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By Chris Hannay (@channay)
Parliamentary reporters, politicians and partisans came together for the annual press gallery dinner this weekend. It was a special occasion, honouring the gallery's 150th year in Ottawa, and the first time in a decade to feature speeches by the sitting prime minister and governor-general. (Stephen Harper attended as opposition leader, but not as prime minister.) Speechwriters had lots of barbs to throw out that night. Here are a standout lines.
> "It's been really nice for Liz and me to have another female party leader in the House." – Justin Trudeau, referring to interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and a joke she made about Mr. Trudeau being a female prime minister.
> "You should be doing more of this, because you'd be hitting less people, my love." – Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, demonstrating a yoga pose to the Prime Minister.
> "Stephen Harper actually loved humanity. It was just people he couldn't stand." – Rona Ambrose on her predecessor.
> "Everyone is so impressed that Justin Trudeau is hitting 50 per cent approval rating in all these polls. What's the big deal? I just polled 1,800 people in Edmonton and got 48 per cent. That's barely a 2-per-cent difference!" – Tom Mulcair, on the results of a party vote that meant New Democrats want a new leader. (His actual best line of the night shouldn't be printed in a family newspaper.)
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA
> Today is the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court for Parliament to pass legislation for physician-assisted dying. With the bill at a Senate committee, the best parliamentarians can hope for is passing it by the end of the month. As of tomorrow, doctors can't be prosecuted under the Criminal Code for using the procedure.
> Canadians should be focused on the economic relationship with China and not be "blinded" by human-rights concerns, the country's ambassador to Canada warns.
> Mr. Trudeau says he wants municipalities to have much of the decision making on where federal infrastructure money flows. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will be in Ottawa this week to continue to fight an expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
> Transport Minister Marc Garneau says he is concerned by the jump in runaway trains.
> Liberals are talking to lobbyists about twice as much as the Conservative government did last year.
> The Liberals have reversed a ban on members of Parliament visiting military bases.
> And Mr. Trudeau's children have brought new energy to the Rideau Hall grounds, Governor-General David Johnston says. "It's wonderful because their children play in the garden where our grandchildren play and it's pretty exciting to have the next generation together bringing the place alive."
WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT
Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): "The forces in favour of a proportional-representation system – an alliance of political parties and interest groups with mailing lists and organizational heft – are gearing up a campaign. There will also be folks who don't want change, and the Conservatives, who favour the status quo, are trying to rally public support for a referendum. But the option for which Mr. Trudeau has indicated a preference – an instant-runoff system using ranked ballots – doesn't have organized backers. Unless the Liberals themselves build a campaign, it's likely to be drowned out." (for subscribers)
Elizabeth Renzetti (Globe and Mail): "There is nothing immutable about the English-language lyrics of O Canada anyway. They change like Spinal Tap's drummers. … If it were me, I wouldn't say the changes make the anthem gender-neutral, I'd say they make it fair. Or just. Does that sound better?"
Barrie McKenna (Globe and Mail): "In essence, Ottawa is ready to commit to self-imposed protectionism. Why would Justin Trudeau & Co. do that? Because the export in question is softwood lumber. The federal government and a significant portion of the Canadian forestry industry are ready to do a deal because they believe it's better than the alternative – potentially punishing U.S. duties and years of costly litigation." (for subscribers)
Ottawa Citizen editorial board: "As Canadians consider freer trade with China, we can't ignore the nature of the strongmen running it. As for the future with our closest partner, the United States, we must bear in mind the anti-democratic tendencies of an important presidential candidate. As we think about trade, immigration and – currently – our hostage in the Philippines, we can't afford illusions about the man set to run the show there. Insulting journalists isn't, in itself, a big deal. Insulting free speech – a key underpinning of democracy – is."
David Akin (Sun): "China must think Canada is some kind of North American doormat."
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