POLITICS

John Baird, Rob Nicholson to take Iraq mission questions at committee

01/29/2015 06:08 EST | Updated 03/31/2015 05:59 EDT
The swirl of confusion over the nature and scope of Canada's ongoing military operations in Iraq will take centre stage on the Hill this morning, where a special joint meeting of the House foreign affairs and defence committees will — at least in theory — provide the first official briefing on the mission since the House broke for the holidays in December.

On the witness list for today's 90-minute session: Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, as well as their respective seconds-in-command: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Daniel Jean and Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson.

Likely to be at the top of the agenda, at least for those on the opposition side of the table, will almost certainly be what they see as a growing list of still unanswered questions arising from recent revelations on the extent of Canadian activities near the front lines, which have resulted in Canadian Forces coming under enemy fire on at least three occasions in the last two weeks.

Back in the Chamber, Liberal MPs will spend the day making their respective and collective case for the party's first opposition day motion of the new year, which would, if passed, see the House express its non-binding view that the Prime Minister of Canada "should hold annual First Ministers' Conferences."

In what may or may not be a serendipitous twist of timing, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is scheduled to hold a one-on-one First Minister Meeting of his own with visiting Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne later this morning.

This evening, Liberal MP Ted Hsu will make one final attempt to persuade his Commons colleagues to back his private members' bid to restore the long-form census, which is set to undergo a final round of second reading debate.

Also on the Hill today:

- Liberal MP Irwin Cotler teams up with New Democrats Pierre-Luc Dusseault and Wayne Marston, as well as Amnesty International representatives, to call for the release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi — to whom, the advisory notes, Cotler is now serving as international legal counsel — whose wife, Ensaf Haidar, is also expected to be in attendance.

- Operation SIRONA Task Force Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Gary O'Neil holds a teleconference to brief reporters on the latest developments in the Canadian Armed Forces' ongoing efforts to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads back to Southern Ontario, where he's scheduled to join Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino and local MPs Lois Brown and Roxanne James for a "roundtable discussion" — at York Regional Police headquarters in Aurora.

Elsewhere on the ministerial circuit:

- Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander will be front and centre at the 2014 Immigration Entrepreneur Awards hosted by the City of Ottawa, which will be handed out at a mid-morning ceremony at a downtown hotel.

- In Waterloo, International Trade Minister Ed Fast hosts a "Go Global" export workshop alongside Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters president Jayson Meyers.

- Treasury Board President Tony Clement "continues his nationwide tour" in support of CODE 2015 – The Canadian Open Data Experience" with a stop in Montreal, where he will "share details and highlights" of the upcoming instalment of what his own release calls an "outstanding appathon."

- Finally, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz joins Saskatchewan Jobs Minister Jeremy Harrison at a Regina-based machine shop, where the pair will reveal the identity of the province's very first Canada Job Grant recipient.

Mobile readers: Follow the Parliament Hill ticker here.