HARPER LOOKS LONGINGLY AT MILITARY GARB
As Michaëlle Jean made her way to the Senate for the Throne Speech last week, Stephen Harper waited for her in the foyer of the Hall of Honour. He was soon joined by the chief of the defence staff, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, who was in full military garb. “I wish I could dress like that,” quipped the PM. When the GG arrived, she shook the PM’s hand, then Senate government leader Marjory LeBreton’s, apologizing for having cold hands. For the second year in a row, Laureen Harper was absent from the welcome committee (glamour cutbacks?). This Throne Speech was much longer than last year’s, which lasted only a couple of minutes.
“One minute for each day of prorogation,” quipped NDP MP Paul Dewar. NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair noted that he has been an MP for 2½ years, “and this is my fourth Throne Speech. I am getting a little jaded.” At the post-Throne Speech reception, NDP MP Peter Stoffer helped the waiters by serving sushi.
Conservative MP Brian Jean looked like he had not had a haircut since Parliament was prorogued. “It’s my surfer look,” said the MP for Fort McMurray-Athabasca, who actually does surf and was on holiday in Australia this past December taking in some waves. VIPs in attendance at the Throne Speech and reception included Canadian astronaut Julie Payette and Christopher White, the founder of the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament group on Facebook. White’s MP, NDPer Linda Duncan, got him a seat. With prorogation over, the organizers have created Canadians Advocating Political Participation. But White, an anthropology student at the University of Alberta, is proroguing his activism altogether so he can get back to his thesis on “the baby graves” in Alberta, a cemetery where half of the dead are under the age of five. Notes White: “I am taking time to recalibrate my thesis.”
In case of fire, Save the Black Rod
When the MPs are summoned to the Senate to hear the Throne Speech, it is the duty of the Usher of the Black Rod, Kevin MacLeod, to knock on the doors of the House of Commons with his ebony staff and invite the MPs down the hall. There is only one black rod, he says, although there is a backup mace for the Senate. In the event of a disaster or fire alarm on Parliament Hill, it is his job to get the rod out of the building safely. If he is not on the Hill, a security person is assigned to look after the rod.
Stephen Harper’s idea to get rid of several of the break weeks to make up for the prorogation of Parliament has created some wedding tension. NDP MP Malcolm Allen had told his family he would be free the week of his daughter’s wedding to help out. Now the House will be sitting that week and he feels horrible. Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the topsy-turvy schedule means he has not been able to nail down a date for his nuptials. (His fiancée, TV executive Jana Juginovic, does have an engagement ring.) One cabinet minister says the weeks MPs spend in the riding are crucial: “They really find out what is important to Canadians” when they get out of the Ottawa microcosm. Capital Diary has often observed that MPs start going batty when the House sits for more than three weeks in a row.
Senator Brazeau’s wife on Dragons’ Den
During the Olympics, Conservative Sen. Patrick Brazeau stayed home with his kids so that his wife, Sunshine Tenasco-Brazeau, could go to Vancouver to sell baby moccasins. This is a new business venture for his wife, says the senator, who notes the key selling point is the elastic band that keeps the moccasins securely on a baby’s feet. Tenasco-Brazeau pitched her business on CBC’s Dragons’ Den this week—and got a $20,000 loan! The baby footwear can be ordered through www.quemeez.ca.