Roundup: Meet the new Religious Freedom ambassador

The government has named Andrew Bennett, a former civil servant and current dean of a Christian college in Ottawa, as its new ambassador for the Office of Religious Freedom. We’ll now see what happens with this office – it’s small and its $5 million budget won’t go far, and there will be scrutiny to see if it prefers some religions over others, or if it speaks out against religious persecutions of women or gays and lesbians, or even atheists.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair went to Calgary to address the Chamber of Commerce there, and talked about making foreign investment criteria more transparent, and then talked doom about the Canada-China FIPA. Experts, however, have panned his apocalyptic reading of the agreement.

Apparently, not appointing an interim PBO until Kevin Page’s successor is named would be a “management failure,” while the opposition freaks out that he won’t be able to crunch the numbers in the new budget for them. Alternately, MPs could actually do the job they’re getting paid for, do their homework, and start crunching numbers themselves. Plus, parties could hire an economist or two in their research bureau, rather than just partisans trolling the Internet for dirt on their opponents. Just a suggestion.

Uh oh – it looks like Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was told back in the summer that oilsands tailings ponds are seeping toxins into groundwater. And no, there still is no “world class” monitoring system in place to track these things yet either.

Senator Mike Duffy is now claiming that he winters in Charlottetown, not his “primary residence” in Cavendish. Still no health card or residency tax credit (or word on where he votes and pays his taxes, for that matter). Meanwhile, the Toronto Star finds that Senator Pamela Wallin also owns a bachelor apartment in New York City – not that it has anything to do with her expenses or the audit into them, but apparently we’re now playing the game of “how many homes does Senator Wallin own?”

Scott Brison says the Maritime provinces need to implement closer economic union if they want to avoid a Greece-style collapse, as their debt loads get higher and populations get older. (His full speech is here.)

John Baird’s trip to Venezuela was cancelled after Hugo Chavez returned from cancer treatments in Cuba. Baird hopes to return at a “mutually convenient time.”

Kady O’Malley finds that the five-year review of the MP Code of Conduct has fallen off the Procedure and House Affairs radar.

Economist Stephen Gordon writes about the link between minimum wage and poverty. Basically, raising the minimum wage will do nothing to combat poverty.

At a stop in Montreal, Justin Trudeau weighed in on a couple of provincial issues – no need to further tighten language laws, and no to free tuition.

And here are the three things you need to see from last night’s political shows, including Jason Kenney flailing about and evading questions about whether the Office of Religious Freedoms would also protect atheists.