Gosh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Fortunately for all of us, most committees are much like long-running soap operas — even if you tune out for a few weeks/months/years, it usually doesn’t take too long to get all caught up on the current plot twists and story arcs. Thank goodness J.J. Abrams isn’t the show runner for the House of Commons. Anyway, enough chitchat — let’s get parliamentary, y’all.
A typically leisurely slow start to the week — thank goodness, for those of us still suffering the effects of inquirylag — with one noteworthy exception: the Subcommittee on Food Safety, still, apparently, immersed in its investigation into last year’s listeriosis outbreak, which meets tonight for a four-hour primetime special. On the witness list: Bob Kingston, president of PSAC’s Agriculture Union, which has just come out with a study that claims there is a “critical shortage” of frontline inspectors at meat processing plants, as well as senior officials from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency – who, ITQ suspects, will almost certainly dispute the union’s conclusions. The subcommittee will also hear from two retired federal meat inspectors turned industry consultants: Paul Caron and Nelson Vessey. On Wednesday, they’ll hear from the Toronto Public Health Department, as well as the Ontario Ministry of Health.
Back during daylight hours, CRTC chairman Konrad Von Finckenstein goes before Canadian Heritage to discuss – and we’ll quote directly from the Order of Business here — “the the evolution of Canadian television and its impact on local communities”. (Those hearings are scheduled to continue on Wednesday, with a roundtable made up of as-yet-to-be-identified participants, which will – somewhat bafflingly – be held in camera, according to the notice.)
Over at Ethics, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart drops by for the traditional main estimates meet-and-greet before the committee goes behind closed doors to work on a draft report on — privacy reform, as it turns out. Well, that’s serendipitous. And while it may be traditional – and yes, it does seem like we just got through the last round of main estimates, doesn’t it? – the same sort of meet-and-greet may turn out to be a wee bit more arduous for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, who goes before committee this afternoon as well. If things get rough, he can always remind everyone that at least he hasn’t been musing publicly on the prospect of selling arms to Pakistan like certain other cabinet ministers.
Meanwhile, over at Justice, MPs contend with another one of those tough-on-crime initiatives so beloved by the government — this time, the ever so slightly Orwellian-monikered “Truth in Sentencing Act”, which would abolish the practice of giving offenders credit for time served awaiting trial. During second reading debate, all four parties came out in support of the bill – albeit with “some trepidation” on the part of the NDP – so C-25 will probably be headed back to the House sooner rather than later, if ITQ had to hazard a guess.
Wow, I’d forgotten how frantic the Tuesday/Thursday meeting schedule can be when most or all committees are operating at full capacity.
Treasury Board president Vic Toews fields questions about the infrastructure funding rollout over at Government Operations and Estimates — yes, I know it says “main estimates”, but remember all that angsting over Vote 35, and the $3 billion slush fund, and WHEN WILL THE SHOVELS HIT THE GROUND, MINISTER? WHEN? Anyway, think of this as sort of like an unofficial update — a teaser for the next edition of the budget report card, which will be tabled sometime next month, and could, in theory, trigger an election. Other main-estimates-related appearances today: Chief Electoral Officer and part-time Conservative Party bogeyman Marc Mayrand heads to Procedure and House Affairs; Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl makes an appearance at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development; and finally, Helena Geurgis pays a visit to the Status of Women committee.
The Ruby Dhalla Truth And Reconciliation Task Force, previously known as the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, resumes its investigation into, uh, “ghost consultants and migrant workers”, so far without the rumoured appearance by various other members of the Dhalla family, specifically her mother and brother; instead, MPs will hear from several caregiver advocacy groups.
The Subcommittee on Human Rights, meanwhile, will examine the latest recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which will almost inevitably descend into fingerpointing over Omar Khadr, and harumphing over the temerity of countries like Cuba, Nigeria and China passing judgement on Canada’s treatment of its citizens.
Remember back before the economy careened over the cliff, when Canadians were so very worried about climate change, pollution and all that stuff? Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Scott Vaughan will be attempting to rekindle some of that concern amongst members when he goes before the Environment committee to discuss his two most recent reports, which cover the protection of fish habitats, and the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
Oh, and speaking of the cliff-careening economy, the Finance committee hosts a joint meeting with Industry on credit and debit card fees — that is after the former deals with a motion from Liberal finance critic John McCallum, as well as a few other bits of committee business, including planning for next year’s pre-budget consultations. The two committees join forces once again on Thursday for more of the same.
Attention Colleague Wells: Look! High speed rail! In Canada! It’s like they knew you were looking for a reason to hang out with the gang on Transport over at West Block on Tuesday afternoon.
Finally, the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan gets an early morning briefing from the country’s independent human rights commissioner, as well as former Canadian representative Elissa Golberg.
- Human Resources is still plugging away at its study on the federal contribution to poverty reduction
- Justice investigates the idea of declaring “certain groups” to be “criminal organizations”, which, from what we recall from the last time this idea cropped up, would target biker gangs, and has some not inconsequential constitutional quandaries to resolve before it has much chance of making it into law
- The Auditor General goes before Public Accounts, where she will be joined by officials from virtually every three-letter acronymed intelligence agency in the country, and no, I’m not including PCO in that list — not just yet, anyway — to discuss her report on national security and intelligence sharing, which – actually, could be a really interesting meeting, come to think of it.
- From the list of witnesses scheduled to appear before the International Trade committee this afternoon, one gets the distinct impression that this Canada-Peru free trade agreement is not without controversy, at least amongst labour and environmental groups.
- The Agriculture and Fisheries committees look at the crises — or potential crises — facing their respective sectors: lobsters and overall industry competitiveness, to be specific.
Not much on the schedule yet — it usually takes a day or so for the notices to start going up after a break week — although it looks like Justice will be meeting on yet another matter — if you’ve paid attention thus far, you’ll recall that the committee already has one crime bill on the agenda, and will be looking at the prospect of declaring biker gangs to be criminal organizations. Anyway, apparently they’ll also be running through clause-by-clause review on a drug bill. See how efficient they can be when the chair sticks around for more than thirty seconds?
Following in the footsteps of the Treasury Board president, Public Works Minister Christian Paradis will go before Government Operations to discuss his department’s efforts to make sure that all that infrastructure money is being spent, and spent properly. Wait, I thought John Baird was the Shovel Czar. I’m so confused — although at least I don’t have to be grilled by opposition MPs on whether I’m doing enough to combat the recession by handing out oversized cheques.
NOTE: The URLS for committee notices change frequently, so if you get an error when clicking on an ITQ link, you should be able to access the updated listing from the main committee page.