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The Globe and Mail

MPs weigh contempt charges against Harper government

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews prepare to testify before the Commons procedure and House affairs committee on March 16, 2011.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

The Harper government has drafted a squad of top bureaucrats to help them face a grilling Wednesday over opposition charges they're in contempt of Parliament for stonewalling on the costs of their law-and-order agenda.

Facing the possibility of being defeated as early as next week, the Tories are eager to disprove accusations by rivals that they are autocratic and undemocratic for withholding information. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson are also scheduled to appear.

After dealing with the crime legislation issue, the committee will move on to consider a second contempt charge against Bev Oda, the International Co-operation Minister, for allegedly misleading Parliament over cuts to an aid group.

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House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken set in motion this chain of events last week by ruling that, "on its face," the government had breached the privileges of MPs. If opposition parties uphold these judgments in committee, and later in the Commons, it will mean that for the first time in Canadian history, a government and a cabinet minister will be found guilty of contempt of Parliament.

The Globe's Steven Chase provided live coverage Wednesday from the committee room on Parliament Hill.

Review the proceedings in the panel below. Mobile users can click here for a BlackBerry and iPhone friendly interface.



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