Mitchel Raphael on MPs reeling from wheelchairs and badly designed stationery

Justin shocked by ‘lazy’ comments, ‘Our country’s greatest shame’, and An ugly letter from Ottawa

Justin shocked by ‘lazy’ comments
Several MPs and senators took up the Canadian Paraplegic Association’s challenge to spend a day in a wheelchair. Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau was participating in the event for a second time. This year, he was given an electric wheelchair and was taken aback by the number of times he was called “lazy.” Defence Minister Peter MacKay liked his special rugby wheelchair; Winnipeg Tory MP Shelly Glover said the chair wreaked havoc on her nails. Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie, who has short nails, also was in pain. Her hands hurt so much she asked her assistant to get her gloves. They made for an interesting fashion accessory: the only ones the aide could find were orange with white skulls on them. Leslie said the experience really was transforming, forcing her to rethink simple things like getting a glass of water and then not being able to bring it back to her desk because of needing both hands for the chair. Her biggest dislike? Sitting in elevators at everyone’s butt level.

‘Our country’s greatest shame’
At an anti-asbestos rally on the Hill, Hassan Yussuff of the Canadian Labour Congress said it was outrageous that at the same time asbestos warning signs were posted on the Hill (where the substance is scheduled for eventual removal), Canada is still allowing asbestos to be exported. Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin called Canada’s asbestos industry “our country’s greatest shame.” Martin actually worked in an asbestos mine after high school in the Yukon. “I turned 18 in an asbestos mine,” says the MP. His father begged him to get out of the mine, even offering him money as an incentive. Martin is now part of an asbestos medical study taking place at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. Major working asbestos mines are located in Quebec in the riding of Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis.

An ugly letter from Ottawa
When a letter from an MP is needed to mark a special occasion such as a birthday or wedding anniversary, it is done up on special stationery with light green maple leaves and the coat of arms of all the provinces around the border. Toronto Liberal Rob Oliphant has been inquiring about whether the design could be changed to something more modern and aesthetically pleasing. Oliphant says because people frame these letters and they can stay up on walls for years, they should look good. He has support in other parties—Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow, for one, also thinks the design is horrible. Some, on the other hand, like Ontario Liberal MP Anthony Rota, like the look and think it’s ‘colourful.’ So far, Oliphant says, he hasn’t heard back from the parliamentary service people who produce the commemorative stationery.

Why she became an MP
The Rotary Club of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission recently held the 60th Rotary Adventure in Citizenship Program in Ottawa. Young people from across the country were brought to the capital to learn about Canada. At a reception, the youth met MPs from their home provinces. Newfoundland Liberal MP Siobhan Coady took part in the Adventure in Citizenship Program many years ago. Back then, when she was given a tour of the House of Commons, she sat in then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s seat. She decided then and there she wanted to become a politician, but not before making it as a successful businesswoman so she would have something to bring to the table. When Coady’s young visitors told the MP that people were making fun of their Newfoundland accents, she told them to tell their taunters to “go stick it.”

Photography by Mitchel Raphael