Roundup: Exit John Duncan

In a surprise four-thirty on the Friday before a constituency week announcement, Aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan resigned from cabinet yesterday. To be fair, I’ve been waiting for him to resign “for health reasons” for a while, but what was surprising that the reason for said resignation was that he wrote an improper letter to the Tax Court a couple of years ago as a character reference for a constituent, which of course he should not have, and it sounds like after the Flaherty/CRTC letter affair, cabinet ministers were asked to check their files for any other potential infractions and this turned up. James Moore has been given the file for the time being, but given its size and political sensitivity at the moment, it’s likely it’ll be handed off to someone else soon, though it likely won’t signal any major changes in cabinet. Harper won’t be doing a major shuffle for a while yet – the common consensus is late June, but I’ve heard from my own sources that it may not be until next year, when it’s a little closer to the election. John Ivison says that an “all-star” will need to take the file – but they’re few and far between in the Conservative ranks, and Baird, Harper’s usual Mr. Fix-it, likes his current job with Foreign Affairs.

Elizabeth Thompson looks at how the Senate rules might make it difficult to kick Senator Brazeau out of the Upper Chamber even if he is convicted of the charges against him. Part of the problem is that “felony” and “infamous crime” are not defined, and are not found in the Criminal Code as it currently exists. Over on the expenses front, “elected” Senator Bert Brown seems to think that it’s a “threat” to ask him about his expenses. (It should be noted that Brown is retiring next month, which is probably just as well). The Toronto Star has an interactive graphic of Senators’ living and travel expenses for the past two years. Greg Weston talked to the former Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, about why the Senate – or the Commons, for that manner – doesn’t want the AG’s office to look into their books. Missing from the piece is an exploration of the notion that parliamentarians have that it’s not appropriate for the AG to investigate them since the AG is an officer of parliament and reports to them.

On a related note, the government is asking the Supreme Court to speed up its reference on the Senate reform questions, and for the Quebec reference to suspend its deliberation in order to defer to the Supreme Court. Because something with massive and lasting constitutional consequences should be rushed along for the sake of political expediency.

The government released a report touting their action on clean air yesterday – except that most of the good work was done by the provinces and doesn’t address greenhouse gas emissions.

Ruh-roh! It looks like the Army Reserves are up for some deep cuts, despite Harper insisting that they not be touched.

Stephen Harper is due to name his first religious freedom ambassador on Tuesday. I’m curious as to how many groups the choice will offend or anger.

As another Liberal leadership debate takes place today, Susan Delacourt looks at the crowds that Justin Trudeau attracts and wonders what it all means.

Here are the three things you need to see from last night’s political shows, including an interview with former Auditor General Sheila Fraser.

And Susan Delacourt remembers the first Flag Day seventeen years ago – which also saw the birth of the “Shawinigan handshake.”

Shameless self promotion alert: I was on CTV News Channel’s Express yesterday talking about the Senate with Amanda Blitz.