By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 10, 2013 - 0 Comments
On Wednesday, Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott was the only Conservative MP to support NDP MP Libby Davies’ bill to implement a sodium reduction strategy. Mr. Vellacott even sent out a news release to advise that he was the “sole Conservative MP to vote across party lines” on the bill.
Ms. Davies’ bill set to implement the recommendations of the expert panel that Tony Clement convened in 2007, but that Leona Aglukkaq declined to pursue in 2010. The panel was subsequently disbanded and the Harper government later declined to partner with the provinces on a reduction strategy.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 10:21 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservative issued a bulletin on Wednesday morning to warn that Bill C-400, an NDP MP’s bill calling for a national housing strategy, would cost a minimum of $5.5 billion per year.
C-400, as a private member’s bill, can’t include “financial provisions” unless the government consents. According to the summary of the bill, its purpose is ”to require the Minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to consult with the provincial ministers of the Crown responsible for municipal affairs and housing and with representatives of municipalities, Aboriginal communities, non-profit and private sector housing providers and civil society organizations in order to establish a national housing strategy.” (With the Conservatives voting against, the bill was defeated Wednesday evening.)
So how does the Conservative party conclude that the cost is $5.5 billion per year? The party’s release cites “Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.” I enquired with the office of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley. Ms. Finley’s office directed me to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. CMHC did, in fact, publish a “backgrounder” on C-400. That backgrounder states “the proposed bill C-400 would cost Canadians over $5.5 billion per year in rental subsidies alone.” The backgrounder goes on for another 684 words, none of which explain that estimate.
So I asked the CMHC: How had this estimate been calculated? To what in the bill did it refer? And how often did the CMHC provide analysis of legislation and private members’ bills?
Wednesday night, the CMHC sent along the following. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 1:22 PM - 0 Comments
Elizabeth May recalls going 17 days without food
On Dec 11, Theresa Spence began her hunger strike with only water, medicinal tea and fish broth as sustenance. Many opposition MPs spent time with the Attawapiskat chief to offer support. Some have had ﬁrst-hand experience with hunger strikes and fasts.
In 2001, Green leader Elizabeth May, then executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, went on a 17-day hunger strike. She was demanding the Liberal government relocate families living near the Sydney Tar Ponds toxic waste site in Cape Breton. Once health minister Allan Rock agreed to meet her demands, she ate a strawberry. Her choice of what to eat first came from a friend who said it was a First Nations tradition. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:54 PM - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael celebrates the season with the Opposition
The NDP held their annual holiday party in the Hall of Honour. Great lighting, booze bars, an oyster bar and food stations were spread over the Hall and and adjoining meeting rooms. It was one of the best parties held on the Hill.
By Julia Belluz - Friday, November 30, 2012 at 10:52 AM - 0 Comments
From climate change and fracking, to the role of the federal government in health care and a national independent science advisor: What do the Federal Health Minister and health critics of our major political parties think about the biggest health and science questions facing the nation?
Science-ish gathered questions from leading Canadian scientists, health researchers and health professionals, and put them to the Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the Federal NDP Health Critic Libby Davies* and Federal Liberal Health Critic Hedy Fry. Read their condensed replies below and unedited responses here:
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Libby Davies rose to list a series of complaints about the Harper government’s general and to take note of a new proposal for child care services. “Now that even the big banks are challenging Conservatives’ priorities, when will the Prime Minister rethink his shortsighted budget choices?” she wondered.
The Prime Minister was obliged here to stand and offer the official assurances. “Mr. Speaker, the policy of this government has been to gradually balance the budget over the medium-term while not raising taxes as the NDP would like us to do and while preserving our payments for vital programs like health care, education and, of course, pensions for our senior citizens,” he reported.
And, in light of yesterday’s news, there was apparently another reason to brag.
“With that approach, Canada has record leading job creation among major developed countries and policies that are highly emulated around the world,” Mr. Harper continued, “one of the reasons I think that somebody like Mr. Carney can be recruited to serve in another country. Canada has a lot to be proud of.”
