1. Peter MacKay gets back to basics. The Defence Minister is returning to his Nova Scotia home today: "Back to N.S. … for a dose of reality," he said last night, after enduring a week of insults and accusations over the Afghan detainee scandal.
For several weeks now the story has consumed official Ottawa with Mr. MacKay bearing the brunt of the of the opposition attacks. This week, during the 45-minute Question Period, the Defence Minister, who is Stephen Harper's lead minister on the file, has been called dishonest and incompetent. Again, yesterday, he was called upon by the country's leaders to resign; his boss, the Prime Minister, was called upon to fire him. He was told he was not credible, not intelligent and not worthy of his position. He was accused of uttering falsehoods.
But the minister's office is taking some solace now in what Canadians outside of the Ottawa bubble are saying. In fact, his staff found this comment on Aaron Wherry's latest Question Period sketch at Maclean's, which they showed to the minister:
"I'm sure there are a few other examples of suspected or confirmed Taliban who passed through the hands of Canadian forces before being beaten by their fellow Afghans wearing uniforms. There are also millions of examples of Afghans who were beaten by fellow Afghans without ever coming into contact with a Canadian - but we don't care about those people, because they're irrelevant. We only care about the three or four that could possibly prove useful in the eternal quest to embarrass the Canadian government. This is about politics, not morality."
2. No politically-provocative clothing. Gentlemen must wear jackets in the Parliamentary dining room. In fact, there is a closet with some well-worn jackets that the staff will lend to a man if he arrives without one. And in the Press Gallery, just above where the Speaker of the House of Commons sits, men must wear ties; they will be thrown out if they are not wearing one.
Now, after the dramatic publicity stunt earlier this week - Greenpeace activists climbed to the roof of the West Block to protest the inaction of Canadian political leaders on climate change as the Copenhagen conference began - Greenpeace T-shirts are banned on the Hill. In fact, a Canadian Press reporter tested the ban by wearing a Greenpeace shirt to the Parliament buildings. She was turned away and allowed back in when she turned it inside out.
The Speaker's communications director, Heather Bradley, said this morning that this "has always been the practice of the Security Service."
"No one is allowed to carry, or wear anything of political or partisan nature," she said. "It is not new." She noted, for example, that people wearing anti-abortion buttons have been asked to remove them to sit in the Commons gallery. The same, she says, applies to committees.
3. 'An attack on everything' Michael Ignatieff believes. Unlike other politicians, the Liberal Leader sees shades of grey - perhaps this is a hangover from his days in academia and journalism. So when it came to commenting on a new book, Fearful Symmetry: The Rise and Fall of Canada's Founding Values by author and editorialist Brian Lee Crowley, who has close ties to the Conservative government (a recent book launch in Ottawa attracted most of Stephen Harper's cabinet), Mr. Ignatieff struggled.
His comments were recorded as part of Foreign Policy magazine's Global Thinkers Book Club - "what the smart set is reading."
Said Mr. Ignatieff: "It's an attack on everything I believe, so it's very bracing and interesting … He's saying that Canadian liberalism has damaged Canada, and as the Liberal Party leader I have to disagree. But it's very intelligent and it's very important to take your adversaries seriously, so I'm taking him seriously."
And some other Liberals are also taking Mr. Crowley seriously, recommending to Mr. Ignatieff that the author be included in their big policy/thinker's conference planned for March in Montreal.
(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)