Sorry, y’all, for going AWOL yesterday – what with the Khadr hearing, and the Joe Clark hanging, and the shrapnel flying everywhere after the Bernier implosion, by the time I got around to checking the schedule, most of the meetings had already wrapped up.
Luckily, I’m pretty sure nothing of earth shattering importance happened — Art Hanger didn’t suddenly decide to stay in his chair at Justice long enough to hold the longest-pending vote in Commons history, and Procedure and House Affairs didn’t make a shocking return from the parliamentarily dead.
Today, however, marks the beginning of one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the wonkerati calendar …
That’s right, it’s time for Main Estimates at Committee of the Whole!
As explained in exquisite – and just the teensiest bit sadistic – detail here by Garth Turner, at 6:30 tonight, Jim Flaherty will be in the line of fire for four full hours, fielding questions from all sides on a dizzying array of topics — seriously, it’s a free for all; virtually anything goes, as long as it is at least tangentially related to his portfolio — from the state of the country’s finances to those untendered contracts with flacks and fellow travellers from the former Harris government. Unfortunately for the political theatre lovers amongst us, the ebullient Hugh MacPhie is unlikely to make a return appearance – a tragic oversight, given his unforgettable performance earlier this month before the Finance committee.
As much fun as Finance will be, the second act — same time, same place, the following day – when Foreign Affairs is up, given the abrupt deministration earlier this week. Presumably, Bernier’s possibly-temporary-but-nobody-knows-for-sure replacement David Emerson can fill in for the former, but that could prove to be an exercise in frustrating and futility for the opposition, since he has an easy out when faced with any tricky questions about, say, the department’s policy on handling classified documents: It’s his first week on the job — how is he supposed to know the answers? (ITQ would also like to extend our deepest sympathies to the luckless DFAIT officials who have spent the last two days feverishly prepping their new boss for the ordeal. Seriously, guys, when was the last time y’all slept?)
Note to readers: Yes, ITQ plans to liveblog tonight’s festivities, and will do our best to make it to the Thursday night show as well, although we’re still hoping to score a ticket to the advance screening of Young People Fuck1ng. Someone has to serve as a human shield for those poor Conservative staffers, after all.
Speaking of C-10, fiercely Canadian director Paul Gross will be the latest star witness to speak out against the controversial changes to the film tax credit system this afternoon, when he goes before the Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce committee.
As for the regular roster of House committees, it’s Wednesday, which means no meetings this morning, since the MPs are confined to caucus quarters.
In a rare move, Stockwell Day will talk Tasers behind closed doors this afternoon, when he appears before an in camera meeting of the Public Safety committee.
Meanwhile, over at the Afghanistan mission committee — where members are likely still suffering from jet lag after a whirlwind fact-finding jaunt to the war zone earlier this week OOPS! It was actually the Defence committee that just got back from the front, so these MPs have no excuse for yawning behind their hands during witness testimony — they’ll hear from Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, along with Graham Fraser, the former chair of the CIA’s – yes, that CIA – National Intelligence Council, who is now an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University.
Over at Citizenship and Immigration, the minister – Diane Finley, in case you’ve forgotten; really, when was the last time she even got to take a planted question in the House? – is on hand for a non-supersized version of departmental main estimates, even though I could have sworn that already took place earlier this month. Estimates are also on the agenda over at Environment – the minister won’t be there, as he’s Eurotouring with the Prime Minister – Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and even Finance, although those are supplementary, not main estimates. Finally, International Trade resumes its seemingly interminable study of Canada-Colombian trade relations from the human rights and environmental perspectives.