By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael takes in the Speaker’s second annual celebration of the Scottish bard
Speaker Andrew Scheer hosted his second a Robbie Burns dinner on Wednesday evening on Parliament Hill.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 10:02 PM - 0 Comments
Photos by Mitchel Raphael
Liberals gathered at the Westin Hotel for their annual holiday party. Northern Ontario MP Bruce Hyer, who quit the NDP to sit as an Independent, was the date of Liberal leadership candidate and MP Joyce Murray.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
The House of Commons is filling up—the Prime Minister seems to have brought a large stack of paperwork to keep him busy—and voting on C-45 will soon commence. We’ll be here until the end to observer all the sights, sounds, thrills and chills of democracy in motion (specifically the motion of standing and sitting down repeatedly).
3:43pm. The party whips have been duly applauded and the Speaker is now calling the first vote. Thomas Mulcair receives a round of applause as he leads the votes in favour.
3:45pm. If you’d like to follow along with the commentary from the floor, our list of MPs on Twitter is here.
3:47pm. Mr. Harper receives a round of applause as he leads the nays.
3:51pm. The first vote goes to the nays, 156-134.
3:56pm. Michelle Rempel, Pierre Poilievre, Randy Kamp, Mark Adler, Bob Rae, Vic Toews and Ruth Ellen Brosseau are using the time to sign Christmas cards. Greg Rickford is reading Sports Illustrated. Denis Lebel is going through some paperwork. Megan Leslie and Nathan Cullen are fiddling with their iPads.
3:58pm. The second notes goes to the nays, 147-134. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 9:50 PM - 0 Comments
A photo gallery by Mitchel Raphael
MPs and Hill staff gathered at the Government Conference Centre for the annual All-Party Party — an opportunity for MPs to thank those who sweep their floors and carry their binders.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 5:01 AM - 0 Comments
A star-studded photo gallery by Mitchel Raphael
The 2012 Press Gallery Dinner was a night of glamour and mock awards.
By Mitchel Raphael - Saturday, August 4, 2012 at 12:30 PM - 0 Comments
The Hill’s hikers…
For several years, Laureen Harper has been doing an annual summer
The Hill’s hikers
For several years, Laureen Harper has been doing an annual summer hike in different parts of Canada. The hikes are planned over an entire year. This summer she and her friends, including Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, covered 55 km and two mountain passes in Banff, Alta. The group saw a porcupine, grizzly bear, gopher and pika (a small, rabbit-like mammal). Wildﬂowers were in bloom. Every year Harper makes all the food. “We always eat the same food, year after year. I am the cook. We have jambalaya, Chinese food, stroganoff, and I always bake bread at least once,” says the PM’s wife. Ambrose says Harper’s herb and garlic bread is a hike highlight. There were also some good snacks. Notes Ambrose: “Everyone is supposed to bring a treat to share with the group so I carted a bag of marshmallows all the way up there. We carved sticks and shoved mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups into the marshmallows and roasted them on an open fire.” The treat was a huge hit.
To prepare for the hike, Ambrose wore her backpack for two weeks with weights in it and did her grocery shopping with the backpack to prepare her muscles. She managed to limit her backpack on the trip to about 15 kilos. Most of the others came in with backpacks around 23 kilos. This year the group did a circuit up Mosquito Creek and over North Molar Pass, down the Pipestone Valley, and back up over Molar pass into the Mosquito Valley. “And yes,” Harper says, “there were lots of mosquitoes.” At one point the group could not cross a river and an alternate passage was needed. Ambrose says Harper is “very comfortable in the backcountry and she knows how to read a map.” Any bathing was in freezing cold water. They brought along special fast-drying towels, which dried with a few shakes.
On their last night of hiking the group met two couples from Edmonton. One of them said to the PM’s wife: “You look like Laureen Harper.” Then it clicked and the person said: “I saw you in Maclean’s. You’re a big hiker.” As the groups parted ways, she invited the couples for tea at 24 Sussex. This is how Harper summed up the trek: “The first two days we walked 29 km and were pretty tired. Everything was pretty wet and we had to slog through lots of mud. When we hit the Canmore McDonald’s after five days on the trail we were looking pretty grubby. I think people moved out of the way to get away from us.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 4:12 PM - 0 Comments
An urgent bulletin from the Conservative party of Canada.
