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Visiting Parliament

April 24th, 2007

I have family in Ottawa, and go there once or twice a year. Last week, however, was the first time I was there while Parliament was sitting. This gave me a chance to sit in the visitors gallery for question period. If your a political junkie like me, put it on your “must do” list, it was a great experience.

First off, a big thank you to my MP Gary Goodyear and his staff. For question period you can just arrive and stand in line to sit in the end gallery, or, you can contact your MP’s office and let them know when you will be in Ottawa. They can provide you with a pass to sit in the gallery opposite your MP, thus you can watch your representative in action. This is what I did.

I was met at the door by Jennifer Dodd, Gary Goodyear’s assistant, and escorted around the line-up to security. After a brief security check, I was back in Jennifer’s hands, who then took me to a more private elevator to the gallery level. At this stage I had to hand in my cell phone and camera, then got passed on to a security guy, who helped me find a seat, and everything else I needed.

I got there before question period, but it doesn’t mean nothing was happening as debate on a Liberal motion to pull our troops out of Afghanistan was on-going. There where only a few dozen MPs present, most of them working away on laptops, reading briefings &tc.

The real action starts with question period, which is rollicking, fun and entertaining. It also has a rhythm to it, a give and take back and forth that adds to the entertainment. If you’ve ever watched it on TV you know the feeling that the MPs act like children, but it’s not true. All that annoying background yelling you hear on TV is part of the flow of question period, and very much adds to it’s flavour. As I said before, it should be on every political junkies to do list, just to get a feel for what it’s really like.

But of course, what’s Parliament without the Parliamentarians? This also provides a chance to get fairly close to the politicians and gather better impressions than you get off TV. Here’s my take on people I saw (and remember, I was able to view the Conservative/NDP side of the house, not the Liberal side.

Stephen Harper does look sullen. He’s a sloucher, and he looks entirely displeased to be there.

Peter MacKay, on the other hand, is tall and handsome. I always thought he looked like a fish, but he doesn’t. Further he’s very well dressed and carries himself with poise and confidence. In short, he looks like a successful guy.

Jack Layton looks arrogant and smug; possibly more so in person than on TV.

Rona Ambrose is not the Conservative hottie, that distinction goes to Josée Verner, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages.

The star of the day was Environment Minister John Baird, who presented his Kyoto report to Senate that morning and was getting grilled. He was quick and sharp, and got the best laugh of the day as well (From Hansard):

Hon. John Baird (Minister of the Environment, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member said, “when Canadians see the cost of Kyoto they will scream”.

Let us look at what one of the former Liberal ministers of the environment, Sheila Copps, said. She said, “On the environment, the Liberals are not on solid ground”. She also said, “People like Ralph Goodale and Anne McLellan were viciously against Kyoto”.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

The Speaker:

I would urge all hon. members, and particularly the Minister of the Environment, to avoid using members’ names. The person may have said that but the member knows that you cannot do indirectly what you cannot do directly. I think the member meant the hon. member for Wascana and he should use those kinds of terms in addressing the House.

Mr. Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, it was a difficult day for the Minister of the Environment, who appeared before the Senate committee with only one thing in mind: spreading fear among Canadians.

Except that when he brought out an incomplete report based on partial information, he instead discredited himself before the members of the committee, and before all Canadians. When he was asked for specific figures to justify at least one of his dire predictions, he had nothing to say.

Now that he has had a few hours to read his report, can he give us some explanations or figures that justify at least one of his outlandish conclusions.

Hon. John Baird (Minister of the Environment, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, not only are we justifying the conclusions of the report, we had a number of Canada’s leading economists from outside of government validate it.

I would encourage the member opposite to listen to members of his own caucus. This is what one of his caucus members said two months ago, “We’re so far behind now that catch-up is impossible without shutting the country down”.

I cannot say who said this but I did see it on a website called www.garth.ca.

That last line had everyone in the house laughing – well maybe not on the Liberal side, I couldn’t see them. Baird is young and good, and looked like was enjoying himself. Look for more from him in the future.

As an aside, I lunched at the Parliament Pub directly across the street from the Parliament Building and while it had good food, it is noteworthy because it has a great, fun menu:

Senators Soup of the day
Like our Senators this soup is the result of a decision by the Head chef

Johnny Crouton Caesar Salad
Shaved asiago, bacon, garlic croutons and home made tangy
caesar dressing.fit for a King or …a friendly dictator and good
for your legacy.

