After prompting mild to moderate grumbles from the Hill press contingent for declining to take questions after unveiling a new bid to recruit up to 2,000 new “energy advisors” yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be back in front of the cameras later this morning as he holds the first of his regularly scheduled biweekly media availabilities on his government’s ongoing efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. (11:45 AM)
In addition to the standard status update on the cross-country vaccine rollout, he should expect to be cross-examined over the abrupt departure of Maj.-Gen Dany Fortin, who, up until last week, had been overseeing the logistics involved in delivering millions of doses to provincial and territorial health authorities., but has stepped down while awaiting the outcome of a newly revealed investigation into a misconduct complaint.
As per CTV News, the allegation “dates back 32 years to early 1989, when Fortin was a student at the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, Que,” and “allegedly [exposed] himself before a woman.”
The investigation has reportedly been underway since March, although according to Fortin’s lawyer, he “was informed Friday that he had to step aside,” but “was never told the nature of [the allegation] until two days later, when he was contacted by a CTV reporter.”
For his part, Trudeau can look forward to another round of questioning over exactly when he or his staff became aware of the complaint against Fortin, and how they responded to it.
The latest revelation of a misconduct complaint against a senior military officer is also all but guaranteed to come up as DEFENCE committee members meet for a special mid-recess session to discuss a Conservative-initiated proposal to call in still more witnesses to testify as part of their ongoing probe into the allegations against former Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance. (2:30 PM)
It’s worth noting that, while the opposition parties have been largely united in their effort to expand and prolong the current committee study over the objections of the minority Liberal contingent at the table, the Conservatives could find themselves suddenly on the defensive in the wake of a series of Star reports that raises questions over how the previous Conservative-led government handled separate rumours of misconduct against Vance in 2015.
As per the latest dispatch, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole asserts that he “learned of a rumour about [Vance] from a fellow military member, who heard it ‘from a third party,’” in April 2015, at which point he “passed [it] on” to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office “for investigation” in July.
According to his current communications director, O’Toole’s “chief of staff at the time asked the Prime Minister’s Office that the rumour be investigated and Mr. O’Toole understood that it had been,” but, as the Star reported over the weekend, “ex-national security adviser Richard Fadden, who the Conservatives say looked into the rumour in 2015, said he had no recollection of ever doing so.”
Given the apparent gaps in the timeline, it’s entirely possible that the Liberals could propose that the committee circle back to how an alleged complaint against Vance was handled in 2015, although they’d need the support of at least one other party to pursue that line of inquiry.
Also on the House committee circuit today: For the second time in less than a week, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault goes before the CANADIAN HERITAGE committee to field questions on his proposed overhaul of Canada’s broadcasting regime — and specifically, the last-minute removal of a blanket exemption for social media, which some critics suggest could effectively curtail online free speech.
According to the notice, Guilbeault is slated to be joined by fellow front bencher Justice Miniter David Lametti, who was a no-show for a previous follow-up briefing last week.
As the Globe reported yesterday, the Bloc Québécois now seems to be prepared to support the government’s push to get he bill back on the legislative fast track, including, potentially, voting with the Liberals to impose a deadline for a final vote once it makes it back to the House of Commons.
Before that can happen, however, the committee has to complete clause-by-clause review of the bill, which is tentatively expected to get back on track later this week — if, that is, it doesn’t run into another procedural roadblock.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s omnibus budget bill is in the spotlight at both the House and Senate FINANCE committees, both of which have begun pre-studies ahead of second-reading House signoff (11:30 AM/9:30 AM)
Meanwhile, New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh holds a mid-morning Zoom, availability to reiterate his party’s pledge to “continue fighting to help Canadians get through this third wave of COVID-19.” (10:30 AM)
Also on his itinerary: Closed-door meetings with the National Right to Housing Network and the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation and the Network for the Advancement of Black Communities. (2 PM/3:30 PM)
UPDATE: A just-in advisory from Singh’s office advises reporters that the planned press conference “will be rescheduled,” albeit with no details on the new timing.
Finally, after submitting to an hour of cross-examination on the constitutionality of the amended broadcasting bill, Lametti will fire up his webcam to headline “A Taste of LaSalle-Émard-Verdun,” a virtual fundraiser to fill the coffers of his local Liberal riding association. According to the invite posted on the party website, ticket prices range from $100 to $500, and will include a “surprise” snackbox. (6 PM)
ON AND AROUND THE HILL
The Parliamentary Budget Office releases a new report focused on federal, provincial and territorial spending on First Nations and Inuit health care. (9 AM)
IN THE CHAMBER
Both the House of Commons and the Senate are on hiatus this week, but will reopen for regular legislative programming on May 25, 2021.
OUTSIDE THE PRECINCT
Ahead of his afternoon date with the heritage committee, Guilbeault will join Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal for a virtual reveal highlighting new “arts and culture funding” earmarked for the Association culturelle de la Francophonie manitobaine. (9:30 AM)
Meanwhile, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne will outline what the advisory is billing as a “major investment” to boost Canada’s biomanufacturing sector,” as well as support “future pandemic preparedness” during an afternoon press conference at his Shawinigan constituency office. (1:30 PM)
Elsewhere in Quebec, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez holds back-to-back Zoom briefings to announce new federal funding earmarked for “recreational and sport infrastructure” in the Laurentian region, as well as “financial assistance” for two “innovative agri-food businesses” in Lac-Saint-Jean. (11:15 AM/2 PM)
Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna teams up with her Ontario counterpart Laurie Scott, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and a full contingent of municipal and provincial officials for an “important virtual infrastructure event.” (12 PM)
International Trade Minister Mary Ng wraps up two days of closed-door virtual discussions with her American and Mexican counterparts with an evening tele-conference to update reporters on the inaugural session of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement Free Trade Commission. (6:30 PM)
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HOT OFF THE WIRES
Don’t miss today’s complete legislative brief in GovGuide.ca!