Today senior Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan confirmed once again that the Liberal Party remains strong supporters of a job-killing carbon tax. Despite being soundly rejected by Canadians, Liberal MPs and leadership candidates continue to advocate for a carbon tax. Kirsty Duncan made her comments in an op-ed for iPolitics.ca where she says the “federal government continues to fail in pricing carbon”. (iPolitics.ca, July 17, 2012)
Kirsty Duncan and the Liberal Party are not alone in their support of a job-killing carbon tax. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is also a devout supporter of a carbon tax saying it “will provide a lot of revenue”. (NDP Leadership Debate, December 4, 2011)
Prime Minister Harper and our Conservative Government have been clear – we will never bring forward a carbon tax that will kill jobs and drive up the cost of everything.
“The latest Liberal call for a carbon tax shows the Liberal Party still has not gotten the message Canadians sent them in the last two election campaigns,” said Conservative Party spokesperson Fred DeLorey. “Only Prime Minister Harper and our Conservative Government can be trusted to never bring forward a job-killing carbon tax.”
While the opposition Liberal and NDP are focused on hitting Canadians will a carbon tax that will kill jobs and increase the cost of everything, Prime Minister Harper and our Conservative government will continue to focus on creating jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity for Canadians.
During the last election, both the New Democrats and Liberals promised to pursue a cap-and-trade system and Mr. Mulcair proposed cap-and-trade during the NDP leadership campaign. The Conservatives once promised to pursue a cap-and-trade system, but they now equate cap-and-trade with a carbon tax because, in Peter Kent’s words, “carbon pricing in any form is a carbon tax.” And while the Conservatives now criticize opposition proposals to pursue cap-and-trade, they seem reluctant to categorically rule out the possibility of pursuing a continental cap-and-trade system at some point.
Ms. Duncan also writes that “despite this negativity and his government’s unabated rhetoric regarding a carbon tax, the Prime Minister did previously promise a price on carbon of $65 per tonne.”
This is seemingly a reference to the Harper government’s Turning the Corner plan, which sought to establish a “market price for carbon” by setting up a carbon emissions trading market and offset credits. (The plan also included contributions to a technology fund starting at $15 per tonne of carbon.) Here is how Stephen Harper explained himself in a speech to the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce in May 2008.
I should mention that while our plan will effectively establish a price on carbon of $65 a tonne, growing to that rate over the next decade, our Government has opted not to apply carbon taxes.
Carbon taxes will establish certainty about price, but not about outcomes. The central purpose of our plan is to create certainty about emissions reductions, not to raise revenue for the government. Our plan will compel industry not just to pay for their carbon emissions but to actually reduce them. Industry has told us they want and they need certainty. Our framework provides that. Clear targets, realistic timelines, fair across the board application. Now industry knows what they need to do and when they need to do it.
Mr. Harper’s distinction between establishing a price on carbon and applying carbon taxes would seem at odds with Mr. Kent’s contention that carbon pricing in any form is a carbon tax.
Here is Andrew Coyne’s comparison of Stephane Dion’s and Mr. Harper’s plans during the 2008 election.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, June 1, 2012 at 2:26 PM - 0 Comments
Tory attacks and cake…
For weeks the Conservatives have been attacking the NDP online
Tory attacks and cake
For weeks the Conservatives have been attacking the NDP online and with press releases entitled, “Get to know Mr. Mulcair’s NDP shadow cabinet.” In one release, ethics critic Charlie Angus, who went after the government for $16 orange juice, was attacked for changing his vote on scrapping the long-gun registry. Another highlights Treasury Board critic Mathieu Ravignat as someone who ran for the Communist Party of Canada in 1997. The features appear on mulcairsndp.ca alongside pictures of NDP MPs from the parliamentary website. “It’s like a comedy,” says NDP House leader Nathan Cullen. But he also flagged it to Speaker Andrew Scheer in an informal conversation. Cullen says those are taxpayer-funded pictures being used for partisan attacks—a misuse of government services. “If you have the courage of your convictions, then pull out your Visa.” So far the Conservatives have not launched attacks directly against Thomas Mulcair himself. Cullen says his plan is to continue to be upbeat and put out positive messages in the spirit of Jack Layton. When Cullen first became House leader he got a cake from Government House leader Peter Van Loan at their first meeting. Talk about a mixed message, jokes Cullen: “If you are going to be mean, then be consistently mean.”
