Mitchel Raphael on MPs’ pleasures— from drag queens to grilled cheese

Mitchel Raphael on MPs’ pleasures— from drag queens to grilled cheese
Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Why they skipped Poutine Week

There is always something to celebrate in the office of government House leader Peter Van Loan. His staff looks up what is special for each day on Hallmark’s as well as, which has a food holiday for every day of the year. For National Croissant Day last month, one staffer had to go to two Tim Hortons outlets to get enough for everyone. For International Pancake Day, Van Loan prefers Estonian pancakes that are closer to crepes. On National Gingerbread Day, Van Loan takes matters into his own hands, whipping up batches himself using a Martha Stewart recipe. Last week was Montreal Poutine Week, but the office chose to not observe that one. “We stand in solidarity with the St. Albert cheese factory,” quipped one staffer. The factory, which is just southeast of Ottawa and a major supplier of poutine’s essential ingredient, cheese curds, burned down as poutine festivities got underway.

Ron Paul vs. RuPaul

Calgary Tory MP Michelle Rempel, a rising star in question period, was recently asked by a journalist what she thought of former congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul coming to Ottawa as part of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy’s conference in March. Rempel diplomatically said she respects “a diversity of opinions.” The truth is that Rempel prefers RuPaul over Ron Paul. She is a huge fan of the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has drag queens compete to become America’s next drag superstar. She watched last year’s season, which included contestants Jiggly Caliente, Madame LaQueer and Sharon Needles. The new season began on Jan. 28, but because she has only basic cable in Ottawa, Rempel asked her sister to record the show so she can catch up.

Who has the best grilled cheese?

The Dairy Farmers of Canada packed the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier with a reception filled with chocolate milk and much cheese. One station had special gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches developed by Toronto’s Jason Bangerter, executive chef at Oliver & Bonacini Canteen and Luma at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Diane Finley, minister of human resources and skills development, loved them and says she still makes grilled-cheese sandwiches for her husband, Conservative Sen. Doug Finley. She said the best grilled cheese she’s ever had can be found at the Region of Waterloo International Airport.

Greece or Croatia?

Ontario Conservative MP Eve Adams has a tough wedding decision to make this summer. She is engaged to Dimitri Soudas, who served as Stephen Harper’s director of communications and is now executive director of communications for the Canadian Olympic Committee. He has a lot of family in Greece while she has many relatives in Croatia. While she agrees Greece could use the economic stimulus, no final decision has been reached other than the wedding will take place this summer in one of those two countries.

The Pat Martin move

Outspoken Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin has seen his seat move farther south: He’s now sitting next to Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay but is still on the NDP’s front bench. “I’m not sure what to make of that,” says Martin. One NDP colleague quipped that the Martin move was to get him farther from the Speaker’s chair and to make it harder for the MP’s often colourful comments to be overheard. He previously sat quite close to the Speaker. On Twitter, he once referred to Conservatives as “rat-faced whores,” which resulted in him quitting the social networking site.

On the Web: Visit Mitchel Raphael’s blog at