The first day back, and two MPs’ ‘messy breakup’

Mitchel Raphael on the first day back, and two MPs’ ‘messy breakup’

Photography by Mitchel Raphael

Jack Layton’s chair to go to his family

MPs arriving back on the Hill for the first day of Parliament were greeted by black coffins covered in cut-out, pastel-coloured butterflies on which were written the names of murdered and missing Aboriginal women. It was part of an awareness campaign coordinated by Walk4Justice. That morning, there were tributes for Jack Layton, and his green House of Commons chair was left empty for the day. NDP MP Peter Stoffer says his caucus is buying the chair Layton sat in for $950 and presenting to the late leader’s family. MPs wore orange ribbons in honour of Layton, though at question period it was mostly NDP, Liberal and Bloc parliamentarians wearing them. That included both interim Liberal leader Bob Rae and interim Bloc leader Louis Plamondon. On the Hill for the tribute was former NDP leader Alexa McDonough. The day before, she had helped with the orientation sessions for new MPs from all parties, covering issues ranging from office management to how to avoid temptations like the endless supply of booze at Hill functions. Question period started with interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel reading her questions from her papers, which lessened the impact. She was followed by NDP finance critic Peggy Nash, whose voice boomed out. “I’m used to speaking at rallies,” quipped Nash, who is seen as a strong potential NDP leader candidate.

MPs call it splits

Liberal MPs Mark Eyking and Rodger Cuzner were both elected in 2000 and until Parliament resumed on Monday they were also roommates. “It’s a messy breakup,” jokes Cuzner. “Eyking wants visitation rights for the clock radio.” In reality, two of Eyking’s sons have moved to the capital. One sells real estate and the other is at university. That means Eyking’s wife is in the capital more often too. Cuzner jokes he was “tripping over” Eykings at their place. So he moved out and is now living with his nephew.

Ambrose has nothing to worry about

Over the summer, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he planned on being more civil in the House. He was even eying the title of “most civil MP,” currently held by Minister of Public Works Rona Ambrose. (The title was based on a study done by McMaster University that came out last June.) On the first day back Baird heckled NDP MP Charlie Angus about, you guessed it, civility. Looks like Ambrose has nothing to fear.

He got more than an earful this time

Just before Parliament resumed, Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Simms had eye surgery so he no longer has to wear glasses. His summer included judging the Beer and Cracker Contest at Rocky’s Place in Trinity, which is in his riding. The contest consisted of teams of four, with each team member having to drink a beer, eat four crackers and then whistle before the next person could repeat the pattern. As judge, Simms had to confirm the whistle and he had to get up close to hear it. “As a politician I am used to getting an earful,” he said, “but this time my hair was filled with crackers and spit.”

Martin’s merger talk

NDP MP Pat Martin has been getting an earful from all sides about the issue of merging the New Democrats with the Liberals. He says he will present himself as a unity candidate for the NDP leadership if no one else steps up to the plate. His philosophy on a merger is a bit like—to borrow from former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff—a merger if necessary but not necessarily a merger. He says his ideas are being reduced to just the merger option but what he is really trying to do is simply look at options to defeat the Conservatives, which could include some parties not fielding candidates in certain ridings.

Brison baby-making under embargo

Liberal MP Scott Brison is keeping tightlipped about his and his partner Maxime Saint-Pierre’s baby plans. Will they use a surrogate mother? Adopt? They’re not saying. Asked if he has any names picked out, Brison smiles and says, “These are important decisions.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.