The Punjabi Peter Mansbridge
Last week when the House was not sitting, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney did the rounds of ethnic media. One stop was the Gaunda Punjab Radio and TV program hosted by Joginder Bassi, who Kenney calls the “Peter Mansbridge of the Punjabi community but with hair.” When Kenney arrived at the station, he was greeted outside by Bassi’s people. Once inside, he was presented with blue flowers, which he gave to one of his staffers, Marlee Mozeson. Bassi has been doing his show for 30 years. He’s watched as the Punjabi community has shifted more to supporting Conservatives than Liberals over the years. Bassi says Kenney’s introduction last year of the “Parent and Grandparent Super Visa,” which allows qualified family members to make multiple visits over 10 years, has been well received by the Punjabi community. After the interview, Bassi asked Kenney to attend a special Punjabi day at Canada’s Wonderland. “Do I have to go on the roller coasters?” Kenney asked.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, April 13, 2012 at 10:54 AM - 0 Comments
Boxing-match bets and flourless cakes
Linda Frum way ahead of cooking trend
When it comes to cooking during the Jewish holiday of Passover, Tory Sen. Linda Frum mastered flourless cakes long before they became a hot trend. The Passover prohibition against using leavening in bread also applies to cakes. Frum’s twins, who turn 18 on April 16, usually have their birthdays during the holiday, which this year goes from April 6 to 14. In the past, that has meant a lot of special Passover birthday cakes. Liberal interim leader Bob Rae also celebrated Passover. His wife Arlene Perly Rae and children are Jewish. Perly Rae has created her own Haggadah, the religious text read at Passover Seders. She took parts from different versions of the Haggadah to make what she says is a more interesting and inclusive read. The big bonus is that hers is shorter, a huge plus for a service known to drag on.
HST or Human Sexuality Tax
Could the deficit be reduced by Canadians on their backs as opposed to on the backs of Canadians? The recent striking down of Ontario’s prostitution laws prompted one Liberal insider to note that if the HST could be applied to sex work, it would be called the Human Sexuality Tax.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 2, 2012 at 5:59 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Kirsty Duncan rose and reminded the Environment Minister of what he had said three days ago.
“Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of the Environment said of the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy: ‘It was created before the Internet when there were few such sources of domestic independent research and analysis on sustainable development.’ This is no longer the case. There are now any number of organizations and university-based services that provide those services.”
“Very well,” the Liberal MP said, pausing for a moment as if about to say something quite dramatic.
“Can the minister name these organizations and services?” she finally asked.
Peter Kent stood here, not to answer Ms. Duncan’s question, but instead to essentially repeat what Ms. Duncan had just said he said. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 4:37 PM - 0 Comments
Liberals are spending much of the day discussing the concept of “evidence-based policy”—this curious and revolutionary and courageous notion that the government’s actions and promises should acknowledge demonstrable reality. Munir Sheikh, the former chief statistician, addressed the convention this morning. Delegates have spent the rest of the day in sessions dedicated to discussing this novel approach in the context of various policy areas.
One of these sessions was to deal with the environment, which thus seemed like something of a test: could the Liberal party have a discussion about evidence-based environmental policy that didn’t deal with the preferred prescription of the vast majority of expert analysts?
The answer is: almost. But with a few minutes to spare in the hour a young man from the riding of Mount Royal stood and put the Liberal soul up for discussion. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 8:42 PM - 59 Comments
Meet Michelle Rempel, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of the Environment. She is short and smiley and perfectly patronizing. She speaks without holding a script, gestures with confidence and seems even to listen to what her counterparts are saying (even if only in search of a turn of phrase she can turn back on her opponent). Only 31 and barely six months into her first term in Parliament, she is already feigning indignation like she was born here. And so the government side is surely thankful that Peter Kent has been out of town this last little while. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 6:02 PM - 144 Comments
The Scene. Whatever Joe Oliver and Peter Kent are actually accomplishing in their capacity as ministers of the crown, these two children of the 1940s have at least the basis of a promising buddy comedy.
If memory serves, Mr. Oliver’s first forays were mostly unmemorable. Then, at some point, the Natural Resources Minister started shouting.
Recent weeks have been spent metaphorically shaking his fist at the official opposition and imploring them to get off his metaphorical lawn. He has linked them to Hugo Chavez and “European socialists” and “jet-setting Hollywood stars” and, worst of all, “European bureaucrats.” He has said that their only priority is to protect the interests of “their foreign socialist comrades and billionaire U.S. limousine liberals.” He has accused them of standing in the way of social services for children and health care for the elderly. He has ventured, in the course of a single sentence, that “NDP members have never met a job creating private sector policy or project that they do not want to kill, a tax they do not want to raise, a regulation they do not want to impose, a freedom they do not want to curtail, an issue they do not try to use to divide Canadians, and a fictitious problem they do not want the government to solve at great cost.” One day he concluded his remarks with a cry of “send in the clowns!”
