Mitchel Raphael on what Justin learned from his Whistler days and a Helena homage

’It’s Not your mother’s pot’, Why he put forward that bilingual bill and Butter-tart war
Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

A large cloud of marijuana smoke rose above the packed front lawn of Parliament Hill as pot activists (mostly teenagers) gathered for the annual marijuana demonstration. The Liberal party’s position has been for decriminalization for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But Liberal MP Justin Trudeau is not in favour of decriminalization at all and feels that would be a step in the wrong direction. “It’s not your mother’s pot,” notes Trudeau of the stronger marijuana grown today, in contrast to the weed from hippie days. “I lived in Whistler for years and have seen the effects. We need all our brain cells to deal with our problems.” The day after the protest, a homeless man was seen combing through the Hill grass, looking for marijuana leftovers.


NDP MP Yvon Godin of New Brunswick is the man who introduced Bill C-232, which aims to have all future Supreme Court of Canada judges be bilingual. The bill is now in the Senate. It could be the first bill introduced by the MP to become law since Godin was elected in 1997. He was motivated to put the bill forward after talk that former (bilingual) Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache might not be replaced by a bilingual judge. In the end his replacement was bilingual, but Godin wants to make sure that people can be heard at every level of the federal court system by judges who understand their language. At the moment, they can, he says, except at the Supreme Court where there is one unilingual justice, Marshall Rothstein, who was appointed by Stephen Harper and was also on a short list of Supreme Court nominees compiled for the previous Liberal government.


The Dairy Farmers of Canada held a reception at the Fairmont Château Laurier with cheese platters and desserts, including butter tarts with a sign that stressed they were made with “real butter.” Labelling is a big issue for the dairy farmers. Tory MP Ted Menzies, parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, noted that the huge tariff on butter has kept the price high in Canada, “so there is a reason people cheat.” Sandra Buckler, Stephen Harper’s former director of communications who is now International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan’s chief of staff, checked out the tarts and proclaimed them good but said there was room for improvement. Buckler has been on a quest for the perfect butter tart, like the one her mother made. Unfortunately, that recipe was never passed along before her mother died.


International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda is settling into her new seat, which is right behind the Prime Minister. She shows up on TV when he rises in the House. It’s the first time Oda has been in a second-row seat; she says it’s harder to hear people there so she relies more on her earpiece. If she’s not careful when she takes it out, though, it messes up her hair. Not good when you’re on TV. Oda says no one told her what to do or watch out for while seated in a spot that often has you seen on prime-time news. Fortunately, she sits next to her old seatmate, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, who has had some experience being in the PM’s camera shot. Ambrose reminds Oda not to use her BlackBerry, for instance, when the PM is on his feet. Because of the minority situation in the House, several NDP MPs sit on the government side of the House and are often in the camera shot when certain Conservative ministers stand up. For a while, the NDP had mastered the art of shaking their heads when the Conservatives spoke, but those theatrics have recently lapsed. Still, last week, when Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn rose, NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, who is in Blackburn’s TV shot, flipped his non-existent hair as an homage, he joked, to when Helena Guergis sat behind the PM before getting the boot.