Ignatieff’s freedom of speech and Munk’s gold

Mitchel Raphael on Ignatieff’s freedom of speech and munk’s gold

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Of duelling ribbons

Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867—1891. The prize was awarded by the Writers’ Trust of Canada in the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier. At the reception, Laureen Harper predicted Gwyn would win. In 2008 she sat near political scientist Janice Gross Stein and said she would be Stein’s good luck charm. Stein took home the prize that year. Medals were also given to authors and politicians in attendance. Prize nominees had theirs on a silver and red ribbon, politicians had yellow ribbons and other writers wore green. Former Liberal leader and author Michael Ignatieff wore a green ribbon. He quipped, “Writers can drink and do anything we bloody well please. And say anything we please.” Ignatieff recently caused a ruckus over comments about Quebec separatism to the BBC. Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, were among the last to leave the party.


Top ministers, including Jim Flaherty, John Baird and Peter MacKay, were on hand at the Canadian Museum of Nature honouring Barrick Gold Corp.’s $1-million donation, which will help refurbish a popular travelling exhibit. In return, the museum’s prime reception space was renamed the Barrick Salon. The ceremony included a $1-million gold coin valued at more than five times its face value. The coin is owned by Barrick and will be on loan to the museum for a year. Attendees were told that under no circumstances could they touch the coin. Then Barrick chairman Peter Munk put his hands all over it. He said, “I wanted to see if it would rub off.” The RCMP guards confessed that Munk was an exception and added that if former PM Brian Mulroney, also a guest, wanted to touch it they likely would not have stopped him.

Abortion rights, Margaret Atwood and MC Hammer

NDP MP Niki Ashton attacked the government over Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s private member’s motion to examine if a fetus is a human being. This prompted Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to shoot back, “Unlike the NDP, we do not muzzle our members as that party now does.” (He was referring to Bruce Hyer, who left the NDP to become an Independent after voting in favour of the bill scrapping the long-gun registry.) Nicholson’s remarks prompted interim Liberal leader Bob Rae to raise his hands to the Conservatives and shout, “Free at last. Free at last.” Woodworth’s motion inspired a protest by a group called the Radical Handmaids, who took to the lawn of the Hill sporting red robes similar to those worn in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, about a woman whose sole job is to bear children. The protesters sang songs, rewriting the lyrics with a pro-choice twist. One favourite was U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer.

More leg room. But will he second that?

Independent Bruce Hyer, who suggested this week that he was willing to rejoin the NDP, was given a new seat next to Green Leader Elizabeth May. Hyer was supposed to get May’s old spot, seat 309, the last seat in the House. But that seat backs onto the translation booth and is hard to manoeuvre into. So May let him have seat 308 because that seat can push back easily and Hyer is bigger guy. As of last week, May had not asked him to join the Green party but the two have a history. In the ’80s, May battled insecticide spraying against the spruce budworm in Nova Scotia. Hyer, an environmentalist, heard of May’s success and called her for advice for the same problem in Ontario. May hopes that Hyer will be an ally on some issues she wants to push forward in the House where she needs someone to second her.

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