ALSO TODAY: New COVID-19 support bill set to hit legislative fast track — O’Toole expected back in the House before hitting virtual fundraising circuit
Amid a sharp upswing in pointed questions — and, in some cases, overt criticism — over just how long it seems to be taking for Health Canada to sign off on potentially critical COVID-19 rapid testing protocols, a full contingent of unnamed government officials — which may or may not include Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam — will hold a tele-briefing later this morning to update reporters on the status of the authorization process. (10:30 AM)
Although the advisory doesn’t explicitly mention rapid tests, the surge in demand for fast, accurate results — which, while a growing concern across the country, is particularly heavy in Ontario and Quebec — has led to increased pressure on the federal government to accelerate the approval of test kits and devices that have already been cleared for deployment in other countries.
The Conservatives have also cited the apparent delay in their official response to the throne speech, which calls out the Liberals for having “failed to provide an plan to approve and deploy new testing measures to aid the provinces in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Back in the House of Commons, meanwhile, a razor-thin majority of Liberal and New Democrat MPs are set to approve — albeit “reluctantly,” in the case of the latter — the government’s bid to fast track its latest omnibus COVID-19 support package, which includes two provisions introduced at the request of the New Democrats, including a $400 monthly boost to the new Canada Recovery Benefit and the expansion of federal sick leave protection for workers affected by the pandemic.
The motion setting the parameters for the accelerated legislative timeline is expected to be adopted later this morning, with the bill itself set to be passed at all stages by the end of the day, at which point it will be dispatched to the Senate for final review.
Today could also offer Conservative leader Erin O’Toole his first opportunity to face off against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from his new front-and-centre seat across the Commons aisle.
Although there’s no official word from his party yet on whether he’ll be making a triumphant, if belated, return to the precinct following an unscheduled two-week stint in quarantine after testing positive for the virus, O’Toole is nevertheless expected to be back in the House today — and as per the prime minister’s daily itinerary, he, too, will be in the Chamber for question period. (2 PM)
Later this evening, O’Toole will headline a “virtual fundraising event” hosted by Torquest founder Brent Belzberg, during which supporters will get the chance to “hear directly from Erin over Zoom on his vision for Canada.”
As per the invite, proceeds from the $1,500-per-person digital get-together will go to settling his remaining campaign debt, as well as his Durham riding association and the central party. (6:30 PM)
Also on Trudeau’s to-list: A closed-door huddle with his cabinet, as well as various United Nations virtual events — a “follow-up meeting of the high-level event on financing for development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond” and a “virtual press conference” with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness — as well as a phone call with his Japanese counterpart Suga Yoshihide.
IN THE CHAMBER
As per a notice from her office, Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard’s latest annual report is slated to be tabled in the House of Commons this morning. (10 AM)
ON AND AROUND THE HILL
After releasing the details of their latest economic and fiscal outlook, Parliamentary Budget Office analysts will hold a 30-minute virtual briefing session to present their findings and take questions from reporters. (9 AM/9:30 AM)
Also incoming from the PBO: A fresh estimate on the cost of extending the commercial rent assistance program until September. (9 AM)
ON THE COMMITTEE CIRCUIT
Now that the new session is officially underway, House and Senate committee meetings are set to resume within the next few weeks.
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Committee highlights courtesy of our friends at iPoliticsINTEL.
Don’t miss today’s complete legislative brief in GovGuide.ca!