Inside Politics

PM heads to Quebec as EI debate heats up on the Hill

As debate over his government's approach to employment insurance continues to rage on the Hill, the PM takes a road trip to Riviere-du-Loup, where, alongside Transport Minister Denis Lebel, he'll make "an announcement" and pose for photos at the world headquarters of Premier Tech before heading off to a nearby hotel for an "economic consultation."

That is, unless the aforementioned EI changes lead to localized protest rallies, which could throw off -- or even supplant entirely -- his planned itinerary.

Back in Ottawa, New Democrat EI and labour critics Anne-Marie Day and Alexandre Boulerice unveil "tens of thousands of petitions ... slamming the Conservative EI reform" that, as per the advisory, have been "collected throughout Quebec," and will be tabled in the House this morning. 

Meanwhile, the now seemingly perpetually embattled parliamentary budget office will release a new report on the "feasibility" of the government's shipbuilding plans.

It's worth noting that the PBO event was scheduled weeks ago, yet comes just one day after a hastily organized yet ostensibly unrelated Public Works-hosted background briefing with Senior Government Officials (as the advisory required them to be identified by reporters) on that very same issue.

Elsewhere on the Hill:

  • Green Party Leader Elizabeth May joins forces with Sierra Club director John Bennett and Bloc Quebecois MP Jean-Francois Fortin to demand that the government "clarify where Canada really stands in the fight to stop climate change." Interestingly, the notice mentions that "other opposition MPs have been invited," but at press time, Fortin appears to be the only one of May's Commons colleagues expected to take part.
  • New Democrat MPs Paul Dewar and Sadia Groguhe team up with Syrian Canadian Council president Faisal Alazam to urge the government to "reconsider [its] refusal to discuss reunification of Canadian families with their relatives in Syrian redugee camps."
  • Federation of Canadian Municipalities president Karen Leibovici and Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association president Bernard Lord unveil a new initiative.

On the Chamber agenda: The government's bid to improve accountability within the RCMP undergoes still more discussion as it awaits the final approval of the House. Also on the third reading wrap list, although unlikely to be dealt with today: S-7, which would create new Criminal Code offences related to the possession, use and threatening of use of nuclear devices and/or radioactive material. 

CORRECTION: That'll teach me not to double-check similarly numbered/named bills. In this case, the backup bill for today, S-7, is actually the government's efforts to bring back previously sunsetted provisions of the anti-terrorism regime that dealt/would deal with investigative hearings. 

Later this evening, MPs will embark on the second - and final - hour of second reading debate on Bloc Quebecois MP Andre Bellavance's private members' proposal to repeal the Clarity Act, which, at this rate, should go up for what will likely be a decisive defeat next Wednesday. (At the moment, it's not clear any party but the four-strong BQ caucus will support it.)

On the committee front, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews goes before his department's eponymous committee, where he will explain his latest efforts to provide better protection for witnesses, while his cabinet colleague Gerry Ritz kicks off the next round of estimates review with an appearance at Agriculture.

Over at Procedure and House Affairs, British Columbia MPs Alex Atamanenko, David Wilks, Randall Garrison and Bob Zimmer share their respective thoughts on the proposed electoral riding redistribution plan before the committee goes behind closed doors to work on its report on access to information requests and parliamentary privilege.

Later this afternoon, Public Accounts takes a closer look at the auditor general's recent report on transfer payments to the aerospace industry, and Transport hears from various industry associations with an interest in C-52, which would change the rules for freight rail service. Canadian National president Claude Mongeau is also slated to testify at today's meeting.

Finally, Finance continues its pre-study of various and sundry technical tax amendments that, despite the seemingly non-contentious content, have nevertheless been marooned at second reading since the House returned from the winter break. 

UPDATE: On the Senate side, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will discuss his bill to crack down on the corruption of foreign public officials. 

Outside the precinct, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt are scheduled to speak at the Canada 2020 Skilled Trades Conference underway at the Chateau Laurier today, while Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver hits the Canadian Nuclear Association annual conference to detail "the Harper Government's initiatives to position the nuclear industry for future success."

In Montreal, Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal hands out Diamond Jubilee Medals.

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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