Spilling secrets, parties and poutine

Mitchel Raphael on spilling secrets, parties and poutine

Photograph by Mitchel Raphael

MP has cover envy

Maclean’s fifth annual Parliamentarians of the Year Awards ceremony this week at the Fairmont Château Laurier had Stephen Harper’s communications director Angelo Persichilli spilling secrets to the CBC’s Julie Van Dusen. Persichilli told the reporter the secret to good pasta sauce was “light on the mushrooms and lots of garlic.” That night, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney took the award for Hardest Working MP but is still bitter about the year he won the big prize of Parliamentarian of the Year: “I still can’t believe that every other winner before me got a cover story but I was bumped by [former Liberal MP] Ruby Dhalla.” At the time, Dhalla was making headlines over allegations of mistreated nannies. Former NDP leader Jack Layton received the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, which was accepted by his widow, Toronto MP Olivia Chow. With Chow was screenwriter Shelley Eriksen, who is working on a script for a TV biopic on Layton. Eriksen was in Ottawa for a tour of the NDP war room from the last election and other significant places, such as Layton’s old offices.

Chez what?

Conservative MP Michael Chong took the award for Best Represents Constituents. Second runner-up in that category was NDP MP Niki Ashton, who’s been fighting for the miners in her Manitoba riding and, more recently, trying to save the Canadian Wheat Board, something vital to the future of the port of Churchill. Ashton, 29, is currently seeking the NDP leadership. She joked that she may adopt the slogan of a snack bar in Quebec City called Chez Ashton (no relation), which is: “Only fresh. Only real.” Chez Ashton is known for its poutine. The MP has eaten there recently, as well as when she was eight, when she “took one of the placemats and put it on my wall.”

Life of all parties

After NDP MP Peter Stoffer won the award for Most Collegial for the fifth time, Jason Kenney suggested the award should just be called the Peter Stoffer award and be given to others. Stoffer could lose his edge next year because he is no longer organizing the annual All-Party Party, a popular event for everyone who works on the Hill. Stoffer isn’t worried: “That’s why I have a pool table in my office now,” he says. He is also planning what he calls the “Stoffer Olympiad,” which will be “five putts, five kicks of a soccer ball, five shots of a basketball, five darts and five shots of pool. Ten dollars every time you want to try. All proceeds go to our Summer Olympic athletes going to London.” Once again Stoffer beat out Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner, who was the runner-up for Most Collegial. Notes Cuzner: “I’m going to have to put a hot tub in my office if I want to play that game. If there is any of that Economic Action Plan money left I might be able to. I’d put the sign up in the office and everything.”

Look who’s talking

Best laugh went to the Best Orator category, where the runner-up was NDP MP Pat Martin. It should be noted that MPs voted for the awards before Martin’s profane tweet caused such a ruckus across the country. He is, however, famous for such colourful remarks, as when criticizing government trade strategies, he evoked this image: “The Canadian beaver will bite off its own testicles when it is threatened and offer them up to its tormentors.” Martin told Capital Diary that “One of the highlights of the year, I am told, is when I said, ‘Patronage is the K-Y Jelly of politics.’ ” The winner for Best Orator was Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who was unable to accept his award in person because he was at the G8-Broader Middle East North Africa Forum for the Future. Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, this year’s big winner of Parliamentarian of the Year, was in Halifax “saving the Liberal party,” noted Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells.

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