So apparently Mr. Carney has Mr. Harper to thank, at least in part, for his new job. Perhaps David Cameron might’ve saved himself the expense of hiring a new bank governor and simply renamed his budgets as “economic action plans” and started yelling about how the opposition’s plans to introduce a carbon tax imperil the monarchy. (Oh, the British government has proposed putting a price on carbon? Well, I suppose Mr. Carney’s cause is hopeless then.)
For whatever reason, Ms. Davies thought she saw an opening to turn this around. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 12:01 PM - 0 Comments
Meanwhile, Libby Davies has tabled a bill on sodium reduction that presents an interesting choice for the government side.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq will get another chance to run away from the recommendations of the government-led Sodium Working Group (SWG). Or, she could surprise us all and back a new NDP bill to implement the group’s recommendations to reduce the sodium intake of Canadians. NDP health critic and deputy leader Libby Davies tabled her private member’s bill Monday. It’s straightforward: the health minister must implement the SWG’s Sodium Reduction Strategy, including establishing a monitoring system to track the progress of food companies.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 11:53 AM - 0 Comments
The square in front of Toronto’s city hall was packed for Dear Jack, a tribute to the late NDP leader
The square in front of Toronto’s city hall was packed for Dear Jack, a tribute to mark the one-year anniversary of NDP leader Jack Layton’s death.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 9:05 AM - 0 Comments
Toronto Island honoured the late Jack Layton with the planting of a Jack pine…
Toronto Island honoured the late Jack Layton with the planting of a Jack pine and plaque. The ceremony included a small sprinkling of Layton’s ashes under the tree.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 10:24 AM - 0 Comments
Jack Layton remembered with a jack pine that leans to the left
The Jack pine and Layton’s ashes
The late Jack Layton once asked the residents of the Toronto Islands if there would be a place there for him and his wife, Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow, when they retired. Layton was a champion of the islanders. He helped them fight efforts by the city to expropriate their homes in the 1980s. Layton and Chow, as well as Layton’s children, even house-sat for some of them over the years. When Layton died on Aug. 22, 2011, there was a flurry of emails among islanders over how to remember Layton. They decided a tree in his honour would be best and chose a Jack pine, the subject of the iconic Tom Thomson painting. The name aside, it was thought the tree symbolized Layton. The needles grow in pairs, which they said represented Layton and Chow. The cones open under extreme heat and the islanders noted that it was often the first tree to come back after a forest fire. Even after a defeat, they said, “Jack always returned with a smile.” But because the tree is quite “gnarly,” according to the islander tasked with finding the tree, and few nurseries carry them, it was quite a quest to track one down.
Last week, Chow and many members of the Layton family, including son Mike Layton, daughter Sarah Layton and granddaughters Beatrice Campbell and Solace Campbell, arrived on the island for a ceremony to mark the tree planting and the installation of a commemorative plaque. The family was greeted by a marching band and children on stilts. Islanders spoke of the fond memories they had of Layton, including how he raised money at island charity events using his well-known auctioneer skills. “He once even auctioned off his pants,” the gathering was told. “He was a serious politician, but he loved to have a good time.” The islanders said it was pure coincidence that when you face the plaque and look at the tree it leans to the left. The ceremony included a small sprinkling of Layton’s ashes under the tree. Some of Layton’s ashes were also scattered in a family plot in his hometown of Hudson, Que., last October. His remaining ashes will be placed at the Toronto Necropolis on Aug. 22.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 1:27 PM - 0 Comments
Laureen Harper fosters kittens and Patrick Brazeau’s hair is growing
The Harper most likely to yell ‘Mine’
Stephen Harper’s son Ben is now six foot three and has become a skilled competitive volleyball player. The 16-year-old plays for the Ottawa Fusion Volleyball Club, where the online team profile lists his positions as middle and outside. Ben Harper used to play hockey (with NDP MP Paul Dewar’s son) but has given up the sport his father has written a book about to focus more on volleyball. He’ll be playing in the Canadian championships in Toronto, along with the children of two other famous Canadians, Rick Hansen and Colm Feore. Laureen Harper says so far two Canadian universities have expressed interest in her son joining their volleyball teams. Ben is only in Grade 10. The PM’s wife quipped that this is now the first year she had Maclean’s annual University Rankings issue on hand in light of the college attention.
