Mrs. Harper’s run-in with some hoary marmots

Mitchel Raphael on Mrs. Harper’s run-in with some hoary marmots

Mitchel Raphael

Wild kingdom

Laureen Harper has gone on an annual summer hike for a few years now. It started off as a solo venture, plus the mandatory RCMP detachment, but soon blossomed into a group event that includes women such as Minister of Public Works Rona Ambrose. This year the group went to the Yukon, for a trek through Tombstone Territorial Park. Mrs. Harper noted, “It never got dark so we could hike until 11:00 at night.” Last year the group had to scare off bears. No bears this year, but Mrs. Harper says there was other company. “We did run into lots of hoary marmots [large ground squirrels]. The valley bottom was very boggy so we had to walk up on the mountain ridges, and the marmots would hike along with us for a while.”

Party-swapping, a venerable tradition

Much drama ensued on Parliament Hill after the revelation that interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel once held a Bloc Québécois membership card. The NDP fired off a press release noting that Conservative minister Denis Lebel had also been an active member of the Bloc, while Tory Maxime Bernier had been an aide to former PQ premier Bernard Landry, “who made all employees declare their loyalty to an independent Quebec.” The press release concluded, “We wonder why politicians who live in glass houses are throwing stones.” In fact, lots of MPs have held cards from other parties. Heck, some even founded other parties. Jean Lapierre, a Bloc Québécois founder, went on to run as a Liberal and served as a cabinet minister under Paul Martin. In high school in the mid-1970s, Stephen Harper belonged to a young Liberal club. Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae once led the NDP in Ontario. Green Leader Elizabeth May admits she was “briefly” a member of both the NDP and the Liberal party. Rocco Rossi, one-time national director of the Liberal Party of Canada, is now running for Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives in Ontario. On the Turmel issue, Bloc MP Louis Plamondon told CBC News, “Me, I have a lot of friends who are Liberals and Conservatives but never do I think to take the membership card of these two parties.” Actually, Plamondon—currently the longest-serving MP and thus the dean of the House—was a Progressive Conservative under Brian Mulroney. Former MP Keith Martin was first a Reform party member, then ran for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance; when the Alliance merged with the Progressive Conservatives, he sat as an Independent, then ran as a Liberal. Former NDP MP Bev Desjarlais, who opposed her party’s support of same-sex marriage, went on to work as an aide to Conservative Greg Thompson when he was minister of veterans affairs. In the 1980s, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was a member of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party.

And another thing. Turmel is frequently described by the media swarm as a “rookie.” Yet when the Liberals became the official Opposition in 2006, they had only a handful of MPs with any federal experience in opposition. The newly elected Conservatives had even fewer when it came to federal cabinet experience. The few non-rookies included former MP Garth Turner—who eventually joined the Liberal party.

Get well, Jack

At an NDP kiosk in Toronto’s hip Kensington Market on a recent Sunday, visitors could sign a get-well book for Jack Layton. His wife, Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow, made a brief appearance while stocking up on food for all the well-wishers who’d been dropping by. At Vancouver’s Pride parade, NDP deputy leader Libby Davies noted countless shout-outs wishing Layton a speedy recovery. Also with Davies at the nautically themed parade: interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel, sporting a sailor outfit as she represented, one person joked, “Capt. Jack” himself.

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