1. Hot: Harbour Sixty Steakhouse. The question in Ottawa this morning is whether status of women minister Helena Guergis will be fired or resigns her post. If not today, then perhaps over the weekend, so the government can avoid the inevitable barrage of opposition questions when the House returns on Monday.
Tories in official Ottawa are now officially fed up with the much-publicized antics of Ms. Guergis and her husband, Rahim Jaffer, the failed Tory MP from Alberta. The two have become a big distraction for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government.
Amid the furor, it's interesting to note the emergence in the national news pages of the Harbour Sixty Steakhouse - the dark, wood-trimmed restaurant in Toronto. It is clearly the hangout for Tories and a place of intrigue.
It was the venue for the now famous boozy meeting, chronicled yesterday in the Toronto Star by reporter Kevin Donovan, between Mr. Jaffer, financier Nazim Gillani, other business associates and several female escorts. The report says Mr. Gillani is under police investigation for fraud allegations.
Mr. Jaffer left the clear impression he had influence in the PMO and could provide government grants and money for business opportunities, according to the report. Although he was defeated in his Edmonton riding in the 2008 election, he apparently continues to use his MP business card.
This isn't the first time the Harbour Sixty has been in the news, however. In fact, in the House of Commons last year, NDP MP Olivia Chow had demanded the expense accounts of Lisa Raitt, who before running for Stephen Harper's Conservatives served as the CEO of the Toronto Port Authority.
There was controversy over Ms. Raitt's expense accounts during her tenure, including reports (in the Toronto Star) of $50,000 in hospitality expenses at the steakhouse - a bill for a $9,000 lunch in 2008 among them. The government has defended the Port Authority, saying that all policies relating to expenses and hospitality were followed correctly.
2. Not: Prisoner pensions. A new EKOS poll says Canadians agree with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's outrage over federal prisoners receiving pension benefits.
According to the poll, 59 per cent of respondents say prisoners should lose their benefits while in prison; 25 per cent say only prisoners serving life sentences should lose their benefits while 17 per cent say that they should be able to continue to receive them.
This debate was sparked by reports that Clifford Olson, who was convicted in 1982 of killing 11 children, has been drawing Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits totaling $1,169.47 a month for the past five years. Mr. Harper said he was "upset" by Mr. Olson's benefits and asked Human Resources Minister Diane Finley to figure out a way to cut them off.
The poll of 909 Canadians was conducted between March 31 and April 6; it is accurate 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
"The strength of the public response is a vivid indicator of the 'tougher' zeitgeist'," says the EKOS analysis accompanying the poll. "It also may reveal the political acumen of the Prime Minister in his ability to raise a previously hidden issue which hits such a resonant chord with the electorate."
3. A tribute to our last soldier. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his wife, Laureen, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean and Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk gather this morning at the National War Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to pay tribute to the men and women who served in the First World War.
The ceremony, Marking the End of an Era, is being held on Vimy Ridge Day, and it also honours the recent death of John Babcock, Canada's last known First World War veteran. Mr. Babcock passed away on February 18; he was 109.
4. Dispatch from Haiti. The Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae is on his first trip to the Caribbean country, a fact-finding mission in the wake of the devastating January earthquake. He has been sending back daily reports, writing about his impressions of the political situation and aid initiative.
"There is talk of 'constitutional reform' in the capital, but this risks becoming a diversion from the central task at hand. Haiti needs fewer politicians and fewer elections," Mr. Rae says, summarizing his thoughts in one of his last dispatches home.
"The West should aim to be a serious, but not an indulgent, partner in all this. Haiti was a deeply troubled society before the hurricane and the earthquake. It is now more so. The path ahead will be slow and painful. But there is no avoiding it."