By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 22, 2011 - 11 Comments
A statement issued this morning by the family of NDP leader Jack Layton.
We deeply regret to inform you that The Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones. Details of Mr. Layton’s funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.
9:36am. NDP deputy leader Libby Davies talks to reporters in St. John’s.
“He was a great Canadian. He gave his life to this country. His commitment to social justice and equality and a better Canada in the world and at home and I think that’s how people saw him,” Davies told reporters. “They saw him as someone who deeply, deeply cared for people. And they saw that in the campaign and all his work. They saw the courage that he had. He faced cancer and he kept on working, doing his job, because he felt so strongly about what he believed in, so I think people think of him as a great Canadian and we think of him as a great leader, in a political sense but (also) in a personal sense.”
He was a believer. He made that clear in the first sentences of “Speaking Out Louder:” ”Politics matters. Ideas matter. Democracy matters, because all of us need to be able to make a difference.”
9:54am. Mr. Layton’s Facebook page has become a makeshift memorial.
9:59am. Greg Fingas marks the NDP leader’s passing.
After spending a decade laying the foundation, Jack Layton has tragically died before getting to complete the house that so many said couldn’t be built. For now, there’s little to do but to offer condolences and grieve the loss of a great Canadian and friend. But hopefully Layton’s inspiration will only encourage us to finish what he started.
10:01am. A statement from the Prime Minister. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 1, 2011 at 3:10 PM - 6 Comments
The prepared text of Prince William’s remarks on Parliament Hill.
Bonjour Ottawa! Bonjour Canada! Bonne fete Canada! Je suis tellement heureux d’être de retour au Canada – ce pays magnifique – et d’avoir la chance d’apprendre à mieux vous connaître.
I’m excited to be able to share this with Catherine because she has told me that she feels exactly the same way. She heard about Canada not from her parents, but from her grandfather, a wonderful man who passed away last year, but who held this country dear to his heart – for he trained in Alberta as a young pilot during the Second World War.
To be here on Canada Day – a day of unity, a day of coming together as families, and as a nation – is even more special for us.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 1, 2011 at 3:05 PM - 2 Comments
The prepared text of the Prime Minister’s statement at Canada Day ceremonies on Parliament Hill.
To Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests and my fellow Canadians here on Parliament Hill, across Canada and around the world, Happy Canada Day everybody. What a great day. What a great crowd. I thought we had a big crowd last year, but I think this is the biggest yet.
Today our Confederation, our country, is 144 years old. But, having just recently travelled all across this great land, I think it is more accurate to say that Canada is 144 years young. Our country is barely scratching the surface of its full potential, be it here at home or on the international scene.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 12:41 PM - 31 Comments
Shortly after the bells chimed to signal three-quarters past nine—after the Prime Minister had gone to Rideau Hall and after the Governor General had formally dropped the writs—Michael Ignatieff walked out from under the Peace Tower and stepped into the sun.
He wore a bright red scarf atop a long black coat. A dozen Liberal MPs walked alongside him. It was cold, but bright. A row of television cameras and television characters awaited. “We’re here today, a beautiful spring day, a little chilly, but you can feel spring is coming,” Mr. Ignatieff said after arriving at his appointed podium. “The Harper winter will soon be over.”
His retinue chuckled.
“We’re here in front of a symbol of our democracy. And we’re here to start our campaign. And it started because yesterday, in this place behind us, for the first time in our history, a Prime Minister was found guilty by the House of Commons of contempt for our parliamentary institutions. And that’s why we’re having an election,” Mr. Ignatieff clarified. “So this election is not just an exercise in democracy, it’s about democracy.”
Indeed, an hour earlier, Mr. Ignatieff had released a statement entitled “Rules of Democracy.”
“We will be asking Canadians to choose between a Prime Minister that shows scant respect for our institutions,” Mr. Ignatieff continued, “and a Liberal team that believes profoundly that the first thing you expect of a government is respect for democratic principle.”
And on that call to a minimum standard of acceptable behaviour does the 2011 election campaign thus begin.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 7:18 PM - 29 Comments
Ninety-five years ago tonight, Parliament’s Centre Block was destroyed by fire—only the Library of Parliament surviving intact. The blaze left seven dead, including Bowman Brown Law, the MP for Yarmouth. Tom Korski reviews new analysis of what happened that night, including the only known film of the aftermath.
The Reading Room was panelled in tinder-dry white pine gleaming with flammable varnish; scores of accumulated newspapers hung in racks; shelves were piled high with leather-bound volumes. “It was a good place to start a fire,” a firefighter remembered. Within 30 seconds the blaze was so hot an extinguisher proved useless. Within minutes, the room was “like a furnace,” a witness said; “the flames were running on the floor.”
