Mitchel raphael on the NDP MP who got bubbly from a Tory

And the Liberal diva troika

Pierre DesRuisseauxPoet laureate a traitor?
Pierre DesRuisseaux is Canada’s fourth parliamentary poet laureate. At his April inauguration ceremony, his predecessor John Steffler had only two words for him: “Good luck.” The post is part-time with a $20,000 stipend and up to $13,000 in travel expenses. “The job consists mostly of having [media] interviews,” says DesRuisseaux. So far he has not written one poem. Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella has asked him to write a piece commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian navy. DesRuisseaux is not obliged to write any poems if he so chooses—his job description says only that he “may” do so, and may also do such things as sponsor poetry readings and advise the parliamentary librarian—but he has asked Kinsella if he could get onto a navy ship for inspiration. Most people in DesRuisseaux’s native Quebec are not accustomed to poet laureates. “It’s mostly an English tradition. It is not a good thing to be the poet laureate in Quebec. It’s not very sexy.” Some in Quebec, he says, call him “a traitor.” But “I consider [the post] an honour.” DesRuisseaux is hoping other politicians will call him and utilize his services. “I think I have some power but it depends on the seriousness of the politicians. Do they take this post seriously or not? This is a question I ask myself. They are mostly interested in other subjects.”

Bev OdaBev Oda’s jazz moment
Cabinet ministers Rona Ambrose and Bev Oda, who are seatmates in the House, spent a short vacation together in Niagara-on-the-Lake. They went for dinner at the Peller Estates Winery Restaurant with the area’s MP, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. When Ambrose got up from the table she saw NDP MP Joe Comartin, who was there celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary. Ambrose joked to Nicholson, “Your critic is here.” She then sent champagne to Comartin and his wife. Oda and Ambrose also caught a jazz festival at the Hillebrand Winery and saw musician Paul Novotny. The first jazz CD Oda ever got was Novotny’s but she was too shy to meet him. Ambrose dragged her over to say hi.

Diane AblonczyDiane Ablonczy’s drag queen history
Conservative MP Brad Trost’s allegations that Tourism Minister of State Diane Ablonczy’s decision to fund Toronto Pride shocked most of the Conservative caucus, and that she was penalized for it, resulted in a Liberal press release demanding the government “end discriminatory tourism policy.” It quoted Vancouver’s Hedy Fry, Montreal’s Marlene Jennings and Toronto’s Carolyn Bennett. All are extremely popular MPs in their cities’ gay communities: in effect, the Liberal versions of Cher, Diana Ross, and Madonna. “The diva troika,” quipped Fry. Ablonczy’s Pride announcement included drag queens, prompting blogger Jeff Jedras to note, “An interesting lesson there for Conservative ministers: call the PMO before you’re seen in public with any drag queens. My god, if they had that rule under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, then Hedy Fry would have needed her own 1-800 number.” But this was not the first time Ablonczy hung out with drag queens. When Ablonczy was running for Canadian Alliance leader, drag queen Enza Anderson had also thrown her wig into the ring. Anderson says Ablonczy was “a class act, talked to me and encouraged me.”

Marlene JenningsWill PP and MJ fix EI?
Remember that Employment Insur­ance working group Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper formed to stave off an election? The group is supposed to finally meet this week. But it’s just for a “briefing.” One member, Montreal Liberal MP Mar­lene Jennings, does not sound too impressed. “We are waiting for the government to get its act together,” she says. Other members of the group include Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, “or PP as I like to call him,” quips Jennings, adding, “Hey, I don’t mind when people call me MJ.” The EI report is due by Sept. 28.

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