Was it Gerard Kennedy’s cologne?
Illness and injuries seemed to be the theme of the day as the House of Commons resumed last Monday. Treasury Board President Stockwell Day was on crutches. “There was a puppy on a railroad… ” Day quipped. The truth, he confessed, was that a giant Labrador retriever came out of nowhere and knocked him down while he was on a run. Day now has a severe ankle injury. The dog didn’t just run him down: as he was running, Day was holding his shirt in his hand; after the fall, the dog grabbed the shirt and ran off with it.
Ontario NDP MP Glenn Thibeault slipped on some ice over the break, fracturing his arm and suffering severe hand injuries. Which meant, he says, that he could no longer do his hair. At one point it was looking like a comb-over, so he decided to just shave his head. He returned to Ottawa with a short buzz.
Quebec Liberal MP Alexandra Mendes showed up to question period wearing a medical mask. She was on day six of pneumonia. (It looks like the post-H1N1 trend of not coming to work on the Hill if you are sick is now officially over.) Her seatmate Gerard Kennedy asked whether she was trying to save him or was allergic to him. Later, Ted Menzies, the minister of state for finance, quipped to Mendes: “We thought Gerard just had strong cologne.” Other Conservatives joked about how the Liberals are literally muzzling their MPs.
Why’s Peter Kent so far away?
The House’s first day back for 2011 saw Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff ask the first five questions in question period, as opposed to just the first three. He has done this before, but Liberal MPs say watch for more QPs with Ignatieff piling on the first questions. Since this Prime Minister’s press conferences are few and far between, at least Stephen Harper now has to answer more questions in a public forum. Also on the first day back, Green party Leader Elizabeth May says she was not impressed with the remote seating position assigned the new environment minister. Peter Kent is now on the front bench, but is the second-last Conservative seat from the Speaker, down where the NDP sit. “We’ve never had an environment minister way down there,” says May.
Much ado over size
The first day of Parliament saw Speaker Peter Milliken throw his annual Robbie Burns dinner. This year, Ontario Conservative MP Ed Holder had the honour of addressing the haggis. When he pulled out a small knife to cut the Scottish delicacy, there were many chuckles. One MP shouted out, “Bill Blaikie‘s was bigger.” (The former NDP MP addressed the haggis with a sword.) Holder then pulled out a larger knife, to the delight of the crowd. This was Milliken’s 10th Robbie Burns dinner and likely his last as Speaker, since he does not plan to run in the next election. In honour of Milliken, a set of bagpipes was donated to the Rob Roy Pipe Band in Kingston, Ont., the city Milliken represents, for young people who want to learn to play the expensive instrument.
The tartan bazaar
The Cape Breton Highlanders were recently reinstated. (Formed in 1871, in 1954 they were combined with two other Nova Scotia battalions and renamed the Nova Scotia Highlanders.) Cape Breton Liberal MP Mark Eyking helped the brigade get reinstated, and for that he was made an honorary member. He says he now needs to get a kilt, but quips, “Can a Dutchman be a Highlander?” He says his wife, Pamela Eyking, is half-Scottish, so he is going to use her family tartan (the Gordon). Coincidentally, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, through his mother’s side of the family, already has a Gordon family tartan kilt, which he wore to Peter Milliken’s Robbie Burns dinner. MacKay said he would give Eyking his Gordon tartan kilt if Eyking would have a MacKay tartan kilt made up for the defence minister.