All of this, apparently, because the New Democrats have some reservations about the Keystone pipeline project. And all of it committed to the record in the sort of tone—grumbly and impatient—that is generally employed to advise hippies that they might cut their hair and get a job. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 21 Comments
With a written statement of the minister in her possession, Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan again confronted Peter Kent yesterday about cuts to ozone monitoring.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment has twice denigrated reporters when his position is challenged. But clearly the real problem is the news reader across the way. I have the briefing note which says there is no duplication in Canada’s ozone monitoring networks, which means they cannot be optimized and streamlined, only cut. Answers to an order paper question signed by the minister also says there is no duplication. Will the government finally admit there will be cuts to the ozone program?
Mr. Kent stood here and dismissed Ms. Duncan’s premise entirely.
Mr. Speaker, I reject all of the assumptions of my honourable colleague yet once again. I would also again suggest that she use more reliable research than that to which she has made a practice of using.
By Anne Kingston - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 12:06 PM - 35 Comments
Private member’s bill would see federal government fund clinical trials of controversial treatment
On Monday, a group of Liberal MPs swung the ongoing debate over CCSVI treatment for MS patients back into the federal court, metaphorically speaking. At a press conference held in the Parliament Hill foyer, Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan announced a private members bill advocating clinical treatment trials would be tabled at the earliest possible date. Liberal Senator Jane Cordy plans to introduce a similar measure in the Senate.
CCSVI has been a political hot-potato since late 2009 when research by Italian vascular surgeon Paolo Zamboni identified venous blockages in the neck and chest of MS patients; clearing them with a basic balloon angioplasty, he reported, significantly reduced symptoms, even arrested the degenerative disease’s progression in some cases. Canadian MS patients, estimated to number between 55,000 and 75,000, who clamoured for testing and treatment were told it was not available. Many neurologists—along with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada– expressed concern the procedure was unproven and risky. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, May 23, 2011 at 9:35 AM - 33 Comments
The final humiliation: a cash bar…
Last week the Liberals gathered the night before
The final humiliation: a cash bar
Last week the Liberals gathered the night before what would be their final caucus meeting with both defeated and elected MPs. One Liberal staffer called the party a “wake”; a Hill security guard predicted it would end early because it was a cash bar. Surviving Toronto Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan arrived with a bandaged hand that will need surgery. “I fell on Wednesday and the government fell on the Friday,” she says. Five weeks campaigning didn’t help: “Even when you break your hand,” said Duncan, “people still want to shake it.” Some days ended with Duncan in excruciating pain. Defeated MP Marlene Jennings arrived with a white cane, announcing that she is now officially vision-impaired. The one person who spoke at the party was surviving MP Ralph Goodale, but no one seemed to be listening; former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff left before Goodale spoke. The Liberals’ only two rookie MPs were there: Sean Casey from Charlottetown and Ted Hsu from Kingston, Ont., which was previously represented by Speaker Peter Milliken. Hsu’s win was a surprise for the Conservatives, who for years said that once Milliken retired they would easily win the riding.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 12:21 PM - 20 Comments
The best cat fight on the Hill
Why this MP needs a lot of coats
Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan keeps boxes of toothpaste at her constituency office. Because she represents Etobicoke North, one of the poorest ridings in the country, she has turned her office into a quasi drop-in centre for those in need. During the winter, she keeps a collection of donated coats because some constituents come jacket-less to her office in freezing temperatures. About 65 people a day come through. (Duncan keeps only one staffer in Ottawa so she can have more in Toronto.) One of those seeking help was particularly memorable: a woman named Linda came in with a crumpled brochure the MP had distributed, which said, “We can help.” Linda had been severely abused by her husband, was terminally ill, and had no official status in Canada. “You said you would help,” she said. Duncan asked Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to give her special status so she could receive palliative care and he did. When Duncan visited Linda in the hospital, she brought her a necklace: “I don’t think she had anything that sparkled in her life.” Linda said she had a gift in return and sang a song to her visitors. Before she died the nurses helped make a recording of her singing, and Duncan helped set up an endowment fund at a shelter in her memory.
Jason versus Justin
The next election will be a battle for the hearts of Canada’s ethnic communities. Things have heated up between Liberal immigration critic Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Trudeau attacked Kenney for mixing partisan politics and government business with such things as award certificates. (In 2009, Ottawa Chinese restaurateur Yang Sheng got one “for creating an authentic multicultural dining experience.”) Then when Trudeau evoked his father’s name in question period, Kenney went for blood: “Mr. Speaker, let me tell members what his father did with immigration when we hit a recession, led by the Liberals, in the early 1980s. He slashed immigration to 80,000. Our government has maintained historically high immigration levels during the recession. In terms of social justice, his father’s government refused to apologize to Chinese Canadians for the head tax, to the Ukrainian Canadians for their internment, to Japanese Canadians for their internment, or for the shame of the Indian residential schools, unlike our Prime Minister.” Kenney has spent a lot of time working with ethnic communities who have, he has noted, “conservative values” but who vote Liberal. The minister has mastered the art of eating all sorts of cuisine, including getting out of difficult culinary situations by keeping a napkin in his pocket to help make some delicacies that don’t agree with his stomach discreetly disappear.
