‘Knife control’ and Canada’s highland dancing MP

Mitchel Raphael on 'knife control' and Canada's highland dancing mp

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Scots on the Hill

Andrew Scheer continued the Speaker’s tradition of hosting a Robbie Burns dinner. Scheer does not own a kilt but did wear a plaid tie. Green Leader Elizabeth May said grace before MPs dug in. May, who had to put her theology studies on hold after moving to B.C., sported a plaid dress she bought at Suttles & Seawinds in Nova Scotia, and plaid shoes she’s had since 1991. Since she rarely wears them, they’re in pretty good shape, she says. Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino sported a small pin of an F-35 and Canadian flag. “We’ve procured this one,” quipped the minister, whose department’s multi-billion-dollar fighter jet procurement process has been hitting some snags.

Kirsty Duncan also attended Scheer’s dinner. The Liberal MP has deep Scottish roots. Her father is Scottish, and her mother played the bagpipes (although she was of Polish-Ukrainian descent); Duncan, who speaks Gaelic, did her Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh. She also danced for more than two decades with the 48th Highlanders of Canada, and still teaches Highland dance classes. Her record for most Robbie Burns events as a dancer was 53 over a two-week period in Toronto and southern Ontario. Her love for Burns came from her dad, Errol Duncan. As a child, she memorized a Burns poem every night. Her father gave her a book of Burns’s work that had been owned by her great-great-grandfather; its pages have grown thin, she says, and the cover is long gone.

At the Speaker’s dinner, Tory MP Ed Holder addressed the haggis. Before cutting into the meat he pulled out a small dagger. “You call that a knife,” shouted one attendee. “Knife control!” joked interim Liberal leader Bob Rae. “Is that knife registered?” he added. Holder then pulled out a huge sword and in one fell swoop, split the haggis in half.

Be it resolved . . .

Parliament’s reopening on Jan. 30 coincided with rookie Tory MP John Williamson’s 42nd birthday. The former communications director for Stephen Harper—and new member for New Brunswick Southwest—began the day with a run, which he’s pledged to do three times a week. Williamson said several rookie MPs, including him, were ill at the end of the last session. He’s making his health a top priority this year. There is a gym at his Ottawa residence, he says, and plenty of facilities on the Hill at his disposal. Outdoor runs, however, will have to wait until spring, he says.

‘Brooching’ health care

Liberal MP and Aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett was recently seen sporting a brooch incorporating an Aboriginal medicine wheel ringed by sweetgrass. Its four colours—black, white, red, yellow—represent humankind’s four races as well as the four areas that need to be addressed by health care: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. These, she added, were also the pillars of Liberal health care under former leader Paul Martin. Bennett has been stocking up on the brooches and recently sent one to Aboriginal educator Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, who spoke at the Liberal convention in Ottawa last month.

Tories make nice

For the first question period of 2012, the final member’s statement went to rookie Conservative MP Michelle Rempel. Usually the government uses the day’s final statement to attack the official Opposition (witness the oft-repeated “not fit to govern” sound bite). This time, the government used it to congratulate itself for recent accomplishments. The second-last member’s statement, meanwhile, was given by Charlie Angus; the NDP treasury critic used the opportunity to rake Treasury Board President Tony Clement over the coals for his role in the $50-million G8 spending controversy. In the old days, statements by members were all about giving MPs a chance to talk about their ridings and bring local items of note to the House. How things have changed.

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