Olivia’s new home and MPs’ weight-loss pool

Cap dairy

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

The biggest loser

For the last few months, 10 MPs have been part of a weight-loss pool. Each contributed $50; the big weigh-in is Oct. 18. Ontario Conservative MP Larry Miller says he has been trying to walk more and avoiding the green shuttle buses that constantly go from building to building on the Hill. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who is also part of the pool, has lost significant weight recently. But the person in the lead, who has shed almost 60 lb. so far, is Saskatchewan Tory MP Randy Hoback. He says he has reduced his intake of food to one-sixth of what he used to eat. He has also given up alcohol until 2012. He says his blood pressure has gone down to the point that he no longer needs medication to deal with it. If he wins the $500, Hoback plans to take the other MPs out for dinner. Miller notes another weight-loss challenge will start after Oct. 18 and that so far 15 MPs are interested.

Olivia and Stornoway

NDP MP Olivia Chow has moved into a new apartment. She and her late husband, Jack Layton, slept in Stornoway only a few nights after he became leader of the official Opposition. She has now gone back to the building where she and Layton lived before the last election. It’s conveniently located a minute from her Ottawa office. Chow said last week she would give her Stornoway key to interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel, but Turmel says she has no plans to move into Stornoway. It’s partly because she is in her position only temporarily but also because she is the MP for Hull-Aylmer, which is just across the Ottawa River. She says the NDP will still hold functions and meetings at Stornoway.

Hey, that’s my bill

The Conservatives have been introducing lots of legislation that they did not get passed while they were a minority government. NDP MP Pat Martin says the NDP will be bringing back some of their own bills that have been around before. He hopes that one will be to ban asbestos. Martin says that, realistically, he does not see the Conservatives supporting that legislation, even though when he attacks them on subsidizing the industry, “you see them look at their feet.” A bill to label chrysotile asbestos as hazardous, the designation that was attempted under the Rotterdam Convention but blocked by the Canadian government, has a chance of passing, says Martin. He says he knows some Conservatives who will support him. Former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl, who has lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure, has publicly supported the warning, which would allow countries to decline imports of the chemical if they feel it cannot be handled safely.

The NDP also plan to bring back their bill that seeks to add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code. Former NDP MP Bill Siksay, who did not run this past election, introduced the bill in the last session. It passed the House and then died in the Senate when the election was called. The bill was reintroduced by the NDP’s LGBT critic Randall Garrison. The newly elected Garrison is a bit miffed because he had to change the bill slightly due to the fact that Liberal MP Hedy Fry reintroduced Siksay’s exact same bill and MPs can’t submit the same bill at the same time. Garrison’s bill is slated to advance first, though.

Who is behind Turmel?

The seats behind party leaders are often filled strategically to send out messages of diversity and representation for the TV cameras. Ever since Parliament resumed, the rows of double seats behind interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel have been filled all the way to the back with women and gay men. This includes MPs Megan Leslie, Dany Morin and Philip Toone, who quipped, “Well, women and gay men make up almost half our caucus.”

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