Inside Politics

As budget looms, soon to be former fiscal watchdog heads to court

As the clock ticks down to this year's budget drop -- 4pm sharp, according to the schedule, although the embargo doesn't lift until Finance Minister Jim Flaherty actually stands up and starts speechifying -- journalists, staffers and other Hill denizens will spend the day incommunicado in lockup, frantically perusing the charts, graphs and numbers in order to be fully prepared for the official reveal.

Meanwhile, with just days to go before his term expires, soon to be former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page will finally have his day in court -- federal court, to be precise, where he will make his case for full access to the documents and data that he maintains that he -- or, in this case, his still-unnamed successor -- needs to fulfill his mandate.

On the other side of the courtroom, lawyers for the House and Senate speakers will attempt to convince the judge that the very question is outside the jurisdiction of the court, as it is a matter for Parliament, and parliamentarians, to decide.

In a serendipitous twist of timing, later this afternoon, Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella is expected to rule on a crucial point of order related to the ongoing debate over Page's prima facie breach of privilege in bringing the issue to court in the first place.

Back in the Chamber, MPs will while away the hours before thee budget drop by debating the government's bid to modernize the military justice system, now back from committee and set for report stage consideration.

Later this morning, the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business reviews the latest batch of MP-sponsored bills on the parliamentary priority list to determine which, if any, should be deemed non-votable -- an ignoble procedural fate that, according to hallway gossip, may be in store for Conservative backbencher Mark Warawa's seemingly relatively benign non-binding motion to condemn sex-selective abortion, if the government (which, in this case, as in so many, means PMO) gets its way.

Elsewhere on the pre-budget committee front:

  • Jason Kenney heads to Citizenship and Immigration, where he's expected to give his official ministerial blessing to Conservative MP Devinder Shory's proposal to strip citizenship from dual nationals who commit "acts of war" against Canadian Armed Forces.
  • Public Safety Minister Vic Toews makes his mandatory minimal main estimates appearance
  • Over at Aboriginal Affairs, representatives from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Native Women's Association of Canada will provide their respective perspectives on a Conservative private members' bill that would oblige band councils to publish by-laws.
  • Procedure and House Affairs holds another round of discussion on the proposed riding changes in British Columbia, with still more presumably concerned MPs expected to testify, as well as Elections Canada officials.
  • Finally, Veterans Affairs continues its investigation into the health risks of depleted uranium, with National Defence toxicology specialist Janick Lalonde on the witness list for today, as well as three affected individuals.

Hitting the non-budget-related Hill media circuit today: Representatives from Stop TB Canada, who will mark World Tuberculosis Day with the help of Conservative MP Joe Daniel, Liberal MP Hedy Fry and other interested parties.  

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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