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National security laws, future election debates on the House committee agenda

by Kady O’Malley (feat. Colin Robertson)

iPolitics
January 30, 2018

With the winter sitting now officially underway, the House committee circuit is starting to power up from the winter break, although as is typical after an extended hiatus, many of the meetings currently listed on the schedule will take place behind closed doors, as members gather to discuss their upcoming work plans.

Not, however, PUBLIC SECURITY, which is set to get right back to work on its ongoing review of the government’s bid to overhaul Canada’s national security laws, and specifically, address the ‘problematic elements’ introduced by their Conservative predecessors under the controversial C-51.

It’s worth noting that, in a rarely-used Commons procedure, the government dispatched the draft bill to committee before putting it to the House for a second-reading ‘approval in principle’ vote, which, at least in theory, gives members a considerably wider mandate to rework the text of the bill that is usually the case.

Whether or not they — or, more specifically, the Liberal committee members who hold the majority of seats at the table — will actually use that power to redraft the legislation remains to be seen.

On the witness list for today: Communications Security Establishment Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe, who will spend an hour taking questions from MPs, and whose appearance will be followed by presentations by BC Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn and former federal intelligence analyst Ray Boisvert, who currently serves as  senior advisor to the Ontario government.

Over at PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS, MPs continue to ponder the pros and cons of Team Trudeau’s latest bid to rewrite the rules of engagement for future elections  — and specifically, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould’s call for comments on her government’s plan to set up an independent commission to oversee the organization of leaders’ debates.

Later this morning, they’ll hear from the interim chief executive officer and chairman of the debates commissions currently in place in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, respectively, both of whom will appear by video.

Also today: former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay, who now heads up the Canada West Foundation, is among the expert witnesses set to testify at INTERNATIONAL TRADE, which, as per its current terms of reference, is actively “consulting Canadians” on the prospect of a trade deal between Canada and the Pacific Alliance. MPs will also hear from Amnesty International secretary-general Alex Neve, Canadian Global Affairs Institute vice-president Colin Robertson and Cavendish Farms corporate counsel Daniel Richard.

Meanwhile, CANADIAN HERITAGE members have booked a closed-door drafting session as they attempt to finish up their much-anticipated report on ‘Islamophobia’ and other forms of systemic racial and religious discrimination, which is expected to be ready for submission to the House by the end of the week.

On the Senate side, TRANSPORT members are going through the fine print of Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s proposal to modernize the federal regulatory regime for air and rail transport, with officials from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada slated to share their collective and respective views on the subject this morning.


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