The undercover life of a political wife
It is difficult to imagine Michelle Obama shopping undetected at Target. But a recent shopping trip by Laureen Harper illustrates the difference between the two nations and their first ladies. Mrs. Harper was recently in Wal-Mart buying large amounts of cat food. She often fosters kittens from the Ottawa Humane Society, so always keeps a hefty supply of special kitten food packed with additional nutrients. The Wal-Mart staff had no clue she was the Prime Minister’s wife; as often occurs with customers buying in bulk at the megastore, she was asked to show her receipt upon exiting. All was in order and she headed back to 24 Sussex with her cat food.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 11:07 PM - 0 Comments
NDP gathered in Centre Block on Wednesday..
NDP gathered in Centre Block on Wednesday..
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 2:54 AM - 0 Comments
Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for…
Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867–1891. The prize was awarded by the Writers’ Trust at the Politics and the Pen gala held in the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier.
- Richard Gwen, Laureen Harper and Sen. Pamela Wallin.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 3:45 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservative press office sends its regards in a note entitled “Mr. Mulcair’s NDP Team.”
Late yesterday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair announced his new shadow cabinet. This was Mr. Mulcair’s chance to demonstrate to Canadians that the NDP is a serious party representing moderate, responsible policies. Yet Mr. Mulcair chose a team that threatens dangerous economic experiments and believes Canada needs higher taxes, bigger deficits and less jobs and prosperity.
The shadow of Mr. Mulcair’s team is long indeed. With 55 critics, the NDP now have significantly more critics than the actual Cabinet charged with running the government – and nearly half are former union bosses or employees.
Mr. Mulcair chose to promote activists who have lobbied against Canada’s ability to develop and sell its own resources. It is a team of those who have consistently put the rights of criminals ahead of victims, repeatedly blocking Conservative efforts to crack down on crime.
It is also a team that cannot be trusted, comprised of many NDP MPs who promised their constituents that they would vote to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry only to break their word when the time came to vote.
And, perhaps most demonstrative of all, Mr. Mulcair chose Libby Davies as one of his three deputy leaders. Ms. Davies’s radical record reveals the stark contrast between her priorities and the issues that matter to ordinary Canadians. Her record includes support for legalizing drugs (Vancouver Province, March 26, 2010); legalized prostitution (Postmedia News, July 8, 2011); and being one of the few MPs who voted against raising the age of consent (Hansard, May 3, 2007).
In the coming days, we will continue to help Canadians get to know Mr. Mulcair’s team and highlight those he has chosen and ways in which they do not stand for the interests of everyday hard-working Canadian families.
That first paragraph is great fun. Do the Conservatives mean to imply that Mr. Mulcair could have chosen a shadow cabinet that they would have praised and welcomed?
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 - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 5:49 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair wished to pick up where Jack Layton had once left off.
Last June, he reminded, Mr. Layton had stood in this place and asked the Prime Minister to identify the government services that would soon be cut. The Prime Minister, Mr. Mulcair recounted, had then stood in this place and said the government had been “very clear” that it would not cut pensions or transfers to the provinces for programs such as health care.
“Our question is also clear,” Mr. Mulcair finished. “Tomorrow, will the Prime Minister meet or betray his word in this House?”
Though returned to the country, the Prime Minister was not returned to the House. Today’s stand-in was John Baird, who proceeded to chop his hand and jab his finger and speak very assuredly of all that is good and unsullied about his government. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 5:57 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. On the second question of his second day, the new leader of the opposition seemed to find the right key of indignation.
“Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives are so confident that the F-35s meet the operational requirements, they should be willing to table the full list in the House today,” he ventured. “Even when they are rigging the process, they cannot get a plane that meets Canada’s needs. It is way over budget, and they do not even have any guarantee of proper industrial benefits for Canada, one of the leading aerospace countries in the world.”
