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In and Out: Round and round the conspiracy theories go …


 

ITQ will be liveblogging the second day of the In and Out hearings from 10:00 a.m. onwards – gavel to gavel to gavel, including the two hour lunch break. But before we head up to the Hill – gotta get there early in order to snag a good seat, after all – here’s a quick look at how the day could unfold:

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand is back on the stand for what ITQ expects will be another long day of explaining, over and over and over again, how some transfers – money, for instance – between national and local campaigns are legal, but others –  advertising expenses, to pull an example out of the air – are not – particularly when seemingly done solely to skirt campaign spending limits.

(It’s funny – since the in and out scandal broke last year, we in the media have been falling all over ourselves to stress how very, very complicated the story is. Really, though, it’s not that hard to understand — not when someone like Mayrand explains it.)

There will also be more questions on the raid on Conservative Party headquarters: Despite the fact that it was the Commissioner of Elections, not Elections Canada, behind the warrant — and even after Mayrand himself admitted that he wasn’t all that thrilled by the timing of the raid, Conservative MPs remained, at least as of yesterday afternoon, distinctly unmollified.

The committee also faces a growing mound of unfinished business.

First up: a series of motions from perpetually glowering Conservative MP David Tilson to add disgruntled former Bloc Quebecois MP Jean-Paul Marchand to the witness list to shore up the rapidly crumbling “They did it too!” defence. Marchand, who was defeated in 2000, has accused the Bloc of having pioneered the “in and out” accounting trick by requiring campaigns to spend up to the legal limit in order to recoup the maximum refund.

Although Elections Canada eventually found the practice to be entirely legal, the Conservatives seized upon the case as evidence that the BQ was “the father” of in-and-out accounting practices. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as they’re always quick to note, what with it being Totally and Completely Legal.

For obvious reasons, the Bloc members on the committee are unlikely to support the motion, and the Liberals will most likely vote against it as well. The NDP, on the other hand, could decide to side with the government — particularly if Thomas Mulcair makes the call, on the theory that reviving the controversy would embarrass the BQ, which would in turn boost his party’s fortunes in Quebec.

The Conservatives have also put forward a motion to force Mayrand to launch a formal, independent investigation into allegations – made, as far as ITQ can tell, exclusively by the Conservatives – that his office may have leaked word of the upcoming raid on Conservative Party headquarters to the media — specifically, the CBC — and/or the Liberals. Whether a parliamentary committee has the authority to interfere with the internal operations of an independent Officer of Parliament is a fascinating question, and one that will surely come up when the committee debates the motion later today.

Finally, there is the small matter of the witness list, which has to be determined before any future hearings can be scheduled. The parties have until this afternoon to submit their wish lists. More interestingly, the chair has taken the unusual step of proposing that the subsequent haggling over the final invite list take place in public, rather than behind closed doors, on the (in the opinion of ITQ, somewhat optimistic) grounds that members will be less likely to resort to filibuster or fisticuffs if there are cameras present to capture every magical moment.

Kickoff at 10am. See you there.

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