Roundup: Visits to the Langevin Block

Yesterday in Senate-related news, the visitor logs of the Langevin Block – which houses the PMO – shows the dates of visits by Senators Mike Duffy, David Tkachuk and Irving Gerstein in the days around the news of Duffy’s audit, and leading up to the $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright. It helps to further establish the timeline of who met with whom, as the investigation continues. Elsewhere, the Auditor General met with the Internal Economy committee and its audit subcommittee to discuss his forthcoming audit of the institution and its membership. The AG said that the audit will be “comprehensive,” but people shouldn’t think that it means “forensic,” because that’s not what his office does, and they don’t have the staff or expertise to do those kinds of audits. (That’s in large part why they get contracted out to Deloitte). The Internal Economy committee is also looking at an overhaul of the Senate communications office, which has shown itself to be unable to handle the increase in media requests given recent events, and their mandate is nebulous with too many masters. Fortunately, there seems to be an appetite to change this.

The speculation that the upcoming Throne Speech will focus on consumer issues – well-worn NDP “kitchen table” territory – recalls previous attempts to bring out an “air passengers’ bill of rights” bill. Previous attempts at such a bill were killed by the Conservatives with Bloc support, and featured the Conservatives encouraging the airline industry to lobby those parties harder in order to oppose the bill. (Here’s a reminder about why such a “bill of rights” may just make things worse, as it would drive up fare prices for airlines for delays that are not their fault).

Justin Trudeau announced that he was naming new candidate Chrystia Freeland and MP Scott Brison as co-chairs of his new “council of economic advisers,” whose task it will be to canvas the country for sound economic policy ideas, and not just populist tax-cutting measures. The three later held an online chat to talk about some economic policy ideas, which John Geddes paid attention to and noted that if they all came to pass, it could be pretty expensive. (Paul Wells also noted that everything that got mentioned will now be treated as Liberal policy between now and 2015. Just wait for the attack ads and Members’ Statements based on them.) Meanwhile, Michael Den Tandt writes about Freeland’s NDP rival in the by-election, Linda McQuaig, whose leftist ideology will make things tough for Mulcair as she espouses ideas that are at odds with Mulcair’s attempt to push the party to the political centre, nor would she be quietly sidelined should she win the riding.

Trudeau and several Liberal caucus members also made a big deal about their new expense disclosure policies, and dared other parties to follow suit – which they wouldn’t commit to. And listening to NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen, they don’t want that level of detail because MPs’ staff would spend too much time posting expenses and not enough doing things like immigration casework – which they shouldn’t actually be doing, because it’s the public service’s job, and getting MPs involved in the process is an invitation to corruption. That’s why the public service is supposed to do it.

Thomas Mulcair and Jim Flaherty have started exchanging snarky letters about corporate taxes.

The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has determined that NDP MP Tyrone Benskin did in fact break the rules when he didn’t report his tax debt in a timely manner, but that’s about all she can do about it. And then she reiterated her call to be given the power to impose fines, if the House can ever get around to reviewing the legislation that governs her office (which I believe is at least a year overdue by this point).

NDP MP Craig Scott wrote to the Commissioner of Elections, demanding answers as to why the Conservative Party’s lawyer was sitting in on those interviews with witnesses in the Guelph robocalls investigation.

Yet more Labour Board rulings on the ongoing foreign service worker strike, this time in regards to emails – Foreign Affairs was wrong to monitor the email between the employees and the union, but they were within their rights to order Out of Office replies detailing the “ongoing dispute” be removed.

Amy Minsky’s look at independent officers of parliament rolls along, and talks to the Auditor General this time. Michael Ferguson says that he’s not looking to become a household name, and that some departments tend to be overly optimistic when it comes to their timelines to implementing the recommendations from his reports.

Brent Rathgeber talks to Kady O’Malley about his “Broken Democracy” tour.

It’s not just Mexico that’s ticked with us over visa restrictions, but those members of the EU who also face restrictions – Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic – are moving new regulations in the EU to impose a reciprocity clause. In other words, because we impose visa restrictions on them, they’ll impose them on us – possibly as pressure tactic to get Canada to resolve the issues at hand.

Champlain Bridge! *drink!*

Pundit’s Guide continues to track the candidate selection in the four upcoming by-elections, and finds the likelihood of shenanigans with one of the would-be Conservative candidates in Brandon-Souris, but that the Conservatives have now acclaimed all four of their candidates. Open nominations FTW!

Over in Canadian Business, James Cowan (not the Senator) argues that right-to-work legislation likely won’t have the benefits that people think it will because those states that benefited from it had a more holistic approach to attracting business, and that approach worked just as well in states that didn’t adopt right-to-work legislation.

Two years later, the Occupy movement doesn’t seem to have made a whole lot of progress, but that may not be a surprise when every other interest group under the sun diluted its message.

And some of the country’s biggest chocolate manufacturers have agreed to pay $23 million to settle a class-action lawsuit around allegations of price-fixing.