After Art Hanger: Liveblogging the triumphant return of the Justice Committee

… and possibly Foreign Affairs as well, depending on how quickly the members of Justice can elect a new chair and get through whatever additional housekeeping motions are on the agenda.

Check back at 3:30 for the first official liveblogging of the new committee season! Are you excited? ITQ is excited!

3:20:32 PM
… Excited enough, as it turns out, to show up a full ten minutes early, just so I can nab my very favourite seat (furtherest right corner of the front row) and soak up the atmosphere, not to mention scope out all the new members – as well as returning characters, of course. Real Menard is here, and is staring intently at Daniel Petit, who is sitting directly across from him, and I’m pretty sure has not been pre-selected as chair, although I guess anything is possible. All of the Conservatives are here, in fact — I remember when this this was the most coveted assignment within the Tory caucus, but I imagine that has lessened somewhat with taking over as government. Ed Fast is here, and Rick Norlock, and Rob Moore, who is the parliamentary secretary, I believe. Or was; maybe now he’s going to be sidewaysedly promoted to chair.

On the other side of the table, we have the aforementioned Serge Menard, as well as Marc Lemay, Libby Davies and Megan Leslie, whose nameplate is written in the most grade eight girliest hand I’ve seen since, well, eight grade. Brian Murphy and Dominic Leblanc are here as well. Oh, there’s a rookie Conservative: Brent Rathgerber, who looks like a taller, slightly bigger boned and far less officious version of Pierre Poilievre.

Meanwhile, Dominic Leblanc is making jokes about introducing motions about Chuck Cadman, and the Conservatives are trying to look amused. At least, I assume those were jokes. You never can tell.

3:30:53 PM

Okay, you guys, time’s a wasting. Justice delayed is — okay, I’ll stop. This is, of course, one of the few orders of committee business that puts the clerk in the spotlight; until the chair is elected – which one will it be? I’m agog with anticipation! – she presides over the meeting.

3:32:47 PM
And here we go! The chair sees a quorum, so it’s time for the election of the chair, she tells the members; Dominic Leblanc proposes Ed Fast as chair, and the committee adopts the motion: Congratulations, Chairman Fast, and I truly hope I won’t be forced to turn your name into various topical headliney puns.

3:34:52 PM
Brian Murphy and Serge Menard are quickly elected as vice-chairs, and somehow, Borys “Just Borys” Wrz’I snuck in while I wasn’t looking, which means this *is* one of those thirteen-member committees. The NDP and the Conservatives each have one more seat at the table.

Meanwhile, Ed Fast is giving his opening remarks, and sounding awfully sincere as we expresses his optimism that this will be a collegial group, and not one whose very name becomes synonymous with the total meltdown of Parliament.

3:37:07 PM
Routine motions! Which are, in fact, usually routine, although you never know when someone might get antsy and demand amendments, although since Scott Reid isn’t here, the likelihood of that happening is greatly diminished.

3:40:01 PM
And we have our first disagreement, although a minor one thus far; it is over notice of motions, which tends to be a perennial irritant for opposition parties, since it can restrict their ability to respond to goverment action on the floor. Rob Moore points out that most of the routine motions won’t be contentious and urges the committee to pass those as a package before debating the remaining two items – notice, and something about speaking order that I didn’t quite catch, but is also non-non-contentious.

3:43:02 PM
And now, the debate over notice of motions we’ve not been waiting for all that long at all; the question, for those of you who haven’t sat through one of these meetings before, is whether members should be required to give 48 hours notice of motions, whether amendments or stand-alone.

3:45:35 PM
Libby Davies notes that she’s not actually a permanent member of the committee – that’s Joe Comartin, who isn’t here for some reason – and wonders why the government feels the need to change the rules from the last session (not the last session, the one before that, obviously) since it seemed to work fine, but Rob Moore again explains that the legislation the committee studies tends to be highly complex, which makes for similarly complex and complicated amendments, which is why everyone needs more time to digest proposed changes.

Marc Lemay, however, just doesn’t get the need for a two day heads up; if the bill is under consideration, it should be fair game to bring in amendments as any potential issues or concerns arise. He points out that the existing rules do require notice in certain circumstances, and doesn’t see the need to change the rules of the committee. Menard tells him that the Bloc is uncomfortable with the wording of Moore’s motion, and I’m going to call this one for the opposition right now; I don’t think the government is going to be able to get the one vote they need to hold a majority. Then again, this *is* the NNNNNEoC, after all. Maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical.

3:53:57 PM
Brian Murphy doesn’t want to “talk this to death” – appreciate the effort, but I fear we may have passed that point – and – hey, Ujjal Dosanjh just showed up, thereby dislodging Borys. Who now that I think about it, is, in fact, on the Ethics committee now, I believe, so I’ll see him later this week for sure.

