The big news yesterday was that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson, has suspended her probe into the Wright-Duffy affair as the RCMP have begun a formal investigation into the matter. And then the RCMP confirmed this fact. So it’s all getting very real, ladies and gentlemen. It’s now in the big leagues, though it further gives the Conservatives an out from commenting on matters (“as this is an ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment” will be the new line in QP). On a not-unrelated note, Liberal Senator Joseph Day is starting a campaign to close that loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act that allows public office holders to accept “gifts” including cash from friends without reporting it. Day also noted that they tried to close this loophole back in 2006 when the Accountability Act was first being debated, but the Conservatives and NDP struck it down.
The other big story was Thomas Mulcair pulling a Reese Witherspoon on the Hill yesterday after he blew past a security checkpoint, past several stop signs, and ignored the flashing lights of the RCMP car following him until he reached his parking spot, at which point he gave a “Do you know who I am?” and told the officer that she was going to be in trouble. (Chase video here). Mulcair later apologised for the “misunderstanding,” but while he and the party said everything was smoothed over, there was talk that Mulcair did get a verbal warning, but there was also chatter that certain RCMP personnel were grousing that he only apologised to get out of being charged. And then things went crazy in the House over this (as you may have witnessed from the rather awful QP that followed).
There was a (mostly) open meeting at the Senate’s Board of Internal Economy yesterday where the issue of Senator Pamela Wallin came up, and the auditors from Deloitte were there to explain what is taking so long. It seems that they’re going through her housing and travel claims going back to the time that she was appointed, and well, that’s taking more time than expected, and they estimate it’ll be mid-July before they’re complete (and then add a little longer for translation). Later in the day, Senator Tkachuk said a motion is being moved in the Senate to ensure that Wallin’s audit will be made public in the summer before the Senate returns in the fall. Later in the evening, Wallin had a one-on-one interview with Peter Mansbridge, in which she took responsibility for her mistakes, but called them just that – mistakes. (Transcript here). While she made an interesting reference about the timing of Nigel Wright’s departure as she was force out of caucus, she also made reference to sometimes going home to Saskatchewan by way of Halifax or Vancouver or wherever to give a speech or so on, which is troubling because Senate travel rules were changed several years ago to explicitly prevent that kind of practice from happening, as it was being abused before. She says that she is not entitled, but I’m not sure that she’s entirely acquitted herself at this point.
Incidentally, Senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau have been given thirty days to repay the amounts owed to the Senate, lest they face even greater scrutiny of their expenses. Both say they are going to challenge the audits, but neither have initiated any kind of proceedings.
Keeping up his contribution as distraction sauce, Dean Del Mastro took to the Chamber yesterday and teared up as he tried to make a privilege motion out of Elections Canada’s investigation into his campaign activities – not that it was an actual privilege issue because it has nothing to do with his duties as an MP and the House can’t remedy the situation. As distraction sauce, however, it failed as both Mulcair and the revelation of the RCMP investigation pushed him out of the news cycle.
John Geddes looks to the various reports that have been released in recent months that seem to be holding up the promised bill on reforming the Elections Act. (Well, that and the fact that there’s little point in tabling it now for the simple purpose of having it die on the Order Paper when Parliament gets prorogued over the summer).
The NDP are filibustering the committee study of a Private Member’s Bill to strip the Canadian citizenship of dual citizens convicted of terrorism, acts of war or treason. Their main reason is that this is now a government bill, thanks to amendments passed with government support – but it’s also a ridiculously bad bill that almost certainly wouldn’t survive a Charter challenge, and would have no measurable impact when it comes to fighting terrorism, like the government likes to claim.
Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, who chairs the special committee on anti-terrorism, was unaware of a programme that allows the Communications Security Establishment to collect metadata from Canadians, even though the agency is statutorily barred from actually spying on Canadians. It also turns out that the Privacy Commissioner has higher security clearance than Segal, which seems like a failure on the part of Parliamentary oversight of these kinds of issues.
Olivia Chow is being accused of using her position as transport critic to prematurely launch a mayoral bid for Toronto, especially through using telephone town halls on the party’s dime. (To be fair, Denis Coderre did make a really big deal of the threat by Qatar to relocate the civil aviation office from Montreal as part of his own bid, but I don’t recall him using party resources beyond QP questions for it).
Here is a look at the secret deal that Library and Archives has signed as part of its digitisation project, which could mean a ten-year paywall for access to digital resources (and there are concerns about the financial sustainability of the project).
Dr. Arthur Porter’s wife has now been extradited back to Canada. Porter himself remains in Panama while he continues to fight his own extradition.
Here’s a look at Harper’s speech to the UK Parliament yesterday.
And the new Civics curriculum for Ontario has been released, and lo, it still contains errors in basic definitions. And it’s little wonder that we have problems with basic civic literacy in this country.