Capital Diary: Week starting January 21

Mitchel Raphael on who’s bringing high heels to the mountain and prorogation cuts

NO SHOWERS FOR THE LABOUR MINISTER
Labour Minister Rona Ambrose is right now climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. She promised herself she would reach the peak the last time she was in Eastern Africa, which was in 2006 for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Back then, there was no snow on the peak; now, she’s been told, the snow is back. The Kilimanjaro climb takes six days and that means “no showers,” quips Ambrose, who packed and repacked her backpack, trying to be prepared for all sorts of weather conditions. One item she made sure to include was a Canadian flag: she plans to bring it with her to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games as a good luck symbol for when she watches gold medal skier Jennifer Heil compete. Heil is from Spruce Grove, Alta., which is in Ambrose’s riding. Heil won Canada’s first medal at the Turin Games and Ambrose arranged for Stephen Harper to give her a congratulatory call. Ambrose is also bringing a pair of high heels she’ll put on when she reaches the top for a fun personal photo op.



AT LEAST THE PAGES WILL STILL GET PAID

While there is much drama over the proroguing of Parliament by the PM, it is worth noting that the House was not scheduled to return anyway until Jan. 25 and there was already a break planned for the week of Feb. 15. That means it’s really only 22 days that have been cut. That hasn’t stopped critics from spinning the news to suit their own agendas. In a Jan. 8 press release, for instance, the NDP say: “Canadians can’t prorogue their credit card bills. In the coming days Canadians will be opening their holiday credit card bills but with Parliament prorogued until March 3, legislation that would have protected these consumers from high interest rates or excessive fees has been put on hold.” The Speaker’s office notes that prorogation means life on the Hill remains in “recess mode.” The Senate will not be sitting, but House Speaker Peter Milliken’s office notes that the House and Senate pages are still getting paid and have been reassigned to other duties to ensure they get the hours they need. The people who produce Hansard are on reduced hours. The cafeterias have reduced hours and the green buses that take MPs and Hill staff between buildings are on shortened schedules. Two things, however, won’t change: the snow is still being plowed on Parliament Hill and the buildings are still being cleaned on a regular basis.

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A Wildrose by any other name
There are lots of smiles on Conservative MPs’ faces as Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Alliance Party soars in the polls. One MP noted many who are working for the provincial party also work for the federal Conservatives. One thing several MPs have a beef about, though, is the lame name, Wildrose. Apparently, efforts are being made to see if it can be changed, but many obvious names like the Alberta Party have already been registered.

No more VIDEO STORE DISAPPOINTMENT FOR THIS MP
Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie is off to Nepal for a vacation this month to visit a friend who is helping the country write its constitution. Leslie got her dream Christmas present this year. Her partner, Brendan Haley, bought her all of her favourite Christmas movies. Her holiday tradition is to watch lots of Christmas movies, which she used to try to get from Video Difference in Halifax. But because most Christmas movies are old, they are allowed to be taken out for a week. That means whoever gets them first tends to have them over the holidays. Now Leslie never has to worry about being deprived of, for instance, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, the film with which she always starts the season, and A Christmas Story.