Fire climbed up the walls as woodwork exploded. The whole room, 22 metres long, seemed to ignite with “a roaring noise,” a doorkeeper recalled. Within three hours the building was lost. Among the dead were a policeman and the MP for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Bowman Law. “Poor fellow,” a friend wrote. “He was going back to get something and Fate asked him to give something — his life.”
By John Geddes - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 42 Comments
Peter MacKay and Maxime Bernier have been way off-message this year, but Harper hasn’t slapped them down
In a government defined by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s rigid control, Peter MacKay and Maxime Bernier go their own ways. The Conservatives might sell themselves as the party of small-town values and suburban lifestyle, but MacKay and Bernier dress with big-city flair and have kept company with glamorous women. And during memorable stretches of 2010, they were the two most interesting federal Tories for more substantial reasons—MacKay for the way he pushed the boundaries of cabinet discipline, Bernier for how he made being a backbencher matter.
Many wonder how they get away with it. After all, neither was playing from an obvious position of strength. Bernier had looked marginalized when he resigned as foreign minister in 2008, after he left confidential briefing papers at the Montreal home of his former girlfriend Julie Couillard, whose past romantic links to Quebec’s notorious biker gangs had already raised eyebrows. MacKay is an old-school Maritime Tory who has never seemed in his element among Harper’s hybrid team of erstwhile Western Reformers and veterans of former Ontario premier Mike Harris’s provincial regime.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 6, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 14 Comments
Her tenure as governor general had real drama—the seal heart, prorogation—but that’s not what we’ll remember
One month before she left Rideau Hall, Michaëlle Jean visited Montreal north, the scene two years earlier of a police shooting and a subsequent night of rioting, to listen to the hopes and fears of the neighbourhood’s young people. She wanted to know what was happening and what might be done. She wanted to hear their ideas and solutions. She sat and listened as they variously explained, ranted and pleaded. And she called on them to move forward with the belief that together they could effect change.
Her five years were otherwise defined by so much else—from a constitutional crisis on Parliament Hill, a war in Afghanistan and her tears for Haiti to her fashion sense and hairstyle. Her selection to the vice-regal position was as scorned as it was heralded—her loyalty, and her husband’s, to the country were questioned even while she was celebrated as the personification of all that this country promised. In granting Stephen Harper a prorogation of Parliament when the government seemed set to topple, she presided over one of the most substantive decisions a governor general has ever made in this country. She comforted the families of fallen soldiers and donned a military uniform as commander-in-chief to salute the troops. She sampled seal heart to demonstrate solidarity with the North.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 29, 2010 at 12:02 PM - 10 Comments
In the midst of a Hill Times survey of Parliament Hill, Alison Loat notes one of the more salient points in the debate over the state of our democracy.
“I’m always so struck, and I’m still struck from the interviews that he expresses exactly what so many MPs who left before him say. You know, ‘we came into politics because we were concerned about this lack of engagement with the public and with Parliament,’ however they describe it. Many of the MPs describe themselves as being outside of Parliament. ‘I looked at Parliament, and I don’t see myself there. I don’t see my community represented, and so I want to run and try to change that,’ and yet, x number of years later, they’re complaining about much of the same thing that motivated them in the first place. How have we gotten ourselves into that spiral?”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 4:35 PM - 22 Comments
You see the country; you talk to people; you are in the incredibly privileged position of being able to knock on almost any door, phone up almost anybody, and have them talk to you about what they’re doing, feeling, hoping. My point is that political reporting, for the most part, day-to-day, whether because of dictate, habit, tradition, evolved instinct, ease – I don’t know why – doesn’t reflect this. Instead, it’s about Harper charges this, Ignatieff complains that, and as much as we – politicians and political media – find all this fascinating, most Canadians do not. Who’s to blame is not the point. I think, in fact, we – politicians and political media – bring out the worst in each other.
Unrelatedly, but relatedly, Jeff Jedras sighs in all directions.
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
FESCHUK: To join my new political party, attend our convention, in a back booth of The Keg
Turn your gaze to Ottawa these days and it’s never been more apparent that our political system is missing something besides co-operation, talent, direction, basic manners and a mute button for John Baird. It’s missing the Rhinos.
For a time in the ’70s and ’80s, the Rhinoceros Party was an irreverent ﬁxture of national politics—a fringe undertaking that satirized the empty vows and empty suits of Parliament Hill. The Rhino guys were fun. They made you feel you weren’t the only one to notice most politicians were full of it.
