Why some MPs are swimming together

And why others are sitting in the back row of the House

Mitchel Raphael on why some MPs are swimming together
John Weston Biking/Mike Wakefield

The Hill’s version of ‘The Biggest Loser’

Conservative MP John Weston always cycles in Ottawa. Even when it’s the dead of winter—he simply uses snow tires. He is a fitness buff who runs marathons and has a black belt in tae kwon do. Weston has recently been sporting bow ties in homage to Earl Blumenauer, the Oregon congressman who is a strong supporter of cycling initiatives. The Conservative MP is currently pushing for a “National Health and Fitness Day.” He has put forward a motion that says: “Canada by nature offers abundant recreational and fitness opportunities through such things as our mountains, oceans, lakes, forests and parks; we as Canadians could therefore be the healthiest and fittest people on Earth.” The motion aims to combat the “growing concern over chronic disease.” Weston says MPs can set examples, especially when it comes to child obesity. He is working closely with NDP MP Peter Stoffer and Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan on health initiatives, including the Bike Day on the Hill on May 9. The three are also promoting weekly running and swimming sessions for MPs. On the swimming front, they got Conservative MP John Cummins to take his first-ever swimming lesson and Conservative MP Joy Smith went into the water for the first time in her life. (Smith had a swimming tragedy in her family.) Green party Leader Elizabeth May is also part of the group and says Smith told her, “If I can do it, so can you.” The group encourages each other regardless of skill, although it is acknowledged that Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow is one of the more fit participants and one of the best swimmers.

Veteran MP sent to the back of the House

NDP MP Peter Stoffer has been granted a seat in the back row under the new leadership of Thomas Mulcair. It’s not punishment—Stoffer prefers the last row. He always joked that he had the last seat in the House before the 2011 election. When the NDP became the official Opposition, then-leader Jack Layton had Stoffer placed in the front bench with the other well-seasoned MPs. Stoffer says the perks of the back row are that you can push your chair back and get more legroom and you get to see everyone else. When asked if you can gossip more in the back than in the front row, he says that you can do it in both places.

If it’s not Funky Puffin . . .

The Winery Association of Nova Scotia held a special reception on the Hill in the Speaker’s dining room. The event was hosted by Nova Scotia Liberal MP Scott Brison, who joked about the fact that the majority of Nova Scotia wineries happen to be in his riding has “nothing to do with the consumption of the local MP.” One of the wineries, Avondale Sky, famously transported by boat an old church built in 1844; it has become part of their retail space. Between Easter and Christmas, “that’s my denomination,” Brison quipped. He also noted that he has planted a vineyard on his property but local wineries should not be worried since “it never works out well when politicians get involved in an industry.” Not to be outdone on East Coast wine pride, Newfoundland Liberal Scott Simms touted the taste of one of his province’s wines, Funky Puffin, which comes from Auk Island Winery in his riding. Simms often brings it as a gift for functions.

Welding with your MP

MPs are often asked to make donations to worthwhile causes. Christine Moore asked her fellow NDP MP Megan Leslie, recently appointed one of the party’s three deputy leaders, what she does in those cases. Leslie said she offers her time by providing “karaoke with your MP.” Notes Leslie: “That’s my skill. I like to sing.” Moore, who was a member of the Canadian Forces for more than three years, then said to Leslie, “Oh, I could do ‘weld a trailer with your MP.’ ”