A newbie mentor and Frum’s rainbow

Mitchel Raphael on a newbie mentor and Frum’s rainbow flag

Photographs by Mitchel Raphael

Martha was supposed to do the party

When MP Peter Stoffer entered the NDP’s first post-election caucus meeting, he thought he was in the wrong room. The supersized NDP means there is no longer enough space for tables. “I have no place to put my coffee,” the Nova Scotia MP jokes. Stoffer may find he’s squeezed for space in other places, too. He has always liked to sit in the back row in the House, “seat 308” as he calls it. But he thinks Leader Jack Layton will want him to sit on the front bench (which he would happily do if asked). The good thing about sitting in the back was, “I got a much better view of everything and you get more legroom because the curtains are behind you.”

For the sake of a larger caucus, though, Stoffer is willing to adapt. Aside from landing official Opposition status, there are other benefits to more people in caucus. One is more soccer players. Stoffer is the MP who organizes soccer games between MPs and other groups, including the pages, the media and diplomatic corps. He says he has found at least two new players (one is even a soccer coach) and that the new young people in the party will also be a huge advantage. Quips Stoffer: “Now we have people who can run and breathe at the same time.”

Rookie NDP MPs have been seeking advice from Stoffer about which are the best buildings to have an office in. He has been telling them to choose the Confederation Building, not just because he is there in an office filled with hundreds of hats and other fun items, but because it has a gym. He has also been stressing to the newbies that they should really focus on constituency work. When he first won in 1997 it was by fewer than 50 votes in a recount. Now he wins by over 10,000 votes, which he says is a result of addressing the needs of the people who sent him to Ottawa.

Stoffer was famous for throwing the all-party party each year. Last year was officially his last one. Former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay was supposed to take the reins of the party this year, but she was not re-elected. Stoffer says Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger has expressed an interest in taking it on but Stoffer admits he may have to help out a lot with the next one.

The new office won’t need rain buckets!

Toronto NDP MP Peggy Nash won in 2006, but then lost in 2008 to Liberal Gerard Kennedy. Now she’s back as an MP after defeating Kennedy, and will battle Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as the NDP’s finance critic. Nash decided to attend the recent MP orientation to refresh herself with MP procedures. Much is the same, she says, but issues around things like email are now different. She is looking forward to moving into her Ottawa office. While she knows the lay of the land, she has not put in a request for any office preference. She says any space will be better than what she had the last time, when she was on the top floor of the West Block and had to put out buckets to deal with a leaky roof when it rained. There was also an asbestos monitoring device in her office, but “they never told us the results.” The West Block is now closed for renovations.

‘Girlfriend’ Linda Frum

Politicians came out to the recent United Jewish Appeal’s Walk With Israel in Toronto. Capital Diary spotted Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and newly elected Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. Oliver, along with Mark Adler, are the first Tory Jewish MPs since the Conservative Party of Canada was formed from the old Reform and Progressive Conservative parties. Also at the walk was Sen. Linda Frum, who marched with Kulanu, a Toronto gay and Jewish organization. Frum, who is straight and a strong supporter of Israel, said she was impressed with how Kulanu helped rally a huge presence at Toronto’s gay Pride Parade to counter the message sent by the controversial group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. She said she called Kulanu to offer her support and to march with them. There was an added benefit to marching with the group: “Just look for the rainbow flags if you get lost,” she told her daughter, whom she brought along with her for the walk. Frum carried a rainbow flag and was thanked by one walk volunteer with an enthusiastic, “Hey girlfriend!”

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