Power to 16-year-olds
NDP MP Don Davies recently introduced Bill C-634, a private member’s bill that would see the federal voting age lowered from 18 to 16. Davies says that with voter turnout getting more dismal, a “get them while they are young” approach will hopefully work. Davies notes his main rationale for lowering the voting age is that 16-year-olds work and pay taxes in most provinces. In some, he says, it is even lower. Davies says he took as his inspiration the famous American Revolution phrase: “no taxation without representation.” It’s an idea that has been tried before in Parliament, but Davies hopes this time it will see success.
Layton, Chow and the election
Last week pundits were mixed about the chances of an election. On CBC’s The National, the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert thought yes, while Andrew Coyne of Maclean’s said no way. The panellists agreed, though, that Jack Layton was skilled at keeping people guessing which way his party would go. Maybe Layton’s wife provided a clue. Toronto MP Olivia Chow secured her campaign office last week.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 5:24 PM - 42 Comments
Chris Selley questions the medical wisdom of politicians.
It took some flaming cheek for Mr. Dosanjh and Ms. Duncan to claim that “disregarding experts is a dangerous precedent” in an op-ed that involved disregarding — not to mention disrespecting — literally dozens of medical practitioners and researchers. But precious few politicians are capable of resisting the lure of emotionally charged issues, and the opportunities they afford to care out loud. From this appalling cynicism, there seems very little hope of liberation.
For the record, there are four physicians in the House of Commons: Liberals Carolyn Bennett, Hedy Fry, Keith Martin and Bernard Patry.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 29, 2010 at 4:52 PM - 5 Comments
The fourth annual What a Girl Wants charity dinner held in the Fairmont Château…
The fourth annual What a Girl Wants charity dinner held in the Fairmont Château Laurier ballroom raised money for the Canadian Liver Foundation with the help of local firefighters peeling off their uniforms, a fashion show and a performance by Ottawa drag queen Dixie Landers who lip-synced Better Midler’s cover of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Below, Landers with Vancouver Liberal MP Hedy Fry.
Montreal Liberal MP Justin Trudeau.
(Left to right) Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, National Post columnist Don Martin and Laureen Harper.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 7:02 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Once more, Ralph Goodale stood and beseeched the Prime Minister to explain himself, at least as it pertains to the potential sale of Saskatchewan’s PotashCorp. To his credit, the Prime Minister stood and did just that. Which is to say, he rose and explained that he and his position were in this case entirely irrelevant.
“I can assure him,” Mr. Harper assured Mr. Goodale, “the Minister of Industry will make a decision according to a legal process.”
Unsatisfied, Mr. Goodale turned to the Minister of Agriculture, wondering if perhaps the honourable Gerry Ritz, the elected representative for a larger parcel of land in Saskatchewan, might have something to say about the matter. Mr. Ritz leaned forward as if willing to respond, but it was Tony Clement who stood, the Industry Minister so emboldened as to refer to himself in the third person.
“There is a process under the Investment Canada Act which leads to the assessment by the Minister of Industry of the net benefit to Canada test,” he said of himself. “That is what is being done and that will be delivered to the people of Canada in the due course of time.”
One will forgive Mr. Clement if he lingers for the fullness of this allotted time, if he revels in this newfound regard. For in this moment, Tweeting Tony is quite possibly the most powerful man in Ottawa. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Special Olympics Canada held a reception on the Hill. (Left to right) Olympian Mark…
Special Olympics Canada held a reception on the Hill. (Left to right) Olympian Mark Tewksbury, Government House Leader John Baird and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Democratic Reform.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, September 24, 2010 at 11:35 AM - 0 Comments
This week saw the big showdown over the long-gun registry. MPs voted 153-151 in…
This week saw the big showdown over the long-gun registry. MPs voted 153-151 in favour of a Liberal motion that kills Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner’s private member’s bill to get rid of the registry. Just before the vote, a small group of young protesters stood in front of the Peace Tower demanding the registry be scrapped.
Bruce Hyer after the vote. He was one of the few NDP MPs who voted to keep the registry.
The Liberals held a victory party at D’Arcy McGee’s pub after the vote.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 7:00 AM - 6 Comments
Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) held a reception on the Hill to highlight the…
Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) held a reception on the Hill to highlight the work they are doing in Africa. Below, Susan Smith of Bluesky Strategy Group and Tim Powers of Summa Strategies.