Rae’s plans and the new Speaker’s muscle

Mitchel Raphael on Rae’s plans and the new Speaker’s muscle
Jake Wright/Hill Times; Photographs by Mitchel Raphael

A special performance by Raffi

In honour of her birthday last week, Green Leader Elizabeth May had Happy Birthday sung to her by famous children’s singer Raffi Cavoukian. Raffi, who was in Ottawa to visit May and see her in action as a new MP, lives in her B.C. riding. The singer and MP met when May hosted an Ottawa TV show, and they have been friends ever since. Raffi had an album out at the time called Evergreen Everblue. The 20th anniversary edition of that album was recently released with two new songs about environmental sustainability, Cool It and Sustainable. Raffi, known for such classics as Bananaphone and Down By the Bay, has not done any new children’s songs for nine years.

That Tory blue is looking fabulous

At the recent Tory convention, party members voted to support any religious organization’s right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, a group of gay Conservatives at the convention, held at the Ottawa Westin, hosted “The Fabulous Blue Tent,” a hospitality suite open to all. One of the organizers, Jamie Ellerton, a former aide to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and now a top aide to Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, rented special pink and blue LED lighting for the occasion and hired hip electronic DJ Trevor Walker from Ottawa’s eclectic Mercury Lounge. The party went on until 3 a.m. Ministers in attendance included Kenney and John Baird. Among the Conservative MPs were Patrick Brown, Rick Dykstra and newly elected Toronto Tory Ted Opitz (who beat Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj by 26 votes in a recount). One Tory attendee quipped: “The Conservatives have made progress clearly by upgrading from a closet to a ‘fabulous blue tent.’ And if you keep throwing fabulous parties they have got to love you.”

Why else would he take the job?

One senior Tory recently noted how, at the 2006 Liberal leadership convention, Bob Rae, now the Liberals’ interim leader, “was the one we were worried about.” The same Tory says many Conservatives are convinced the Liberals, who said their interim leader would not be allowed to run for the next leader of the party, will change their rules again so that Rae gets the top job permanently. “Why else do you think he took the interim position?” noted the Tory.

Hey, a fast-moving senator

NDP MP Peter Stoffer organized one of his infamous soccer games between members of the press gallery and MPs. Past media-MP matches have resulted in the politicians getting creamed. But this time the parliamentarians had youth on their side. Besides the young new NDP MPs, there was Conservative Sen. Don Meredith, 46. Stoffer says it was the first time they have ever had a senator play soccer with them. (It helps that Stephen Harper appoints senators far from the mandatory retirement age of 75.) As he watched Meredith play, Hill Times photographer Jake Wright joked: “He’s the fastest-moving senator in 100 years.” In the end, the game was tied one-all.

That’s enough. Next question please.

Last week, NDP MP Pat Martin questioned the Conservatives’ promise to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly. “Before the Conservatives use the heavy hand of the state to deny farmers their democratic right to vote, will they at least table any cost-benefit analysis, any research they might have, any impact study on the Port of Churchill and the Hudson Bay line in northern Manitoba, the rural economic base for rural communities?” asked the Winnipeg MP during question period. David Anderson, parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board, snapped: “Mr. Speaker, we can see why the member has been moved off the portfolio that he had before, because he made as much of a fool of himself on that as he is on this issue…” Speaker Andrew Scheer cut Anderson off and moved to the next question, to much applause from MPs. Former Speaker Peter Milliken usually let such comments go and almost never cut someone off unless they went over their allotted time. Later Anderson rose in the House and apologized. The NDP said they were impressed with Scheer’s bold move and hope the new era of decorum in the House lasts.