Capital Dispatch: 'Killing accountability by stealth'

Your primer on what's happening on Parliament Hill this week.
November 13, 2022
Capital Dispatch

Fighting over extending House hours, and feds to face the Emergencies Act inquiry 

MPs are back in town on Monday, for five straight sitting weeks before the House of Commons calls it a year. Awaiting them are many hours of debate on the fall economic update, and a procedural battle over making midnight sittings more of a mainstay.

And, the Emergencies Act inquiry sets its focus on the federal government. 

The week ahead

There's nothing like kicking off a long stretch of sitting weeks with some procedural wrangling. 
As I first reported on Thursday, Government House Leader Mark Holland will be be advancing a motion on Monday to extend the House of Commons' sitting hours, citing Conservative obstruction.

Holland said that the message he has been getting from Conservatives as he's tried to schedule House business is that they want more time to debate pieces of legislation before voting on them.

Setting up a system to allow debates to be extended to midnight would allow for that, which is what this incoming motion does. 

Pushing back on the Liberals' assertion that the Conservatives are obstructing, Official Opposition House Leader Andrew Scheer told CTVNews.ca his party is making no apologies for using their time in the House to point out flaws in their legislation. As he sees it, more late-night sittings may mean fewer committee meetings as the House tries to jostle resources. He called this "killing accountability by stealth." 

Either way, the motion is up for debate on Monday and it's expected to pass when it comes to a vote, thanks to support from the NDP. 

"We believe it's an opportunity for folks to express themselves on behalf of their constituents, but also move important legislation along," NDP House Leader Peter Julian told CTVNews.ca. "We're strong promoters of the idea of evening sessions," noting that for west coast MPs, late night sittings are prime time in their ridings.

For the full back-and-forth between the parties on this one, and what else the Liberals have stitched into this motion, I've got you covered. 

There will also be debate time in the House this week for Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland's Bill C-32, implementing the new measures from the fall economic update as well as a few outstanding Budget 2022 provisions. Holland has said this bill will—for obvious reasons—be a priority to pass before the holidays. 

Meanwhile over at the Public Order Emergency Commission, things will be getting federal. After hearing from Ottawa residents and officials, the protest organizers and their associates, key players connected to the Windsor, Ont. and Coutts, Alta. border blockades, and Ottawa and Alberta civil servants, it is the federal government's turn. 
 
We're into the last two weeks of public hearings and all the upcoming witnesses are top federal officials—largely set to be heard from this week—and cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next week after he returns from his 10-day trip, that has already included funding commitments. 

Here's who is scheduled to testify this week. 

• Public Safety Canada's Rob Stewart—who has since left the department— and Dominic Rochon.
• Global Affairs Canada's Cindy Termorshuizen and Joe Comartin.
• RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and deputy commissioners Mike Duheme and Curtis Zablocki. 
• Canada Border Services Agency's John Ossowski, who retired in June.
• Transport Canada deputy minister Michael Keenan and chief economist Christian Dea.
• Finance Canada's Michael Sabia, Rhys Mendes and Isabelle Jacques
• National security and intelligence adviser to the prime minister Jody Thomas
• Privy Council Office's Jacquie Bogden, Janice Charette, and Nathalie Drouin


I'm expecting the commission to dig right into what intelligence and cross-jurisdictional work they did throughout the protests, how the government decided it was necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act, how it used those unprecedented powers, whether there were other plans made, and if there was disagreement among the departments and agencies about the powers invoked. 

Not to be missed

'Everything is broken'

Decrying high inflation and the rising cost of food, housing and fuel, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre held a rare media availability on Wednesday to declare: "it feels like everything is broken in this country right now." Listing off "40-year-high inflation," "35-year-olds living in their parents' basements" and the "nearly 100 per cent increase in fuel prices," Poilievre placed the blame on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, while pitching a Conservative government as the solution.

Green Party leadership debate

The six candidates vying to take the reins of the Green Party—some in pairs—squared off in a debate last week, pitching their visions for the embattled federal party's future. But, as The Canadian Press reports, questions about the Greens' viability loomed large, noting there were less than 500 viewers of the Zoom debate. 

Health talks end in drama 

The health ministers' meeting in Vancouver ended in acrimony last week, when federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos walked away from a joint communique and press conference, saying he came in good faith and was "genuinely hoping" to announce action on a pair of pan-Canadian plans. However, before the meeting ended, premiers sent out a statement calling the meeting a failure because there was no movement on their demand for an increase to the Canada Health Transfer. Duclos will have more to say on CTV's Question Period this morning, tune in at 11 a.m. ET. 

Vassy Kapelos joins CTV News 

And, lastly some big news for our parliamentary bureau: Vassy Kapelos will be joining our team as chief political correspondent, taking on hosting duties for CTV News Channel's Power Play, CTV News' Question Period, and her own weekday radio show.  

On notice

On Monday, the Procedure and House Affairs Committee will be holding a meeting requested by six members of the committee to discuss "media reports that the Chinese Communist Party worked to influence the 2019 federal election." 

And, the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee will meet to work on a draft report connected to its study into device investigation tools used by the RCMP. Here's a reminder of what this study has uncovered. 

On Tuesday, it'll be another Hockey Canada hearing. The House Canadian Heritage Committee is picking back up on its safe sport in Canada study, and will be hearing from Hockey Canada's senior VP Pat McLaughlin as well as the Oilers Entertainment Group's chairman of hockey Bob Nicholson. 

Over in the Senate on Tuesday, the National Finance Committee will be wrapping up its work on Bill C-31, the dental and rental benefit bill. Once that committee wraps clause-by-clause, pending amendments, the bill will be on track to pass in short order. 

And also happening Tuesday, the Senate Transport and Communications Committee will keep hearing from witnesses on Bill C-11, the contentious online streaming act legislation. On its witness list this week: Music Publishers Canada, the Indigenous Screen Officer, as well as content creator Vanessa Brousseau. 

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee will be holding a meeting to conduct a "comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of the Sergei Magnitsky Law, and the Special Economic Measures Act." 

The Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency—yes this work is still ongoing— will meet again on Thursday, where it plans to dive into the "Freedom Convoy" crowdfunding angle, and hear from GiveSendGo, GoFundMe, the Canadian Bankers Association, as well as the Canadian Credit Union Association. 

Then on Friday, the House Canadian Heritage Committee will pivot from the safe sport study, to conduct a clause-by-clause review on Bill C-18, the online news remuneration legislation. 

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