Mitchel Raphael on what Belinda Stronach learned about latrines

Why toilets matter more than teachers, MPs say it with hair, and The fake lake lives on

Why toilets matter more than teachers
Former Liberal cabinet minister Belinda Stronach held a special G(irls)20 summit in Toronto as a warm-up to the G20 hitting the city. Twenty-one women from the G20 countries and the African Union gathered to participate in workshops fostering ideas to tackle global challenges. Stronach said what struck her was the order of priorities in many developing countries when it comes to educating girls. The number one need is for dormitories, especially for girls who live far from a school and don’t have proper security for the trek. Next come latrines: some schools only have boys’ washrooms—or none at all. Then come teachers, and last on the list are books. “It’s a reminder of how unsafe some of these places are for young women,” says Stronach. When asked if the G(irls)20 summit also featured a “fake lake,” Stronach noted, “This is a very serious endeavour. We have a lot of sponsors and we manage their money very carefully.”

MPs say it with hair
Many MPs rushed over worriedly when Bloc MP Nicole Demers, a breast cancer survivor, turned up recently with a shaved head. She calmed their fears, telling them she’d shaved—for the fourth time—to support Leucan, a Quebec organization for children with leukemia and other cancers. “This is for kids to realize they are not alone,” Demers says. Also using her tresses to promote a cause is Vancouver Liberal MP Joyce Murray, who has been sporting bright red hair as part of the cystic fibrosis awareness campaign Reddy for a Cure. The campaign honours Eva Markvoort, a fiery redhead who blogged about her ordeal with CF and died at the age of 25. How long will Murray keep the bright red locks? She quipped, “Well, Canada Day is coming.” Nothing says Canada Day like red.

The fake lake lives on
The “fake lake” at Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff ’s annual garden party for the media was so popular that the Grits decided to keep it for the subsequent MP and staff parties. But the kids’ swimming pool, complete with fake ducks to create a Muskoka-like “fake lake” ambience, had to be dismantled and set up again for each party, lest it destroy the lawn. Noted one Liberal staffer, “We’d get in trouble with the NCC [National Capital Commission].” Jokes about the Conservatives’ “fake lake” were a constant on the Hill as Parliament wound down for the summer. Justin Trudeau’s aide Louis-Alexandre Lanthier cracked, “They build a fake lake right beside Lake Ontario—can you imagine if the G20 had been held in Niagara Falls?”

Why he won’t run for mayor
There has been buzz on the Hill about whether Nova Scotia NDP Peter Stoffer will run for mayor of Halifax in the next election. He says it all started when he was asked if he would consider entering the race and simply replied, “I never say never”—thereby sparking a frenzy of speculation. For the record, then: Stoffer says he is the candidate for his riding in the next federal election and if re-elected—almost certain for the popular MP—will serve out his mandate. He says he does not like it when politicians job-hop, sticking taxpayers with a costly by-election.

What the Speaker can’t speak about
Protesters on the lawn of Parliament Hill made a ruckus over the closure of prison farms, created in the late 1800s. Save Our Prison Farms notes on its website that the government fails to appreciate “the value of a restorative approach to justice and a sustainable, local approach to the future of farming and food.” The government says the program was losing money and questions the marketability of agricultural skills post-prison. One riding hit hard by the closures is Speaker Peter Milliken’s. The Speaker has to remain neutral on such issues, but his riding office has been getting an earful over the closures.

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