Rae encourages May
On the first day back, Green Leader Elizabeth May found herself in the last seat of the House. Seat 308 is where NDP MP Peter Stoffer used to sit. Liberal Leader Bob Rae turned around to May and told her that when he was first an MP decades ago it was his seat and that “in 32 years you can be where I am.” Last week also saw MPs busy moving offices. NDP deputy leader Libby Davies is getting a bigger office and is taking her desk with her. It once belonged to former prime minister Joe Clark and has a secret drawer. “I’ll drag it down the corridor myself if I have to,” said the Vancouver MP. Some parliamentarians were still being sworn in the day before the House resumed. One of them was Bloc MP Maria Mourani, who saw her party reduced to four seats. She jokes that at least she can say that 25 per cent of her party is female and a visible minority. (Mourani is Lebanese.) She feels the Bloc is now like cartoon characters Astérix and Obélix, two Gauls in a small village battling the Roman Empire. The day of his swearing in, the daughter of NDP MP Malcolm Allen went into labour. That meant his wife and family stayed with daughter Gillian Sheldrick and all Allen had for a supportive audience was a lone staffer. Keegan Sheldrick is Allen’s first grandchild.
NDP needs a bigger bar
The orange crush that came to Ottawa has been great for the NDP’s watering hole, Brixton’s. But the place is too small, say some Dippers, who hope it will expand. Last Wednesday, NDP Leader Jack Layton and his MP wife Olivia Chow hit Brixton’s to watch the NHL playoffs, ordering poutine in honour of the Montreal Canadiens, who did not make it to the finals. Layton wore a Vancouver Canucks hockey jersey. Ontario NDP MP Charlie Angus tried to liven things up by sporting a Boston Bruins cap.
Well, at least we have senators
When the Liberals were the official Opposition, they had their Wednesday caucus meetings in the Railway Room, across from where the Conservatives met. Now the NDP uses it on Wednesdays, a step up from when New Democrats had to meet outside the Centre Block and therefore had virtually no media waiting for them unless it was a special occasion. The Liberals will not be in the boonies, though. Hill staff say they will meet in Room 160S, the Aboriginal Peoples Committee Room, which is on the Senate side. They can use this room in the Centre Block and be closer to the media action because, unlike the NDP, they have senators. One Hill staffer joked the Grits will be constantly reminded of Michael Ignatieff when they enter the room. Just outside the door is a headdress made of moose and porcupine hair, which Hill staff refer to as “Iggy’s eyebrow.”
Ice cream politics
It took an afternoon of secret votes before Andrew Scheer was declared the new Speaker. Other Conservative candidates fought hard, though. Merv Tweed welcomed MPs with Starbucks coffee that had a picture of his face on the cup. One cabinet minister was worried about the optics: “We’re supposed to be the Tim Hortons party.” Most MPs seemed happy to take the java jolt, though. Speaker hopeful Barry Devolin served up scoops of ice cream from the Kawartha Dairy between votes.
The Maxime Bernier challenge
Ontario Conservative MP Greg Rickford has put Quebec minister Maxime Bernier on notice. Rickford has invested in some new clothes and told Bernier that he will now have competition on the best-dressed front. Bernier’s response was to open Rickford’s jacket to see if his belt matched his shoes. They did, and the Quebec MP walked away without saying a word.