The art of a senator and a 60th birthday bash

Mitchel Raphael on the art of a senator and a 60th birthday bash
Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

The recipe for billion-dollar decisions

The folks in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office are starting the late nights to prepare for the upcoming budget. Binders have been sent in from all government departments to be reviewed and assessed. Last year one of the biggest beneficiaries of the late nights was Gabriel Pizza, whose slogan is, “Bigger, better pizza.” When the minister has lunchtime meetings with staff, it’s usually over cold cuts that the billion-dollar decisions get made.

Cupboard out, Bloc in

The Bloc Québécois have finally got a small place to call their own in the House of Commons opposition lobby. A free-standing cupboard was moved to create a space. The Bloc has only four MPs and no official party status. As independents they don’t get a designated area in the opposition lobby. New Bloc Leader Daniel Paillé lost his seat in the last election, but since he is a former MP he is allowed to enter the lobby area. Green Leader Elizabeth May is also technically an independent MP, but the Liberals let her use a chair near the phones in their designated area. May says she appreciates the gesture very much, especially when she had problems with her hip and needed a place to sit.

A room with a view

Conservative Sen. Salma Ataullahjan has one of the nicer offices in the Centre Block. She was appointed to the job in 2010 and managed to get the office because the senator who was supposed to move in was allergic to carpet and a new one had just been laid. It has become one of the warmer offices to visit because the senator has hung several of the watercolours she painted herself. Ataullahjan laments the lack of colour she sees around so much of the Hill. She wasn’t permitted to hang the pictures herself because of asbestos issues in the Centre Block. She even had to wait for government officials to move two pictures closer together after they were not hung quite properly the first time.

Liberals plan to supersize

As part of the Liberals’ Valentine’s strategy, they had bilingual buttons made that stated: “Have a heart. Save the OAS.” Currently the Liberal party has two button machines that allow them to crank out instant messages, like the one about Old Age Security, with the help of party volunteers working the machines. Liberal strategist Kevin Bosch says he wants to go bigger and get a two-inch button machine.

A top Tory critic

Rona Ambrose, minister of public works and government services, was recently wearing a huge button that said, “Warning: Old fart’s birthday in progress.” It was part of a surprise 60th birthday party for Ted Menzies, minister of state for finance, at hip Ottawa restaurant Play. Menzies was legitimately surprised, which impressed many considering the difficulty keeping secrets in the capital. He was surrounded by many colleagues and family members, including his wife, Sandy Menzies, a jovial fixture on the Hill. “Who needs an opposition when you are married?” joked the minister. “Actually, they are your best critic.” Also in attendance was former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay and Treasury Board President Tony Clement. Menzies is seen by many as less partisan than most Tories, especially his boss, Jim Flaherty. If Flaherty seeks out other political pastures, Menzies is seen a strong candidate to take his place.

Hear the one about the comic and his MP?

Vancouver comedian Charlie Demers was recently in Ottawa to be on an episode of CBC Radio’s The Debaters. Demers lives in the riding of NDP MP Libby Davies and is a big supporter. When asked what jokes he tells about Davies, he confesses he has not incorporated her into his stand-up routine: “You know you have a good MP when they don’t provide any comedy material.”