer. 

Hit the jump for the full post. 
Since Confederation, MPs have dutifully filled the back pages of the Order Paper with all manner of questions on the administration of government -- specifically, questions that, by their very nature, were simply too technical or otherwise unwieldy to be answered during QP. Judging from this response to a query from NDP foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere on the Office of Religious Freedom, it really may no longer be worth the price of the toner used to print it out for tabling purposes. Not, that is, unless members are ready to kick up a fuss when a government doesn't even pretend to provide an answer.  

Hit the jump for the full post. 
Given the sky-high expectations for dramatic committee room reveals that are swirling around the Hill  in anticipation of tomorrow's committee appearance by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, this seems like as good a time as any to issue a general preemptive caveat, at least as far as what new information the CEO might be able to share with MPs -- and, by extension, the rest of us -- on the topic du jour, "allegations of wrong-doing during the 41st general election."

After all, not only will Mayrand be constrained by the fact that the hunt for Pierre Poutine is still underway, but he also has no direct role in active investigations, which fall under the purview of the commissioner of elections, and not the CEO.

As such, he's not likely to be able to provide specific details on the latest developments related to alleged voter suppression in Guelph, nor any other riding(s) that may now be under review following the flood of 700-plus complaints that followed the initial robocall revelations.

Given all that, what will Mayrand be able to discuss at tomorrow's meeting?

Hit the jump for a few possibilities, depending, of course, on the questions that he's asked by inquisitive MPs:

UPDATED - Vikileaks30 Watch: Re-pack your bags, Adam Carroll, you've been re-invited to committee!

As noted in the minutes from the (in camera) portion of yesterday's ethics meeting: 

It was agreed [...] That for the meeting on Tuesday, April 24, 2012, the Clerk request that Adam Carroll appear in relation to the Committee's study of the anonymous use of House of Commons resources against a Member of Parliament for the full two hours. And that, if and when necessary and appropriate, and at the request of the witness, the Chair suspend the meeting to allow for small breaks.

 As yet, it's not known whether the former Liberal research staffer will comply with the request, but I've sent a note to his lawyer and I'll keep you posted!
On the eve of what is being billed as a "transformational" budget -- the first to be introduced under a majority since 2003 -- the Hill will come alive with the sound of caucus meetings, most notably that of the Official Opposition, which will convene under its new permanent leader for the first time. (That is, unless you count the post-convention session that took place on Sunday morning in Toronto.) The party will also welcome Craig Scott, who coasted to victory in the Toronto-Danforth by-election two weeks ago. 

On the House agenda today: The financial system review bill begins third reading debate, which, in this case, marks the final leg of its legislative journey as it originated in the Senate.  

Also worth watching this evening: the final vote on Conservative MP John Carmichael's now purely symbolic bill to encourage the unfettered flying of the Canadian flag. (In its original form, it included enforcement provisions that could, in theory, have resulted in landlords and condo association representatives being jailed for refusing to permit such patriotic adornments, but happily, common sense broke out at committee, and the bill was stripped of all punitive measures.) 

Hit the jump for the full post. 

Committee Recap: Anonymous vs .... Parliamentary Democracy itself? So says Vic Toews.

So, remember how House of Commons Clerk Audrey O'Brien warned the committee that trying to hunt down the entity that posted those allegedly threatening videos to Youtube under the Anonymous moniker might well turn out to be a giant waste of time? 

Well, it's safe to say that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews disagrees, and he had no compunction in expounding at length on exactly why he sees the attacks as a breach of privilege -- not just his own, but that of the House as a whole. 

In fact, his fondest hope for an eventual outcome to the current inquiry -- which, he stressed, he very much wishes had no reason to exist, will include recommendations on how Parliament can protect all members from similar attempts at intimidation in future, although he was unable to explain exactly how the House of Commons IT department could stop a grudge-holding mischief-maker from posting salacious or embarrassing material on servers that, like Youtube, lie firmly outside its jurisdiction. 

Meanwhile, Queen's University professor emeritus Ned Franks was his usual irrepressibly wonky self; while he eventually concurred that the videos in question may well qualify as a contempt of the House, he, too, was unsure what, if anything, could be done to sanction the still unknown and at larger perpetrator thereof, short of catching the culprit and condemning him/her/they/it to the precinct hoosegow for as long as the House feels appropriate, or the end of the session, whichever comes first. 

To the obvious annoyance of members on the government side of the table, Franks stuck to his contention that the minister himself may have come close to contemning the House when he suggested that anyone who opposed the online surveillance bill was "standing with the child pornographers," a statement that he denounced as both objectionable and offensive, if not a direct threat. The opposition, he reminded the committee, is supposed to oppose legislation, and Toews' comments were just one example of the sorry state of the highest court of the land. Under aggressive last-round questioning by Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, however, Franks eventually admitted that he hadn't actually seen the videos in question, which may have weakened his rhetorical punch, at least as far as the allegedly threatening nature of the contents. 
For all the details, read the liveblog -- and if you missed the first round, you can always catch up via the liveblog of the last meeting. 

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