The indictment thus read—and today Mr. Mulcair opted to use the House’s small, portable lecterns—the question was then tabled.
“When are the Conservatives going to show some basic competence with public money,” Mr. Mulcair wondered, “and have an open, transparent, public competition to replace the CF-18s?”
The New Democrat members felt strongly enough about this to stand and cheer. Standing in for the Prime Minister, Jason Kenney rose and offered a rambling, somewhat hesitant, series of sentences, a rhetorical smorgasbord of the government’s finest charges and assurances. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 1:56 PM - 0 Comments
First question: What about these “not-so-nice” things the Conservatives are saying? How are you going to make sure you define yourself?
“The party already gave an indication through the media last week that they were looking at some of our options and you’re going to hear a little bit more about that in the coming week,” Thomas Mulcair said. “And I think that we’re going to start making sure that we do our job of defining things on our end. And with regard to the Conservatives’ continued behaviour, they’re now in their seventh year in power, I think that at some point the secondary school behaviour and that type of thing, a lot of Canadians get tired of it. If they can’t debate on the issues and they have to go personal, we’ll let them continue with that. We’ve got a different approach.”
The lectern already carried a sign bearing his name, his surname in bold. Salt-and-pepper beard, hair parted to the right, he smiled often, as much with his eyes as his mouth. Black backdrop and five Canadian flags. He answered without hesitation. He massaged and directed the words with his busy hands.
The theme of the day was competence. As in a desire to project “confidence and competence as public administrators.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 1:29 PM - 0 Comments
Brad Lavigne, principal secretary in Nycole Turmel’s office, former director of the NDP and a close advisor to Jack Layton, tendered his resignation with Ms. Turmel two weeks ago and will be moving on after 10 years with the federal party.
Meanwhile, Thomas Mulcair has announced that veteran MP Libby Davies will be one of his two deputy leaders, continuing in a post she currently occupies and was appointed to by Mr. Layton. Ms. Davies supported Brian Topp in the party leadership race.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 9:10 AM - 0 Comments
Egale, Canada’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) human rights organization, held a…
Egale, Canada’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) human rights organization, held a special all-party reception in the Hill hosted by Tory Senator Nancy Ruth.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 6:31 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Asking about a new report of political belligerence, Nycole Turmel eventually rounded on the Prime Minister.
“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister must take responsibility,” she ventured. “He created a culture in his party: victory at any cost is what matters.”
Mr. Harper was unmoved. Or at least undaunted. ”What I would say is this,” he said. “The Conservative party always accepts the verdict of the voters. We have accepted the verdict of the voters when we have won and also when we have lost. I would encourage the other parties to accept the verdict of voters as well.”
So there. As one of the Prime Minister’s backbenchers put it recently, this is all about “sore losers.” The public has passed its verdict. And the Conservatives have won a sufficient number of seats in this place to form a government. And that means, should they so choose, they can sit here for another three-and-a-half years. And there’s not much anyone can say to change that.
Of course, that also means—at least until they find a way to avoid this place entirely—that they must sit here most afternoons and listen to these inquiries and provocations. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 2:35 PM - 0 Comments
Five female NDP MPs—three current, two former—explain their support for Brian Topp.
Today we support Brian Topp because we believe it is the best way for us to continue the legacy of Jack’s important work. We know that Brian Topp will work collaboratively with women in the NDP to make important political gains for women. Brian shares our values. He cares passionately about equality for women. His approach to politics is courageous, inclusive and progressive.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 20, 2012 at 3:46 PM - 0 Comments
Brian Topp draws perhaps the most profound compliment of the NDP leadership race to date.
NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp has concluded an energetic five-day swing through BC with a slew of new supporters including Todd Wong, the renowned founder of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy cross-cultural celebration. ”Brian has a wonderful humanistic quality. I found him to be thoughtful and caring – not aggressive or aloof. People that I admire and trust – they trust and admire Brian, and now so do I,” Wong said after meeting with Topp at a Chinese New Year’s celebration.
“Wonderful humanistic quality” improves upon Libby Davies’ gushing that Mr. Topp possessed a “cuteness about him.”