Mitchel Raphael on the picture that took 20 years to get

Why the Ruby Dhalla story is not big in the Philippines, and how Bob Rae beat Ignatieff in the Parliamentarians of the Year awards

Gilles Duceppe’s short-lived acting career

Gilles Duceppe’s short-lived acting career

At the third annual Maclean’s Parliamentarians of the Year awards gala, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe was runner-up for most knowledgeable MP and best orator. He found the latter recognition “funny, because in Quebec they are saying I am not that good an orator. But here, I am very good.” Duceppe comes from a family passionate about theatre and film. When asked if this had influenced his oratorical skills, he noted: “I was not a good actor at all. I can’t play a role. I did only once for a Christmas play [in Grade 6 at his Catholic school]. The nuns had me play Saint Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, which is the most awful role for a man to play—the husband of a virgin!” The awards gala was hosted by Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells and Le Devoir columnist and L’actualité magazine contributor Manon Cornellier. Joe ComartinSpeaker Peter Milliken did the toast. Bob Rae won for best orator but could not attend—in his place he sent Toronto Grit MP Kirsty Duncan to fetch his award. (In 2007, when Michael Ignatieff won for best orator, he sent Ruby Dhalla on his behalf.) Toronto Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who voted for Rae as best orator, said the reason Rae beat Ignatieff this year was that as leader “Michael doesn’t have as much time in the House. Bob gets more floor time.” Ontario NDP MP Joe Comartin won, for the second year in a row, the award for most knowledgeable MP. He said he can now place the extremely heavy awards in his Windsor, Ont., office because he just replaced his flimsy desk with a more solid one. For the third year in a row Nova Megan LeslieScotia NDP Peter Stoffer won most collegial. In second place was Liberal whip Rodger Cuzner, who noted: “I guess I’ve got to drink a little more [to beat Stoffer].” Cuzner said he wasn’t surprised that fellow Grit Paul Szabo once again won for hardest-working MP. Szabo sends new MPs a three-page letter filled with things they need to watch out for. “He wants to see everyone succeed,” says Cuzner. Halifax NDP MP Megan Another chip off the old BlocOne of the highlights for her was seeing Garneau at the Canada Aviation Museum. “I really wanted to get my picture taken with him but I was too shy,” recalls Leslie. “So I took a picture of him by himself and it’s in my photo album still.” Twenty years later at the awards gala, Capital Diary snapped the first picture of Leslie and Garneau together. The NDP continued to dominate the awards for the third year, which had leader Jack Layton beaming all night. He noted the most knowledgeable MP, Joe Comartin, is his party’s justice critic and that the best rookie MP is their deputy justice critic. Layton also had kind words for the winner of best overall MP, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney: “He’s always a guy you can approach. I’ve always had a good relationship with Jason. He’s straight up. What you see is what you get.”

Another chip off the old BlocAnother chip off the old Bloc

The Bloc’s Paul Crête also did well in Maclean’s Parliamentarians of the Year poll. He placed third for most collegial MP and fourth for hardest-working. Crête has been an MP for nearly 16 years and was part of the wave of separatists elected when the party ran in its first federal election in 1993. It was a well-timed tribute to the MP, who will be leaving federal politics to run for the Parti Québécois, in a yet-to-be-announced Quebec by-election in the riding now vacant thanks to the resignation of ADQ leader Mario Dumont.

Ruby Dhalla and her shoesRuby Dhalla and her shoes

Last week, parliamentarians created the Canada-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship Group in Room 208 West Block. It was slightly ironic, in that a few doors down from there, in Room 216 West Block, is the office of Ruby Dhalla, the Liberal MP battling for her political career in the wake of accusations by three Filipino women of poor work conditions in the Dhalla household. The co-chairs of the new friendship group are NDP Winnipeg MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Winnipeg Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge. Wasylycia-Leis wore a traditional Filipino top and lent her husband’s matching Filipino shirt to Bruinooge for the celebration of the new organization. The group’s treasurer is Liberal Winnipeg MP Anita Neville. The Winnipeg dominance of the friendship group executive stems from the fact that Winnipeg is home to the second-largest Filipino community after Toronto. One of the first orders of business for the group was to get the name right. Someone forgot the “s” at the end of Philippines on the documents brought to the first meeting. Philippines ambassador Jose Brillantes spoke to the new group. He noted that the Dhalla story, while getting some coverage in the Philippines, is not making big headlines. That, he says, is because there are much more horrifying stories of alleged Filipino nanny abuse out of the Middle East. Nannies there, he says, have been physically beaten and “hit with irons.” The complaints of snow shovelling and shoe shining don’t compare. And speaking of the shoe polishing the nannies say they had to do in the Dhalla household, one Canadian fashionista quips, “With all the shoes Ruby has, she wouldn’t need to get them polished—she always wore new Louboutins whenever I saw her.”

Pages take on MPsPages take on MPs

The House of Commons pages once again took on MPs at their annual soccer match. Former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion assisted Edmonton Conservative Mike Lake in getting the first goal. (Dion was also a popular choice when it came to page requests for individual photos with the MPs.) In the end, the MPs were triumphant, winning 5 to 4. NDP MP Peter Stoffer once again played goalie. He is the MPs’ only goalie and had to be careful this year because last time he broke his hand. The referee for the game was Nicolas Desforges, who plays soccer himself and also works in the Parliament Hill gift shop. The MPs had one cheerleader, Liberal MP Alexandra Mendes. Two women also played. Usually the MPs are lucky if they have one female player. Winnipeg Tory Shelley Glover played her first match. Glover, a police officer on leave, coached soccer for many years. Toronto Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay, who played in last year’s match, returned and won MVP of the game. She scored two goals, including the winning goal in the last minutes of the game.

Germ warfare on the HillGerm warfare on the Hill

After weeks of swine flu pandemonium, the buildings on Parliament Hill have finally mounted their first line of defence. All entranceways now have huge dispensers of hand sanitizer. Vancouver Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who is also a family physician with over 800 baby deliveries to her name, notes that politicians are a high-risk group because of all their hand-shaking. “I have seen MPs come to committee, shake everyone’s hand and then reach for a bread roll,” notes Fry, who keeps a small bottle of hand sanitizer with her at all times. Handwashing instructions have also been posted in Hill bathrooms, but Fry says the images leave out the importance of washing between your fingers.

Maclean’s hosted the Parliamentarians of the Year event in association with the Dominion Institute and L’actualité. The presenting sponsor was Enbridge; supporting sponsors were TD Financial Group, Pfizer, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), and CPAC. Spirits Canada was the associate sponsor.