Mitchel Raphael on Layton’s tight pants

Why Ruby’s not the first and an MP’s wedding

Finger puppet goes after Stockwell Day's tanFinger puppet goes after Stockwell Day’s tan

When Toronto textile artist Gabe Thirlwall and her partner moved to Ottawa three years ago, she discovered “you’re hard up for excitement in this town.” Then inspiration hit as she began spotting the city’s political “celebrities.” She decided to combine her textile skills with political theatre. The result is a growing collection of handmade MP finger puppets. While she likes to poke fun at all the politicians she has made so far, some get worse treatment than others. “I purposely made Stephen Harper look on the fatter side. I feel you can attack a man on his policies, but he probably stands by his policies. But we know he is sensitive about his weight.” Harper and a few of the other puppets have an apple-motif fabric backing “because I thought they were keeners.” NDP Leader Jack Layton has tight orange pants “because he is very fit. Riding his bike to Parliament Hill and all.” There is also an Olivia Chow puppet; most people buy her with Layton so as not to separate the MP couple, says Thirlwall. Trade Minister Stockwell Day “is on a brown fabric because he always has questionable tans—I don’t know if he goes to the tanning salon or uses creams. But every time I see that guy, he’s a different colour.” Green Leader Elizabeth May is made out of a hand-dyed organic cotton. “I gave one to her in exchange for her new book [Losing Confidence].” Each puppet comes with a card saying the head is filled with polyester stuffing and that the puppet “is not intended for small children.” Thirlwall always asks people which puppets they’d like to see and says “there is a big demand for Stéphane Dion.” Puppets made so far include Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff, Justin Trudeau, John Baird (her most popular seller) and Peter MacKay. The puppets are available at and Ottawa’s Workshop Studio & Boutique, where staff say there is a rush on Ruby Dhalla.

Aren't you forgetting about Nina Grewal?Aren’t you forgetting about Nina Grewal?

Throughout the Ruby Dhalla drama it has been repeated over and over in the media that the Liberal MP is the first Sikh woman elected to Parliament. But Conservative B.C. MP Nina Grewal,who is also a Sikh woman, was elected the same year. The myth that Dhalla is the first is something the Liberals keep trying to push, says rookie Tory Sikh MP Tim Uppal. According to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, it’s the Conservative party that’s often “the party of firsts.” He cites the example of people like Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is the first Inuit cabinet minister. Going back, the Progressive Conservatives had Lincoln Alexander, the first black MP and cabinet minister. Heck, even when Stockwell Day ran for leader of the conservative Canadian Alliance they had the first drag queen, Enza “Supermodel” Anderson, make a run for federal leader of the party.

Vivian BarbotThey may have lost the election but… they’re back!

MPs who lost in the last election are back on the Hill keeping busy with new jobs. Former Bloc MP Vivian Barbot, who lost to Justin Trudeau, is now vice-president of the Bloc. Former Liberal whip Karen Redman, who lost to Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth by 339 votes, is working in Michael Ignatieff’s office. Karen RedmanRedman notes it is important to remember you are no longer an MP: “That means not eating the food in the House lobbies because that is for members.”

MP wedding bells
MP wedding bells

Liberal MP Mark Holland is getting married this summer to Cindy Fournier. Her family lives in Quebec City and his is in southern Ontario, so the ceremony will be held in Ottawa. Holland wanted to wed in the Parliament Buildings, something only sitting MPs are allowed to do. But in the end the couple decided to get married in a Catholic church. There will be a reception on the Hill afterwards.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.