Mitchel Raphael on blue flowers and roller coasters for Jason Kenney

Capital diary

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

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.

Will 2014 be the year of the brain?

Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan was given the Pioneer in Healthcare Policy Award from the Society for Brain Mapping & Therapeutics. The organization says she is receiving the award for “creating legislation that has impacted research funding and better health care delivery in Canada.” Past winners of awards from the society include Ted Kennedy (2009) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (2008). Duncan has been working on getting the House to pass a motion to declare 2014 the Year of the Brain. “Thirty years ago we looked at the heart, and now you can get a heart valve or even a new heart,” says Duncan, a medical geographer, who is also pushing for a national strategy on dementia.

Speech begins in tears

Minister for Status of Women Rona Ambrose hosted a reception for the launch of Aruna Papp’s book Unworthy Creature: A Punjabi Daughter’s Memoir of Honour, Shame and Love, which was written with Barbara Kay, a columnist with the National Post. Papp’s book details her journey of abuse and torture in the name of family honour. Ambrose has been a huge backer of Papp and held a press conference on honour violence with her in 2010. Ambrose volunteered at women’s shelters in the 1990s. At that time the issue of domestic violence was still difficult to talk about openly. Now those who abuse their spouses are shunned. She hopes to see that kind of evolution with society’s treatment of honour violence as more women like Papp speak out.

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