Top 10 political developments of 2015 to date
Snow covers the Parliament Hill lawn in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Michelle Zilio, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Monday, March 2, 2015 3:22PM EST
Last Updated Monday, April 6, 2015 10:20AM EDT
It's been a busy start to 2015 on Parliament Hill, with all eyes already focused in on this year's federal election.
From the Conservative government's controversial anti-terror bill to a shocking floor-crossing, here are the Top 10 political developments since the start of the year, in no particular order.
The Conservative government tabled its second major piece of anti-terror legislation at the end of January. The bill, known as C-51 or the Anti-Terrorism Act, aims to strengthen laws to fight the threat of terrorism.
For instance, the bill gives new powers to Canada's spy agency to disrupt suspected terrorists' activities on Canadian soil, and extends the period that police can detain a terror suspect without charge, and without authorization from a judge, to seven days, up from three.
The bill, however, has been met with opposition for its failure to include parliamentary oversight measures for Canada’s security agencies. A group of former prime ministers and former Supreme Court judges have also raised concern about the bill's lack of adequate checks and balances.
After an NDP attempt to filibuster, C-51 is headed to the House of Commons public safety committee, which will study the bill over a series of nine meetings. While the Conservatives hope to ram the legislation through Parliament, expect the NDP and Liberals to propose many amendments along the way.
C-51 is the second of two Conservative anti-terror bills tabled since two separate incidents in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., last year that left two Canadian soldiers dead. The government described both incidents as acts of terrorism.
In a historic move on Feb. 6, the Supreme Court struck down a ban on doctor-assisted dying, giving Parliament one year to respond with a new law.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau attempted to get the ball rolling by tabling a motion calling for the creation of a special multi-party committee to propose a new law to Parliament by mid-summer. The motion was defeated in a close vote of 146-132 last week.
It is unclear whether Parliament will address the decision before this year's federal election. There has been talk of whether the government will invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the ruling and ask for an extension from the court, but a prime ministerial spokesperson says that is not likely.
Former Conservative MP Eve Adams shocked Canada’s political world when she announced she was crossing the floor to join Justin Trudeau's Liberals last month. Adams, who most recently served as the parliamentary secretary to the minister of health, said she no longer felt at home in the Conservative party, adding she could not work with someone who fear-mongers or bullies.
Equally interesting was the fact that former senior Conservative Party adviser Dimitri Soudas is following Adams to the Liberal party. Soudas, who is Adams’ fiancé, and the Liberals have insisted he won't do anything more than assist Adams in her campaign.
Adams intends to run for the Liberal nomination in Finance Minister Joe Oliver's Toronto-area riding of Eglinton-Lawrence. The Liberals insist the fix is not in for Adams' nomination, promising an open and fair nomination process.
Baird causes cabinet shuffle
Former foreign affairs minister John Baird announced he was leaving politics in February, triggering a cabinet shuffle.
The shuffle saw Nicholson take over Foreign Affairs, Jason Kenney move to Defence from Employment and Social Development, which will now be handled by Pierre Polievre.
While Baird still sits as the MP for Ottawa-West Nepean, he said he will not run in the next election. Baird has a job lined up in the private sector, as well as on some corporate boards, sources told CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife.
NDP satellite offices bill
In February, the NDP was hit with a nearly $3-million bill for the use of taxpayer dollars to staff party satellite offices in Montreal and Quebec City.
The secretive Board of Internal Economy ordered 68 NDP MPs repay a total of $2.75 million. Some NDP MPs owe around $1,000, while others face six-figure bills. For instance, party leader Tom Mulcair and party whip Nycole Turmel owe more than $600,000 combined.
There has been no deadline set for the repayment yet, but it is expected the party will be asked to start paying back the money in the coming months. In the meantime, the NDP has asked the government to refer the dispute to the Supreme Court of Canada.
This year's federal budget won't be tabled until April at the earliest, Finance Minister Joe Oliver announced in January. That's much later than past budgets, which were tabled in March 2013 and February 2014.
Oliver said the government needs more time to deal with the economic uncertainty caused by falling oil prices, which recently fell to less than $50 a barrel, from more than $100 in June. Prices started to rebound in February.
The Conservatives are expected to balance the budget this year – the first federal surplus since 2007.
Canada's role in Iraq
The Department of National Defence revealed for the first time in January that Canadian Forces had engaged in a firefight with ISIS on the ground in Iraq. News of additional firefights followed in subsequent media briefings on the mission.
Following this news, the NDP and Liberals accused Harper of misleading Parlimanet on Canada's mission in Iraq when he assured MPs that soldiers would not be involved in combat.
Canada's six-month mission in Iraq is set to expire in April. The government has not indicated if it will extend the mission.
Conservatives are undoubtedly growing frustrated with U.S. President Barack Obama's handling of the Keystone XL pipeline project. Last month, Obama vetoed pipeline approval legislation. The Senate will vote this Thursday to override Obama's veto, but likely won't be able to overcome it. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven has said the Republicans are short four votes in the Senate.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been facing increasing pressure to personally intervene in the case of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, following his arrest in Cairo in December 2013.
The journalist's case has taken many unexpected twists and turns since January when the Egyptian appeals court announced a retrial for him and Al Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Baher and Peter Greste.
When Greste was released in February and immediately returned to his native Australia, Fahmy was hopeful he would also be released and deported. Half of his wishes came true on Feb. 12 – he was released on bail, pending a retrial.
Fahmy's retrial will begin Sunday. Canadians can expect Fahmy's case to be back on the political radar when MPs return to Parliament next Monday following a week-long break.
Last week, National Post columnist John Ivison stirred up the election date rumour mill again.
The madness of crowds - three people have told me they've heard a rumour general election will be called tomorrow for an early April vote.— John Ivison (@IvisonJ) February 25, 2015
While the rumour turned out to be untrue, political watchers in Ottawa continue to look for signs that the Conservatives are ready to drop the writ. For instance, Fife reported in January that Harper’s deputy chief of staff, Jenni Byrne, had moved over to Conservative Party headquarters to help run the 2015 campaign.
Canadians are tentatively scheduled to go to the polls on Oct. 19, 2015.