The New Democrats are throwing their new-found weight around – for starters, they’re muscling senior Liberals Bob Rae and Ralph Goodale out of their choice Parliament Hill offices.
The Liberals are ticked; so much for doing politics differently, they say. The New Democrats, however, are shrugging their shoulders – after all, Canadians picked them to be official opposition, not the Liberals.
Parliament will look a lot different when MPs return Thursday, thanks to the 103-strong NDP with its large contingent of young people and women. And part of that difference will be running into fewer (if any) Grits in the Centre Block, as the NDP are taking their offices.
Not the Tories, however. Despite winning 166 seats and having first dibs on office space, they let the Liberals be and didn’t ask them to give up anything.
On Parliament Hill, status is defined in many ways, one of which is office location. The most coveted spots are in the Centre Block – the jewel in crown of the Parliament Buildings – where one is closest to the action.
In the last Parliament, the New Democrats, with 37 MPs, had only one office in the Centre Block. They are planning to change that.
And so they have their eye on the fifth-floor office of Liberal Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale. The Saskatchewan stalwart was first elected for a five-year stint in 1974 and returned again for an uninterrupted run in 1993. His digs are not fancy: no corner suite, no shower or bathroom and some pretty small windows.
Rather, it’s a string of four offices together, close to the fifth-floor cafeteria and with a bell just outside the door that rings to inform senators of votes. It is very, very loud and extremely annoying.
What rankles Grits is that Mr. Goodale has so much seniority and deserves a little respect, having served in senior cabinet posts from Finance to Natural Resources. He moved into his fifth-floor office last September when he was named Deputy Leader and David McGuinty took over as House Leader – a post that comes with a suite of offices on the fourth floor.
The Liberals, who are down to a lowly 34 seats and as a result have only third dibs on offices, can do little but roll their eyes. One Grit said the New Democrats are certainly not playing nice.
Mr. Goodale would not comment, although he is said to be annoyed. His eviction notice came Friday and no other accommodation was offered.
But the New Democrats aren’t stopping there: They have also served noticed they want Bob Rae’s Confederation Building corner suite of offices. Mr. Rae, as the Liberal Interim leader, is entitled to a Centre Block office. But like other leaders, he also has an office for his MP/constituency duties, and that suite is on the third floor of “Confed,” just west of Parliament Hill.
For their part, the NDP say they need the space.
“As we now have 103 MPs, we require more space. On May 2 Canadians voted for change and New Democrats now form the Official Opposition,” says Kathleen Monk, NDP director of communications. “The Liberals have 34 MPs. Stéphane Dion, as a former leader of the Liberal Party, will remain in his Centre Block Office.”
Mr. Goodale’s eviction notice came Friday, according to the Liberals. No other accommodation was offered. Rather, once out the Saskatchewan MP will have to choose from the list of rejected and picked-over offices.
There is certainly no love lost between Jack Layton’s team and Mr. Goodale, who blamed Judy Wasylycia-Leis for sabotaging the Liberals in the 2006 election. The former NDP MP released a letter from the RCMP confirming they would investigate allegations of leaks around the announcement that the Liberals would not tax income trusts.
Mr. Goodale was finance minister at the time. He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, which found no evidence of “illegal activity on the part of anyone.”
In addition to Mr. Goodale’s Centre Block suite, the NDP also has its eye on Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae’s office in the Confederation Building, just west of the Hill.
It is a third-floor corner suite with three rooms. As leader – even of the third party – Mr. Rae is entitled to an office in Centre Block. The suite office is for his MP and constituency duties.
Liberals say that having to move Mr. Rae’s constituency office is more of an inconvenience and shows pettiness on the part of the NDP. The issue of Mr. Goodale’s office, Liberals add, is the real disappointment.
For their part, the New Democrats say that when they had 37 MPs in the House of Commons, they had only one MP office in Centre Block.
“As we now have 103 MPs, we require more space. On May 2 Canadians voted for change and New Democrats now form the Official Opposition,” director of communications Kathleen Monk told The Globe. “The Liberals have 34 MPs. Stéphane Dion, as a former leader of the Liberal party, will remain in his Centre Block office.”