‘Please don’t make me wear that’
Hostess Marguerite Charlebois has been working at the Parliamentary Restaurant for 28 years. Among her other duties there, she is the sartorial gatekeeper. With the exception of Aboriginals and people in military uniforms, all men eating in the restaurant must wear a jacket and tie. (Women, on the other hand, can wear practically anything they want.) Cape Breton Liberal MP Mark Eyking is considered one of the troublemakers at the restaurant. He recently tried to slip past Charlebois and get in—once again—without a tie. In a situation like this, Charlebois takes the open-shirted MP to the dreaded tie drawer and makes him choose one, or grabs one of those on loan herself and brings it to him. Then come the groans: “Please don’t make me wear that tie.” The dress code for men is one of the few things that hasn’t changed in the years Charlebois has been there. Smoking is no longer permitted; nor are candles allowed on the tables. (They were deemed a fire hazard.) Long gone from the menu, she says, are rack of lamb, escargots, and the calorie-rich dessert sabayon. About 10 years ago, healthier items started to appear; the portions today are also smaller and the buffet has gone from daily to once a week, on Wednesdays. When Charlebois started at the restaurant (Pierre Trudeau was prime minister), she was a waitress and often served the table where senators sat. Back then, some of the senators would ask her not to let them order certain items because of a doctor’s advice. Even when they begged for their favourite dishes, says Charlebois, she kept them on the straight and narrow. It is rare to see a prime minister in the Parliamentary Restaurant—they’d be mobbed, she explains. Still, back in the Trudeau days, after Hill events the restaurant catered, Trudeau “used to come into the kitchen where we were cleaning up and thank all the staff. He always did that. He was such a gentleman. He was the only [prime minister] to do that.”
No high heels on the warship please
Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie was one of several high-profile women invited to spend the night on the HMCS Halifax to mark the appointment of the ship’s new commander, Josée Kurtz, the first female captain of a major Canadian warship. “Guests are advised to dress warmly in layers,” the invitation noted, “and wear comfortable, flat-heeled shoes.” The ship stayed in Halifax Harbour due to the six-metre swells but the women got a feel for the real thing with several drills. “We started off with ‘man overboard,’ ” says Leslie. Starring in that exercise was a dummy named Oscar. Then they engaged in a computer-simulated war exercise: a torpedo was launched at them, forcing evasive action. “We tried to outmanoeuvre the torpedo but didn’t, so we had to get ready for impact,” says Leslie. After the war games, the women had sherry on the bridge, then a formal dinner in the officers’ mess, ending the night with port and cheeses. Leslie says she slept well on the rocky waters: “I had a lot of port.”
Since moving into Stornoway, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, have been entertaining and hosting receptions such as the one marking International Women’s Day. With superb food provided by chef Josh Drache (who was there when Stéphane Dion was leader), it can be hard to get people to leave. How do the couple hint it’s time? Says Zsohar, “We just go upstairs and go to bed.”
Layton and Che
NDP Leader Jack Layton and his MP wife, Olivia Chow, organized a screening of the documentary Downstream. The film, which was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, chronicles the deteriorating health of Aboriginal communities living downstream from Alberta’s oil sands. The film was screened at a Toronto rep theatre between parts one and two of Steven Soderbergh’s film Che. Organizers say the scheduling was purely coincidental.