John Baird wondered about the PM’s outfit
Before Stephen Harper surprised the audience at the National Arts Centre’s gala fundraiser by playing the piano and singing a Beatles song, he was enjoying drinks at 24 Sussex with his wife, Laureen Harper, Transport Minister John Baird, and the PM’s former head of communications Sandra Buckler. Baird and Buckler didn’t know the PM was attending the gala, let alone that he would be performing. Ironically, notes Mrs. Harper, while at the house “my husband was playing the piano—dressed in black like Johnny Cash—and John said to Sandra, ‘He really should play at one of these events.’ Sandra agreed and it was the toughest moment of my life to keep my mouth shut.” Baird did think it was odd that the PM was all in black and that he at one point opened the door himself and told them all to get going, pretending he was staying behind. Baird tried to say something like “We aren’t in a rush at all.” As they left 24 Sussex, Mrs. Harper spotted the van that had the band in it. The musicians and PM had it planned so that they’d all head over together, undercover, for the surprise.
U.S. skimps on the water
Toronto Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett testified in front of the U.S. Senate. She was there to talk about why in Canada, in her words, “we pay less [for health care], live longer, and don’t have as many infants die in their first year of life.” The experience wasn’t quite like testifying in front of a Canadian Senate committee, she says. For example, in the U.S., Bennett was given a small bottle of water. In Canada there are glasses and pitchers. “I’m a big water drinker,” noted Bennett, who had to pace her sipping during her testimony because of the small amount made available. She also periodically forgot to turn her microphone on and off. In Canada, it’s someone else’s job to turn mikes on and off during committee hearings. Bennett had to explain to the Americans that Canada has a publicly funded health insurance system “and not socialized medicine—[that] as a family doctor I was not a public servant.” After testifying, she was taken to the U.S. Senate dining room for lunch, where she had some “pretty delicious crab cakes.”
But she wore it just for Jack!
When NDP MP Libby Davies’s mother, Margaret Davies, was in Ottawa recently, she sat in on question period and was shocked when she was told to remove her beret. “It’s like asking me to remove my knickers,” says the 89-year-old, who was a Morse code operator in England during the Second World War. The senior Ms. Davies has attended many question periods and this was the first time she had been asked to remove her hat. The beret is her signature look. She wore a special red one, she says, just for NDP Leader Jack Layton because he always sees her in that colour. Margaret Davies is a big fan of CPAC: “Weeds can grow in the garden. The pot can boil over. I watch CPAC.” One of her favourite MPs to watch is Liberal Wayne Easter: “he has a bit of an Irish accent.”
This Speaker makes history
On Monday, Oct. 12, Peter Milliken will become Canada’s longest-serving Speaker of the House. (Even if an election is called before that date, he is still Speaker until a new one is selected.) The second-longest-serving Speaker is Lucien Lamoureux, who held the office from 1966 to 1974. According to the current Speaker’s office, Lamoureux was the person who changed the rules for who got hired as House pages—it used to be underprivileged 10- and 11-year-olds; now it’s first-year university students.
No sign of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney at any official China-turns-60 government celebrations. (The Tory is staunchly anti-Communist.) But Kenney is popular at Chinese-Canadian events and happy to attend them. So happy people in the community have taken to referring to him as “Smiling Buddha.”