The party made outlandish promises to repeal the law of gravity, tow Antarctica to the Arctic—thereby winning us the “Cold War”—and rewrite our national anthem to make it gender-neutral. (What’s that? You say the last one was actually proposed by Stephen Harper? As if.) Changes to election laws ultimately diminished the party’s influence, though some insist they saw the Rhinos’ satiric handiwork as recently as the leadership victory of Stockwell Day.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 8, 2010 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister’s Office helpfully assures the country that Pierre Poilievre is not a threat to national security.
“He was in a rush and what he did was wrong but he recognizes that, he apologized for it and we think that’s appropriate,” said Harper’s spokesman Andrew MacDougall. “When they say security breach, it’s not like he smuggled in explosives or something,” he said.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 12:47 PM - 0 Comments
With little more than two days remaining in her mandate, Michaelle Jean addressed a farewell reception on Parliament Hill a short time ago.
Breaking down solitudes, according to my motto, ending isolation and building on our desire to live together: these were and remain the objectives of the governor general who stands before you today, a woman born in a country where the social foundations had collapsed, where power was exercised brutally to the detriment of all, a woman who was extraordinarily lucky to be able to pursue her dreams in a country where anything is possible, our country.
And with this luck came great responsibility. The responsibility to spread hope and, as much as possible, give it the means to be realized.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 27, 2010 at 1:46 PM - 0 Comments
The industry committee is in the midst of another day of hearings on the census—you can view the proceedings online here. CP and the Globe have filed early dispatches. The Globe’s Steve Chase is also keeping a running account.
If you’d tuned in a moment ago, you would have noticed that among the witnesses was Calgary talk radio host Dave Rutherford. And if you’re wondering why a talk radio show host would be called before a parliamentary committee to testify on the census, you are apparently not alone. This from Mr. Rutherford’s own Twitter feed.
Hey the politicians must be desparate. I have been “invited” to appear at the Industry Committee in Ottawa about the census long form. Why?
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 1:54 PM - 0 Comments
The long-building trend toward coverage of the presidency and politics as pure sport has reached absurd levels. Obama makes fun of this, as he did in his recent speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, when he displayed a series of mock headlines, summing up how Politico might have covered great debates of the past, including this one: LINCOLN SAVES UNION, BUT CAN HE SAVE HOUSE MAJORITY? As images flashed on giant screens in the Washington Hilton ballroom, Obama added, “I don’t know if you can see, there’s a little portion there. ‘He’s lost the southern white vote.’ It’s an astute analysis.” The nomenclature of the reigning political chatfests and tip sheets says it all: Hardball, Playbook, The Daily Rundown. Forget Congressional Quarterly. It’s the Daily Racing Form. “The whole town is kind of in the thrall, in the grips, of A.D.D.,” David Axelrod says. “It’s hard to keep anyone’s attention focused on anything, and everything is judged through the prism of what this means for the election next November.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 2:32 PM - 0 Comments
If senate reform is, as has been hinted, to be prominent in the government’s fall agenda, it is perhaps worth seriously considering what it is we want the senate to be. And on that note, here is an extensive look at the U.S. Senate, penned by the New Yorker’s George Packer after a few months of observation.
As the senators cast their votes, I noticed Robert Kaiser, the author of “So Damn Much Money,” in the press gallery. I later asked him if, with the passage of two big reform bills in three months, we were witnessing a possible renewal of the Senate. “If you can engage public opinion in a way politicians can understand, public opinion can still blow away money and interest groups,” he said. “But over the past few decades the reflex has grown in the Senate that, all things considered, it’s better to avoid than to take on big issues. This is the kind of thing that drives Michael Bennet nutty: here you’ve arrived in the United States Senate and you can’t do fuck-all about the destruction of the planet.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 16, 2010 at 10:38 AM - 0 Comments
Behind the scenes of the Liberal leader’s cross-country bus tour
The 17-year-old girl from Sarnia, Ont., asked him if he had any advice for young Canadians who are “charting paths for themselves toward a productive future.” Behind him, the local candidate and a few Liberal MPs were positioned to fill the screen. Behind them a half dozen enthusiastic young Liberals stood where they were told. Behind them a steel drum band played.
This was an interview for MuchMusic on a street corner in downtown Toronto. The girl wasn’t one of the network’s regular hosts. She’d written her questions on a piece of paper and she addressed him politely as Mr. Ignatieff. He hasn’t yet lost the urge to satisfy his interviewer and so he went on at some length, recalling some words he’d offered years ago at a university commencement.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 13, 2010 at 2:03 PM - 0 Comments
In the latest print edition of Maclean’s there are something like 1,300 words, under this byline, about Michael Ignatieff’s summer. Here, for your amusement, curiosity or comparison, is the indulgently long version, including a never-before-seen alternate ending.
