Mitchel Raphael on how MPs get wired and fete Robbie Burns

Some MP hotspots

While MPs can plug their laptops into an Internet connection at their House of Commons desks, there is no WiFi so they employ a patchwork of solutions. NDP MP Glenn Thibeault uses his BlackBerry to create a WiFi hotspot so he can use his iPad. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt keeps her speeches and all her question period notes on an iPad with 3G capabilities. Heritage Minister James Moore uses his iPhone to create a WiFi hotspot; he still uses paper for QP. Tech-savvy Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, does a paperless QP with his iPad. When his Treasury Board meets, they all work off iPads specially outfitted for security. Security is the big WiFi holdup for MPs. Heather Bradley, director of communications in Speaker Andrew Scheer’s office, notes: “There is a project, in the very early stages, to securely introduce WiFi technology within key areas where MPs conduct business on the Hill. There is no specific timeline available at the moment.” Perhaps one day the rest of the Hill can catch up to that vanguard of cutting-edge technology—the Senate. Currently the only WiFi on the Hill is in the Red Chamber.

Why the Peace Tower went white

Last week the Peace Tower went white for a day. “It’s very rare,” says Marjory LeBreton, leader of the government in the Senate, who has been on the Hill since the ’60s when she worked with John Diefenbaker. She said that because the parts of the Peace Tower exposed to the outside are not heated, an extreme shift in temperature can turn the stone white. Last week’s jump from freezing to 11.6˚ C set everything in motion.

The case of unparliamentary pants

The plaid came out as the Speaker held his second annual Robbie Burns dinner. Toronto Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett and her husband, film producer Peter O’Brian, showed up in the new Georgian Bay tartan, which they designed in honour of their cottage in Georgian Bay, Ont. They got it approved as an official tartan in October 2012. The blue in the tartan represents the area’s water; the pink, the granite. For the sgian dubh, the Scottish knife needed to complete any kilt outfit, O’Brian used the blade his father, a pilot, was issued in the Second World War. Vancouver Tory MP Andrew Saxton wore plaid pants to the dinner. Scheer called them “unparliamentary pants.” Saxton’s retort: “It’s for men who don’t want to show their hairy legs.” The haggis served that night was piped in by Toronto Conservative MP Chungsen Leung. When he turned 50, his doctor said he should learn another language or an instrument, to keep his brain sharp. He already knew several languages, so he opted for the challenge of learning the bagpipes. He even performed for Prince William and Kate on their recent Canadian visit.

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