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Heartbeats quickened today outside the Liberal caucus room, when MP after MP exited the room sporting red scarves.
Red scarves, one might remember, were the accessory of choice for the leadership supporters of Michael Ignatieff at the 2006 Liberal leadership convention.
So what was this? Had another leadership battle broken out in caucus?
Sadly, for journalists who miss the old days of Liberal infighting, the red scarves are a more unifying symbol this week. They were being sold by Liberals on Parliament Hill today to raise money for poverty -- specifically, the Ladybug Foundation, which supports charitable organizations that "touch a homeless person in the next 24 hours."
It's the brainchild of an 11-year old girl named Hannah Taylor, who is billed as Canada's youngest advocate for the homeless. Her story is here: http://www.ladybugfoundation.ca/
Hannah was on hand today in the Commons foyer to help promote tomorrow, Jan. 31, as the first ever "National Red Scarf Day."
The government lobby of the House of Commons has some new wallpaper - in the form of photographs of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
At some point while MPs were away for the extended Christmas break, the lobby was re-plastered with pictures of Harper, much to the bemusement of visitors - and, no doubt, awed respect from his loyal caucus. Garth Turner, the former Conservative turned Liberal MP from Halton, took his camera into the lobby and has posted the decorating makeover on his site.
Talking to reporters yesterday about the new portrait gallery, Turner said: "When I was last in the caucus there were pictures of former prime ministers on the wall. There was a nice picture of Sir John and a nice picture of Diefenbaker. ... Now there's only one prime minister on all the walls, and that is Mr. Harper."
No one can remember any other prime minister or party leader using the Commons lobbies for vanity displays. The Liberals have posted photos of all their former leaders on the wall -- even those who served temporarily, such as the venerable Herb Gray from Windsor.
Turner, for his part, thinks the photo montage is unseemly. "Obviously a guy with a big ego likes to have lots of pictures of himself to look at, but I think it begs a few questions. The House of Commons of course belongs to all of us, and right now it's turned into quite the little show.
There are photos of Mr. Harper in front of airplanes, Mr. Harper wearing firefighter gear, Mr. Harper broadcasting a hockey game, Mr. Harper meeting the Dalai Lama."
According to Turner, this is just another vivid illustration of Harper's penchant for control. "All the walls there are now adorned with photos of Mr. Harper in case any of his caucus forgets who they work for."
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has been unavailable to scrum with national media for more than six weeks, contenting himself with small announcements of crime prevention projects in regional centres.
In that time, there have been many news stories involving agencies under his portfolio that he has yet to comment on: Canadian Border Services Agency's version of events in the death of Robert Dziekanski; the RCMP's change in Taser policy; a task force led by lawyer David Brown which called for a complete overhaul of RCMP management and oversight; and the controversy over the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, which is directly monitored by Canadian correctional officals.
Today, at a funding announcment to promote an online safety awareness project for children and parents, reporters were all but barred from quizzing Day. After three questions, his cabinet colleague Vic Toews stepped in and shut down the question period.
Toews said the questions could be taken up with the minister "later" and only questions about the announcement would be taken.
After a photo op, however, Day stopped only to take questions for a promotional video for Telus - one of the private sponsors of the same project Day had just promoted.
He ducked into a coatroom, refusing to take questions from parliamentary press gallery reporters on the treatment of Afghan detainees, while staff shut the door.
Then he strode down a hall to an elevator, declining to speak on the future of the RCMP, saying only that his government was doing "good work" as a staffer physically blocked reporters from entering the elevator.
'And if my esteemed colleague would just check his Blackberry...' Ok, so Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon is seen responding to a Bloc Quebecois question in the House of Commons Monday. But maybe he was already feeling slighted.
Industry Minister Jim Prentice might want to sign up to get Transport Canada's news releases. If he had been on the department’s distribution list, he might have avoided the gaffe he made Monday in the House of Commons.
Prentice was touting his government's work to help the manufacturing sector and singled out the "Minister of the Environment" for his work on a "stringent North American fuel standard and dealing with infrastructure issues."
Of course both fuel standards and infrastructure issues are the responsibility of Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, who has publicized his work on both files in news releases from his department. In particular, a Jan. 17 release noted Cannon's intent to regulate the fuel consumption of new cars and light trucks, beginning with the 2011 model year.
