The morning buzz: What's making news today on Parliament Hill.
1. Chuck Norris plays Rick Hillier. In reacting to former chief of defence staff Rick Hillier's autobiography, which has caused much grief among politicians of both Liberal and Conservative stripes, Peter MacKay says that Mr. Hillier "tells it how he sees it." The Defence Minister "got a quick glimpse of the book and thought it in character and straight-from-the-shoulder stuff." Mr. MacKay was under fire in the House of Commons yesterday during Question Period over allegations in Mr. Hillier's book, A Soldier First, about the abuse of Afghan detainees. Mr. Hillier says he had told many in the government about the situation. Mr. MacKay would not answer questions about what he knew and when. "I get along well with Rick and do respect him and his huge contributions to the Canadian Forces," says Mr. MacKay. "I think Chuck Norris should play him in the movie version."
2. Caucus day. If it's Wednesday it's caucus day on Parliament Hill. It always makes for a rowdy Question Period as MPs get fired up during their morning meetings. And so Wednesdays are always a challenge for House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken. But he'll have his chance to kick back later on today. There is a party for him at the National Arts Centre tonight celebrating his accomplishment as the longest-serving speaker in Canadian history. The event is being put on by the Historica-Dominion Institute. Mr. Milliken, the Liberal MP for Kingston, subscribed to Hansard (the record of the House of Commons) as a teenager and later wrote his thesis on the 45-minute daily session. He's served as speaker four times, the first time in January of 2001. Order, order!!
3. Pink Book. The Liberal women's caucus releases a platform/policy document today. This is the third iteration of the book. Toronto MP Maria Minna is chair of the women's caucus and will unveil the latest version with the help of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. Expect to see policies regarding commitments to a national child care program and issues around pay-equity and maternity benefits. The book has always been controversial as it's aimed only at women. And it didn't help that on its launch in 2006, MP Judy Sgro said that Conservatives would prefer to keep women "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen." Years ago, Liberal women put out an election campaign manual in which they suggested that women candidates keep an extra pair of nylon stockings in the trunk of their car as a back-up in case the pair they were wearing got a run. Yikes.
4. Pensions. Nortel employees are on Parliament Hill today to protest their loss of pensions, severance pay and disability benefits as a result the company's bankruptcy. Along with support from unions and other organizations, such as the Canadian Labour Congress, the CAW, Steelworkers and Teamsters, they will be asking for an overhaul of Canada's bankruptcy laws. NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe will be addressing the crowd. For a better understanding of the issues involved, take a look at The Globe and Mail's series, Retirement Lost.
5. Protecting sources. Globe and Mail reporter Daniel Leblanc is at the Supreme Court today to protect a source who has given him information key to the Quebec sponsorship scandal. Montreal media company, Le Groupe Polygone, wants to know the identity of Mr. Leblanc's source as part of its defence in a $35-million lawsuit by the federal government to get back sponsorship money paid by the former Chrétien government. This case could help create a constitutional privilege protecting journalists' sources.