1. Peter MacKay's very bad day. The Defence Minister will be grilled later today when he testifies before the special parliamentary committee on Afghanistan. Mr. MacKay is appearing with former defence minister Gordon O'Connor, with Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon also expected to face MPs. Mr. MacKay, however, is the big target of the opposition.
Here is a preview of the line of questioning from the New Democrats: "We want to find out why the minister accused Mr. Colvin [the senior Canadian diplomat whose explosive evidence about detainee torture has reignited this story]of being a Taliban dupe," NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar says. "Why did the government ignore the concerns of the Red Cross and why did Mr. MacKay contradict himself about seeing Mr. Colvin's reports?"
The NDP has been very strong on this file of late. In fact, yesterday NDP defence critic Jack Harris publicly called for Mr. MacKay's resignation. This, as a result of the rallying of support around Mr. Colvin by former Canadian ambassadors. Also, a report in The Globe and Mail earlier this week noted that sworn testimony by senior Canadian officers and uncensored documents contradict Mr. MacKay's assertions that no Canadian-transferred detainee was abused. All of these reports, and the rocky history of the detainee file, have combined to increase the pressure on the Defence Minister.
How is holding up? "He is a trooper and fighting his way through," says a Tory strategist and friend of Mr. MacKay. "No sounds of discontent at this point (from his boss and his boss's people) though I am sure he will be glad when the Christmas break comes this week."
Meanwhile, the Tory strategist says there have been the usual rumours of a cabinet shuffle but they began even before Mr. Colvin's testimony. Interestingly, one of the more interesting rumours doesn't involve Mr. MacKay at all. Rather, it concerns Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner, whose private member's bill to scrap the gun registry, has been successful. She may be in line for a promotion.
2. No Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts? It's a novel idea from Public Policy Forum president David Mitchell. For his e-Christmas card to friends and followers, he put together an online list of who and what his serious friends are reading over the holidays.
"Collectively, the titles we've assembled represent a delightful combination of intellectual stimulation and a sheer love of reading," Mr. Mitchell writes. Love, stimulation and lots of heavy lifting - here goes:
Carole Taylor, the former B.C. finance minister, broadcaster and now chair of the Economic Advisory Council for the Minister of Finance, wants to read Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau: 1968 - 2000, by John English; Allan Rock, former Chrétien cabinet minister and now the president of the University of Ottawa, will be spending time reading Memories of the Future, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky; former Privy Council Clerk, Kevin Lynch will be curling up with The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power, by David E. Sanger; Cassie Doyle, the deputy natural resources minister, is reading Burmese Lessons: A Love Story, by Karen Connelly and if she has time, The End of Energy Obesity: Breaking Today's Energy Addiction for a Prosperous and Secure Tomorrow, by Peter Tertzakian and Conservative MP James Rajotte will be reading Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, by Tom Holland.
Some light reading for the holidays.
3. Making Stephen Harper look silly. The Tories are angry about a Liberal contest asking supporters to use Photoshop to place the Prime Minister in various scenarios to underline his reluctance to attend the Copenhagen climate change conference.
"We know that there are many places that Harper would rather be than Copenhagen next week - and we want you to use your made Photoshop skills to illustrate them for us," says the notation on the Grit website. And Liberals are responding: the entries so far range from obvious (Harper at the oil sands) to some funny ones, including Mr. Harper with the gay singing group, the Village People, accepting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Prime Minister is the cowboy character. He is also featured with the cast of the Golden Girls; and there are a couple of him with George W. Bush.
The Tories think this is dumb and demeaning. "The stunt is sophomoric and ridiculous, but that is Mr. Ignatieff's problem," say the talking points on the subject from Mr. Harper's PMO. "Apparently, the OLO and Liberal Party office can't think of any priorities that are more pressing. … Conservatives are not commenting on this inanity. It reflects only on Michael Ignatieff and his Liberal Party - and on their claim that they're ready to govern."
(Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)