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Maxime Bernier breaks ranks on arena funding

Not: Maxime Bernier. It seems the libertarian Conservative MP is offside with the rest of his Quebec caucus colleagues over the issue of funding a multi-million-dollar hockey rink. He was conspicuously absent from a photo-op this week, in which Quebec MPs donned Nordiques jerseys to show their support for the arena and the possibility of bringing an NHL team back to the provincial capital.

"It was instructive that Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, who opposes public handouts for private enterprise, was missing from the photograph and e-mailed me a curt ' no comment' when asked about the merits of federal support for the arena," National Post columnist Don Martin wrote at the time.

Mr. Bernier has since taken to the local airwaves in his Beauce riding to pour cold water on the idea of the Tories showering taxpayer dollars on sports facilities while battling a $56-billion deficfit.

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Meanwhile, La Presse's Joël-Denis Bellavance suggests a backbench revolt could be brewing. One Conservative MP is reported as saying he fears alienating the party's western base if the government starts throwing money at a rink to curry favour in Quebec.

All this while Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to be opening the door to some form of funding. His comments Thursday, while touring in Saskatchewan, suggest he is receptive to helping out.

Hot: Nancy Pelosi. The U.S. House of Representatives Speaker is taking official Ottawa by storm. In town for the last couple of days, Ms. Pelosi has conducted a whirlwind series of meetings, hearing from environmentalists, aboriginal groups, oil executives, premiers and federal politicians as she explores all sides of the oil sands and climate change issues.

She's left a strong impression in the process. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and foreign affairs critic Bob Rae met her for a breakfast meeting Thursday. That afternoon, Mr. Rae had this to say: "Speaker Pelosi is a very direct person," he said in an interview on CTV's Power Play. "She is a very engaging personality. She's got a lot of spark, she looks right at you when she speaking to you. She listens well. She engages in the conversation. She knew her personalities in Canada."

Not: Read outs. Ms. Pelosi also spoke to Prime Minister Stephen Harper by telephone Thursday. Surely, their conversation could not have been as dull as it was portrayed by their aides. Regardless, this is what reporters were left with: a brief summary from the U.S. Speaker's staff and a similar, but less expansive, read-out from the Prime Minister's camp.

The American version: "This morning via telephone, the Speaker and Prime Minister Harper discussed a number of topics of mutual interest, including joint national security interests in Afghanistan. The Speaker emphasized the importance of intellectual property rights, trade and border security. The Speaker reviewed the series of meetings she has had over the last two days on various energy security issues.

"Following the call, Speaker Pelosi attended a 'Women and Leadership' luncheon hosted by Ambassador Jacobson's wife, Mrs. Julie Jacobson, at the Ambassador's Residence. The Speaker discussed her perspectives on leadership with a group of women leaders in various fields, including Mrs. Laureen Harper, the Prime Minister's wife."

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The Canadian version: "Earlier today, Prime Minister Harper spoke by phone to United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her visit to Ottawa for the G-8 Speakers meeting. The Prime Minister and Speaker had a positive and productive discussion on a wide range of issues, bilateral and global. Speaker Pelosi and Prime Minister Harper emphasized the close relationship between Canada and the United States. The Prime Minister and Speaker agreed on the need to continue working closely together on the common challenges and opportunities in both our countries. Also earlier today, Mrs. Laureen Harper attended the 'Women and Leadership' luncheon in honour of the Honourable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Prime Minister Harper last met with Speaker Pelosi during his trip to Washington, D.C."

Hot: Laureen Harper. At the Pelosi lunch Thursday, the Prime Minister's wife spoke passionately about her decision to sign an international petition denouncing the threatened execution by stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman convicted of adultery.

The petition was spearheaded by Heather Reisman, chief executive of Indigo Books and Music. About 300,000 people have signed so far, demanding that the 43-year-old woman be freed.

Mrs. Harper, who shies away from the spotlight, was moved by the woman's plight. It was something she just couldn't ignore, she said, noting the case has brought together so many divergent groups and people.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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