The wardrobe and water closets of Nycole Turmel

Green turban for St. Patrick’s day, popcorn at the Sens game, and a closet fiasco
Mitchel Raphael on the wardrobe and water closets of Nycole Turmel
Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

The one time Turmel could not smile

NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel will step down after the party selects a new permanent leader at its March 23-24 convention. One of the job perks has been a new wardrobe. When she became interim leader, party staff went through her closet. Only a few items survived. Because her riding and home is in the National Capital Region, she did not live much at Stornoway; her legacy at the residence of the leader of the Opposition is that she updated the main floor washroom to be wheelchair accessible. The bathroom upstairs is too cold and the water is always freezing, but that will be a challenge for the new leader. Turmel smiles so much that her staff kept telling her to stop looking happy during question period. Her most moving moment as deputy leader was seeing firsthand the First Nations’ crisis in Attawapiskat. She says after that emotional experience there was no danger of her smiling when she grilled Stephen Harper about the reserve crisis. Aside from QP, her only interaction with the PM has been a meeting on the upcoming budget and a few nods and hellos when they passed each other.

Tim Uppal goes green

A special St. Patrick’s Day party was held in the office of Tory MP James Rajotte. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wore bright green socks and encouraged Tim Uppal, minister of state for democratic reform, to get festive. Uppal wore a green turban. The Sikh MP almost exclusively wears blue turbans and confessed he had to borrow the green one. Treasury Board President Tony Clement sported a tie that was only barely green. Clement was happy he scored a green hat at the party, which he said he planned to wear to a Van Halen concert on the actual St. Patrick’s Day in Toronto. Clement is a huge rock fan and noted that in his youth he could rarely afford concerts, but now he has opportunities to see some of his favourite oldies when he gets a chance. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the most frequent wearer of green, had a regular green tie—he has bushels of them because people send them to him. Someone quipped that Clement should have taken one of Flaherty’s hand-me-downs.

When Cotler threatened to strike

This month would have been the 100th birthday of Canadian poet Irving Layton. Montreal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler was a student of Layton’s from Grades 7 to 9 at the Jewish Herzliah Junior High School in Montreal. Layton taught Cotler all of his secular courses. “He never stuck to the curriculum,” says the MP, who credits the poet for lighting the fire in his belly for social justice causes. In the 1950s, Cotler says, parents wanted Layton fired because they thought he was a Marxist and cited concern over sexual imagery in his poetry. Cotler says the poet was so loved by students that a protest was organized and the students threatened to strike. The school was told: “If you fire him, we’re gone.” The parents backed down.

Invented butter in the middle?

Speaker Andrew Scheer was recently recognized at an Ottawa Senators game, where the hockey franchise pointed out that Scheer was once the lad who served popcorn at the hockey games. Scheer maintains he was a superb popcorn server and jokes that he invented the butter-in-the-middle technique.

May and Macphail

As reported previously in Capital Diary, a free-standing closet in the House opposition lobby was moved to create a small space for the four members of the Bloc Québécois, which doesn’t have official party status. Green party Leader Elizabeth May was outraged that the moved closet blocked the bust of Agnes Macphail, the first Canadian female MP. May wrote a letter to Speaker Andrew Scheer. The closet was moved again and the Macphail bust was back in full view just in time for International Women’s Day earlier this month.