Marc Lemay, meanwhile, reminds Rob Moore that he was a criminal lawyer for thirty years, and he still doesn’t understand why this change is required. Seriously, call it, chair. This isn’t happening.

3:57:58 PM
It seems Rob Moore was struck by the same wave of utter inevitability; he grumpily concedes defeat and suggests that the chair call the vote, and then proposes an amendment, which confuses both the chair and ITQ, who proceeds to hold the vote on the Moore motion, which fails. Wow, I just realized that this is the first non-chair related vote that this committee has held since March. A historic moment.

4:00:53 PM
Oh, wait – now Daniel Petit is getting seriously grumpy, at the chair and life in general, over the failure to consider *his* motion, which is complete and full and represents the deepest hopes and dreams of his parliamentary secretary, but sounds suspiciously like the motion that the committee just voted down. Brian Storseth – hey, there’s Brian Storseth – waggles a finger as the chair very politely points out that it is, in fact, the identical motion to the one that just fell. Petit grumples a little, but realizes that he is, in fact, wrong, and trails off into sullen berry-tapping silence.

4:03:26 PM
And now – order of speaking, which would be the same as the last session – Liberals, Bloc, NDP, government; Liberals, Bloc, government; and – wait, he went too fast for me, but Libby Davies points out that her party has more seats now, which means that rounds beyond the first should include the NDP as well. “We have the schematic,” Fast assures her. “We can show it to you.” Davies looks not quite mollified, and the committee falls into one of those not-quite-hostile silences as everyone tries desperately to figure out what is actually being proposed, and whether it is fair to all parties.

4:07:28 PM
Everybody speaks once, and then the process starts again, Fast avers, but Dosanjh points out that actually, it alternates between parties, not individuals. Libby Davies still looks slightly sceptical, but the motion passes unanimously.

4:08:43 PM
Another motion – a non-routine routine motion, as it were – from Mooore, that would make it so bills – government or private members’ – should automatically take precedence over committee studies and non-legislative examinations as far as committee business. Davies points out that the agenda is determined by the steering committee, and notes that this could end up postponing time-sensitive studies while the committee goes through the mounds and mounds of private members’ bills that it generally receives. Seriously, I’m pretty sure a good seventy percent of PMBs are destined for Justice – especially the ones that make it through second reading.

4:12:30 PM
Real Menard pipes up to give his critique of the motion, but Moore has had enough and withdraws the motion. “I can’t handle another defeat,” he faux-sighs, to the gentle amusement of his colleagues.

A bit of discussion about the steering committee ensues – a subject that, honestly, even ITQ has trouble finding fascinating, and then Ed Fast proceeds to charm and befuddle the assembled parties by asking if it’s customary to take a photo of the committee. No, it isn’t, but what a lovely idea for a tradition. Aww, you guys. I know it’s early days, but I think I like this one. His enthusiasm is adorable. Let’s try not to break his spirit, shall we?

4:16:25 PM
Really, they’re going to start discussing the workplan immediately? That’s rather dangerous territory, isn’t it? Heedless of the risk, Rob Moore proposes that the committee go back to an order of business that was “delayed” during the last session: the review of the newly appointed director of public prosecutions. Oh, yes, I remember that delay. The sight of Art Hanger disappearing down the hall of the Victoria Building will be with me always. Menard isn’t going to pretend that the past didn’t happen, and reminds the committee that they were *also* supposed to hear from the since-appointed candidate for the Supreme Court, which Moore blames on the unspecified “extraordinary”ness of the times.

4:20:24 PM
Hey, guess who just gave notice of a motion to study Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act? No, really. I’m not kidding. Brian Storseth is the answer to that question, by the way; his motion is received with universal passivity, except by Real Menard, who one-ups him by musing about the differences between provincial human rights commissions, as he lists a number of other motions that he plans to move in the near future.

So – did everyone catch that? A big ole Section 13 bunfight is on the menu for the next meeting! Oh, Ed Fast. I hope you’re ready for this.

4:25:49 PM
Btw, I just mixed up Rick Norlock and Brian Storseth, but hopefully caught it in time.

4:26:31 PM
Okay, and with that, the committee adjourns, but the chair asks them all to stick around so he can get that photo. Shouldn’t he wait until Joe Comartin is here, since he’s the NDP’s permanent member? And why doesn’t he seem to be inviting ITQ to make a cameo appeance in the background? Sigh. He’ll learn to love us, right?

That’s all for me for the moment – I’ll be in the House at 6:30 to liveblog the vote, but as far as Justice is concerned, the verdict is in: Ed Fast had better hang onto his seat, because this just turned into a possibly bumpy ride.

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