Prentice's comments during Question Period prompted a mock shrug of confusion from Environment Minister John Baird. And as soon as Prentice sat down in his seat after his response, Cannon was leaning over and talking, no doubt to set the record straight.
Liberals today are mourning the sad and untimely death of 34-year-old Brad Davis, a young lawyer and father who served as a senior adviser to Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff, during and after the leadership campaign. A scant few weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer, Davis has died, leaving a wife, two young children and a large circle of Liberal friends who are still incredulous at the news.
Only a few days ago, Davis's old boss used his blog to talk about his fondness for Davis and his hopes for his recovery. Titled "A Post for Brad," Ignatieff writes about the history of their friendship, going back to the 2006 election campaign in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
Ignatieff also writes candidly of the surprise cancer diagnosis.
"Through the late fall of 2007, I began to notice that he was losing weight and his colour wasn't good. When I asked him whether he was OK, he told me for the first time that for 20 years he had suffered from a chronic condition and that he now needed some minor surgery. In late December the surgery took place and the discovery was made that Brad had cancer."
But in what must be one of the most poignantly coincidental parts of the post, Ignatieff writes that Davis was proudest of the work Liberals did on the issue of Afghan detainees - an issue that burst into the headlines today, with the news that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has actually stopped the transfer of prisoners, as the opposition had been demanding.
"On the Afghan detainee issue, over more than three weeks in May, 2007, working with Denis Coderre and other members of caucus, we forced the government to revise its agreement with the Afghan government and put in a monitoring system to check that the agreement was being followed through. Both of us felt that the detainee issue was one of those moments when we did what Oppositions are supposed to do," Ignatieff writes.
At the time Ignatieff wrote his post to Davis, he was still hoping for a miracle recovery. "When a friend is in trouble, you often discover how much you need him. That's the case with Brad. Everyone around him has discovered how much we need him."
Jason Cherniak, the young lawyer who heads up Liblogs, was gently letting the blogosphere know today that one of the Liberals' savvier Internet strategists was gone: "Brad will be remembered by Liberals as a smart, creative, friendly man who had much more to contribute to Canadian politics than we will ever know," Cherniak told the Star today.
NDP Leader Jack Layton has gathered his MPs to plot policy and election strategy for a possible spring vote.
The theme of their caucus? "To make life more affordable for hard-working Canadians," the party claims.
The site of their conference? Chateau Montebello, a posh, high-priced resort east of Ottawa that has played host to world leaders, most recently an August meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexico President Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
"With economic uncertainty emerging as a predominant concern amongst ordinary Canadians, the NDP is re-doubling its efforts to make life more affordable for today’s families,” Layton said in a statement.
Given that affordability is the theme of the meeting, the choice of venue has raised a few eyebrows. Montebello boasts that it is "an exceptional resort famed for its rugged luxury.
"Here, in a stunning red cedar log château, you'll experience rustic elegance and a warm welcome," the resort's website says.
When they're not tied up in meetings, NDP MPs can partake in cross-country skiing, dogsledding, snowmobiling and relax at the resort's new spa that offers "inspiring treatments such as Maple Body Scrub or a Natural Rice Body Polish."
If the party was worried by appearances, a Holiday Inn might have been a more appropriate choice.
Conservative MP Brian Pallister is stepping down from politics. The Manitoba politician has announced on his website that he won't be running in the next election.
Manitoba MP and one-time Conservative leadership candidate Brian Pallister announces he won't run again on his website.
Pallister (Portage-Lisgar) currently serves as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Trade and to the Minister of International Cooperation. He served in the Manitoba Legislature and the provincial cabinet before being elected to the House of Commons in 2000. He ran to lead the Progressive Conservatives in 1998.
But it seems the long political career is drawing to a close.
"I will not be contesting the next federal election whenever that occurs," Pallister wrote on his web site today.
In his message, he thanks supporters for their backing and says he's fought to strengthen Canada.
"Together we have had many successes. There is now a stronger fiscal framework in our province and our country. Budgets are being balanced, infrastructure is being rebuilt, the justice system is being strengthened, and support for Agriculture is a higher priority. We deserve some credit for this," he writes.
"More needs to be done and the conservative party is the right one to do it," he says.