Dennis Mills Danforth Greek Salad
Cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, kalamata olives, feta
cheese and roasted garlic vinaigrette. Like Mills, this salad is a
of ingenuity and taste sprinkled with a hint of assertiveness.

Bill Graham’s Roasted Portobello Mushrooms
and New Potato Salad

with roasted red pepper coulis.Roasted and baked just like
Canada’s Foreign Policy on the Middle East

Stephen Harper’s Mixed Baby Greens
Pesto Dijon vinaigrette and roma tomatoes. Let’s focus on
green” here. Hey Stephen you still have to apologize to the
Maritimers – when you do we will name this item “mixed and
polished greens”

David Pratt’s Bunker Buster Tandoori Chicken
Mixed greens to camouflage the oncoming assault of the
palette, honey Dijon vinaigrette to lure the diners to the plate
riata that will blow your mind. This salad will target your
hunger and take it out permanently.

The Jack Layton Coalition of the Unwilling Chicken Caesar Wrap
Roasted chicken, romaine lettuce, asiago cheese, bacon and
Caesar dressing in a flour tortilla. This is the most politically
correct sandwich available……anywhere…..in the world.

Peter MacKay’s Philly Melt Sandwich
Sliced roast beef, mixed mushrooms, caramelized onion and
Swiss cheese. Served on toasted baguette with horseradish
pommeray aioli. – it looks good, it tastes good, it is good…and
it melts on its own when David Orchard is around.

Bloc Quebecois Smoked Chicken Quesidilla
b.b.q. sauce, guacamole, asiago, corn, and side sour cream .A
distinct sandwich with its own notwithstanding clause that’s
good for your overall constitution.

Paul Martin Roma Tomato Bruschetta
Served cold on toasted baguette with shaved asiago. Like Paul,
this is in a class all by itself.

John Godfrey’s Guantonimo Bay BLT WRAP
Roma tomato, bacon, mixed greens, asiago cheese, Dijon
mustard and avocado aioli imprisoned in a tomato tortilla wrap.
John Godfrey, the Liberal MP from Toronto known for his
passionate defense of the Al-quaida “non-combatants” who are
being “unfairly” held in US military prisons in Cuba.
We suggest he send them some of these sandwiches.

Stan Dromisky’s Roasted Vegetable Wrap“THE STAN”
Liberal red pepper, mixed with Kyoto Protocol themed zucchini,
eggplant, portobello mushrooms and red Tory onions, with a
collegial spot of Bloc Quebecois brie cheese, mixed greens and
roasted pepper sauce in a spinach tortilla wrap. Like Stan, this
is a meal for a team player who is always loyal to your
gastronomic desires.

Canadian Alliance Smoked Salmon Sandwich
Marinated capers and red onion, dill cream cheese and lightly
toasted dark rye bread. This Salmon is like theCanadian Alliance
– a fish out of water that got smoked in the
last election

Don Boudria’s Voodoo Chicken Sandwich
Mango and chili roasted chicken breast and provolone cheese.
Served on toasted baguette with avocado aioli. A true grit
sandwich with a loyal following. Like Don, this is a sandwich
you can always count on when the chips are down.

Stockwell ‘s Pasta of the Day

… with mixed green or ceasar salad. Served steaming hot…Amen.

Myron Thompson’s Quiche of the Day
with mixed green or ceasar salad…because REAL men
do eat quiche.
Pizzas are served with a choice of Caesar or garden Salad.

Bevilacqua’s Pesto Pizza
Roast chicken; sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese. Aaaaah
Maurizio. Smooth, tasty, palatable. A pizza that both Martinites
and Chretienites can stomach.

Parliament Pizza
Liberal portions of Tomato sauce, mixed with an Alliance of
prosciuitto and mixed mushrooms, red Tory onions, asiago and
mozzarella that’s as cheesey as the Bloc Quebecois.

Roasted Vegetable Pizza
Fresh basil, zucchini, red pepper, red onion, eggplant and goat
cheese. In honour of Hedy Fry, Art Eggleton, Alfonso
Gagliano and some of the other “bright lights” in the Liberal
government who have delusions of adequacy.

Dessert
Scott Brison Crème Brulée
John Manley’s Cheesecake
Deb Grey’s Chocolate Torte
Carolyn Bennett’s Lemon Tarte

Food, Hotties, Ottawa, Parliament

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