It could be read as the latest in a series that includes previous sketches in September 2008, February 2009, June 2009 and October 2009. It could also be read as a reference to my favourite rap song of 2008.
Anyway. Make of it what you will. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 4:42 PM - 0 Comments
The bus pulled up at the base of the Peace Tower and, as if on cue, what had been a light shower became a veritable downpour. Undaunted, Michael Ignatieff stepped jauntily from the vehicle, without either umbrella or cap, perhaps a half dozen metaphors trailing in his wake.
He walked to the edge of the front steps, beside where a bar band had been entertaining the assembled with a rendition of Hungry Like The Wolf, before a crowd of perhaps a 150 or so umbrella’d loyalists who crowded in close in the mid-afternoon rain. Behind Mr. Ignatieff stood a dozen or so Liberal MPs, a half dozen red-and-white umbrellas keeping he and them mostly dry. “Welcome to the official launch of the Liberal Express!” Dominic LeBlanc, standing beside Mr. Ignatieff, said by way of introduction.
Mr. LeBlanc proceeded with a joke about the recent warm weather and Liberal intentions to increase the temperature. He then introduced “the next Prime Minister of Canada” to a sufficient roar from the dampened audience. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 4:01 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after the daily changing of the guard ceremony on Parliament Hill had finished, David Lloyd Johnston walked quickly to a podium in the Senate foyer, cleared his throat, and announced himself as the next governor general of Canada.
The grand wood doors behind him were open, the Senate chamber all lit up. His family gathered over his left shoulder—three young girls in matching summer dresses, one young boy in his best shorts. All around him, grand monarchs looked on from grand portraits—Elizabeth II, Victoria, Edward VII, Georges III, IV, V and VI. He spoke first in serviceable, if inelegant, French. He wore navy blue, his striped tie bearing the crest of the University of Waterloo. He seemed happy and not obviously daunted. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 6:27 PM - 14 Comments
The text of the Queen’s remarks to the crowd on Parliament Hill this afternoon.
Prime Minister, Minister, distinguished guests, fellow Canadians.
Aujourd’hui, partout au pays, des Canadiens se réunissent pour célébrer l’histoire du Canada, son identité et ses réalisations. À mon avis, il n’y a pas meilleure raison de célébrer. Thank you for inviting Prince Philip and me to join you all on this special day.
During my lifetime, I have been a witness to this country for more than half its history since Confederation. I have watched with enormous admiration how Canada has grown and matured while remaining true to its history, its distinctive character and its values.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 3:31 PM - 25 Comments
Despite a bit of rumbling, the Ottawa bureau of Maclean’s remains intact, or at least as intact as it was before the quake. The main buidlings on Parliament Hill have apparently been evacuated and are being checked. Langevin reportedly was not evacuated, but the Prime Minister was on his way to the airport at the time.
A news conference by the NDP’s Don Davies here at the National Press Building was interrupted, as recorded below.
The bars on Sparks Street, when last I checked, seemed to be doing brisk business with so many seeking comfort.
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, June 21, 2010 at 8:20 AM - 8 Comments
FESCHUK: Welcome to the audio tour of our federal leaders. If you hear sobbing we have begun.
It’s tourist season in Ottawa, and the Parliament Hill experience is better than ever with this exciting new audio tour.
Hello, and welcome to the Audio Guide. Please step through the doorway of Centre Block, proceed up to the fourth floor and push open the big wooden door. Do you hear sobbing? You have arrived at Michael Ignatieff.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:05 AM - 29 Comments
Of all the causes that have inspired a demonstration on Parliament Hill, surely this is the least worthy.
Jason Spezza may have plenty of critics in Ottawa, but he has just as many fans, and on Saturday more than 100 will show their support for him during a rally on Parliament Hill.
The aim of the rally will be to convince the Ottawa Senators to keep the mercurial centre instead of trading him before his no-trade clause kicks in on July 1. “Every time something goes wrong with the Sens, it seems like there’s a need for a whipping boy and we’re sick of it,” said Louise Tremblay, who is organizing the rally. “Jason Spezza is our No. 1 centre and we don’t want to see him go.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 12:21 PM - 1 Comment
One of the indisputably finer experiences in Ottawa is to walk out of Centre Block’s main doors on a Friday at noon, having perhaps sat through that morning’s session of Question Period, to hear the Peace Tower Carillon ringing an end to another week with, say, Estudios, Op. 31, nos. 2, 3, 4, by Fernando Sor.
And so one of indisputably brilliant moments of Canada Day next month will apparently be when the carillon—as part of a CBC Radio 2 project—plays a CanRock classic of the nation’s choosing.