Mitchel Raphael on Jason Kenney versus Justin Trudeau

The best cat fight on the Hill

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Why this MP needs a lot of coats

Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan keeps boxes of toothpaste at her constituency office. Because she represents Etobicoke North, one of the poorest ridings in the country, she has turned her office into a quasi drop-in centre for those in need. During the winter, she keeps a collection of donated coats because some constituents come jacket-less to her office in freezing temperatures. About 65 people a day come through. (Duncan keeps only one staffer in Ottawa so she can have more in Toronto.) One of those seeking help was particularly memorable: a woman named Linda came in with a crumpled brochure the MP had distributed, which said, “We can help.” Linda had been severely abused by her husband, was terminally ill, and had no official status in Canada. “You said you would help,” she said. Duncan asked Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to give her special status so she could receive palliative care and he did. When Duncan visited Linda in the hospital, she brought her a necklace: “I don’t think she had anything that sparkled in her life.” Linda said she had a gift in return and sang a song to her visitors. Before she died the nurses helped make a recording of her singing, and Duncan helped set up an endowment fund at a shelter in her memory.

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Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Jason versus Justin

The next election will be a battle for the hearts of Canada’s ethnic communities. Things have heated up between Liberal immigration critic Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Trudeau attacked Kenney for mixing partisan politics and government business with such things as award certificates. (In 2009, Ottawa Chinese restaurateur Yang Sheng got one “for creating an authentic multicultural dining experience.”) Then when Trudeau evoked his father’s name in question period, Kenney went for blood: “Mr. Speaker, let me tell members what his father did with immigration when we hit a recession, led by the Liberals, in the early 1980s. He slashed immigration to 80,000. Our government has maintained historically high immigration levels during the recession. In terms of social justice, his father’s government refused to apologize to Chinese Canadians for the head tax, to the Ukrainian Canadians for their internment, to Japanese Canadians for their internment, or for the shame of the Indian residential schools, unlike our Prime Minister.” Kenney has spent a lot of time working with ethnic communities who have, he has noted, “conservative values” but who vote Liberal. The minister has mastered the art of eating all sorts of cuisine, including getting out of difficult culinary situations by keeping a napkin in his pocket to help make some delicacies that don’t agree with his stomach discreetly disappear.

Power to 16-year-olds

NDP MP Don Davies recently introduced Bill C-634, a private member’s bill that would see the federal voting age lowered from 18 to 16. Davies says that with voter turnout getting more dismal, a “get them while they are young” approach will hopefully work. Davies notes his main rationale for lowering the voting age is that 16-year-olds work and pay taxes in most provinces. In some, he says, it is even lower. Davies says he took as his inspiration the famous American Revolution phrase: “no taxation without representation.” It’s an idea that has been tried before in Parliament, but Davies hopes this time it will see success.

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

Layton, Chow and the election

Last week pundits were mixed about the chances of an election. On CBC’s The National, the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert thought yes, while Andrew Coyne of Maclean’s said no way. The panellists agreed, though, that Jack Layton was skilled at keeping people guessing which way his party would go. Maybe Layton’s wife provided a clue. Toronto MP Olivia Chow secured her campaign office last week.