O'Toole's opposition takes on trio of hot topics

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May 02, 2021
 
 
Here's how the week in Canadian politics is shaping up                  
 
MPs will be voting on accelerating vaccine access and awaiting answers on the Johnson & Johnson doses, as Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is poised to put centre stage either contentious changes to the federal Broadcasting Act, or the PMO's involvement in the military misconduct controversy.

And, debate on a 366-page budget implementation bill will kick off. 


The week ahead
 
While Canadians wait for more clarity and some answers from the federal government about how it only found out after the doses landed in Canada that Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines include elements manufactured at a troubled U.S. manufacturing facility, MPs will be voting on whether the federal government should find a way to speed up vaccine access for all Canadians.

The vote for last week's Conservative opposition day motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to commit to offering first shots to every eligible adult by the May long weekend is scheduled for Monday after question period.

Tuesday is another opposition day, offering the Conservatives another opportunity to set the agenda in the House. Once again it appears they are looking to leave themselves some options. On notice are a trio of motions that they could call—assuming they don't want to resurrect an archived motion—and force a vote on in the days ahead.
 
 
Should it be one of the fresh motions, the Conservatives will either be:
  • Calling on Trudeau to fire his chief of staff Katie Telford over the ongoing controversy surrounding who knew what and when in regards to allegations against former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance; 
  • Asking the House take the position that the government's "plan to give itself broad new powers to regulate, censor and block social media users without effective legal protections or safeguards" in reference to Bill C-10, which seeks to amend the Broadcasting Act is a "significant threat to the right of free speech of all Canadians"; or 
  • Pushing for the House of Commons condemn the election of Iran to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. 
Then, Wednesday through to Friday MPs will be debating Bill C-30, the sizeable budget implementation bill. Spanning 366 pages according to the copy available online, there's surely going to be no shortage of things for MPs to talk about.

As has been the pattern, expect to hear from Trudeau on the state of COVID-19 and the federal government's plans on Tuesday and Friday. 

Yours truly is also keeping an eye on whether Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is able to join the other federal party leaders in being vaccinated. She spoke up late last week saying she, like many Ontarians, is having a hard time finding an appointment. 
 
Not to be missed
  • Amid the ongoing federal-provincial tug of war over paid sick leave,  the interpreters who you hear often translating COVID-19 press conferences have been recently told they aren't covered by the federal government if they get sick, because they are technically freelancers. 
  • In the 2021 budget, the government promised new spending and vowed to make changes to the Public Service Employment Act that aim to increase diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce over the next five years, but advocates have told The Canadian Press that they want to see action now. 
  • And, in the first quarter of 2021 the Conservatives far outraised the other parties, bringing in nearly $8.5 million, while the Liberals fundraised $3.5 million and the NDP drummed up $1.6 million from its supporters.  
 
On notice
 
As for what's on the agenda at committee, while there has yet to be a formal meeting notice posted, it's expected the House of Commons National Defence Committee will meet on Monday to continue deliberating over the next steps in its study into misconduct in the military. On Friday, the push was to see Telford appear.

On Monday, the House of Commons Canadian Heritage Committee is scheduled to pick up its now-closely watched clause-by-clause on broadcasting legislation Bill C-10. As of last week the Liberals, with the backing of the NDP were digging in their heels on one controversial amendment that’s prompted free speech concerns around leaving the door potentially open to the CRTC conducting content moderation on users' posts.

Later that night the Special Canada-China Committee will be hearing from some foreign policy and national security heavy-hitters, including former national security adviser Richard Fadden, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy's Lynette Ong, University of Alberta's China Institute Director Gordon Houlden, and former CSIS director Ward Elcock.

Then on Thursday at the House Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee, MPs will be receiving a briefing on the current situation of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from his chief of staff, Leonid Volkov.

By the way, if you're interested in how witnesses who appear—often on sensitive and personal topics—feel about their experiences testifying at House of Commons committees. This new look at some people's experiences is worth a read. 

The Senate is also sitting this week, starting on Tuesday, and will be resuming committee meetings. Among them: The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee will meet Wednesday to study Bill S-203, which seeks to make it an offence to make sexually explicit material available to young people online.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee will be examining non-specific issues related to their mandate and has a long line of witnesses. Among them: Auditor General Karen Hogan, National Microbiology Laboratory acting VP Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Secretariat’s Matthew Tunis.

Then on Thursday, the Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade will hear from Minister of International Development Karina Gould, Oxfam-Quebec Director General Denise Byrnes, and CARE Canada President and CEO Barbara Grantham on "matters relating to foreign or Commonwealth relations."
 
 
 
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