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Mike Duffy, the former CTV host who was appointed a Conservative Senator, speaks in Toronto on January 24, 2007.

Ryan Carter/2007 Ryan Carter

The morning buzz: What's making news on Parliament Hill

1. Knives are out for Mike Duffy. It's a deluge now: less-than-flattering editorial cartoons, insulting commentary and pointed news stories. Even on Twitter, the PEI Senator can't get a break. Sun Media is reporting that Senator Duffy's identity was " hi-jacked." Someone has created a Twitter account in his name. Here's a sample of what's on it: "Happy Rememberence Day!! (sic)" and "craving onion rings" (a rather juvenile attack on Mr. Duffy's physique).

All this attention of late is a result of last week's nasty exchange between the Conservative Senator and Nova Scotia NDP Peter Stoffer on CBC's Power and Politics with Evan Solomon. Mr. Stoffer challenged Mr. Duffy's expenses and the cost to taxpayers of the new appointed Conservative Senators. An exasperated Mr. Duffy pulled no punches, resulting in what was a very heated debate.

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It seems that has provoked more stories about the Senator, including this one from the CBC: " Duffy P.E.I.'s most expensive senator." There are only four PEI Senators but of those Mr. Duffy comes in first, spending $100,848 in travel and office expense. This is more than double the average of his PEI colleagues.

Still, Mr. Duffy has the last laugh. In the CBC interview he vowed that he would do everything he could to ensure his Conservatives would trounce Mr. Stoffer's NDP in last Monday's by-election in Nova Scotia. And you know what? Mr. Duffy did just that and the Tories won.

2. Arts and citizenship. Stephen Harper's Tories have been a target for arts and culture groups. The Prime Minister's comments in last year's election that ordinary Canadians don't care about arts funding may have cost him his majority government. It certainly lost him votes in Quebec. Since then the Tories have been in a repair mode.

On the heels of the piano-playing Prime Minister comes the Conservative government's new citizenship guide, which is to be released later this morning. This new guide provides a more realistic look at what it means to be Canadian. Not only does it include our warts - residential schools and the internment of Italian- and Japanese-Canadians in world wars - it addresses our arts scene in a major way. For example, senior Tory sources say the new guide has an entire section on arts and culture, mentioning the Group of Seven, Emily Carr and prominent Canadian filmmakers, including Denys Arcand, Atom Egoyan and Norman Jewison. The old guide makes no mention of Canadian artists.

The new booklet will also talk about the Order of Canada, featuring a picture of pianist Oscar Peterson as one of the recipients. One little tidbit that the Tories like to point out: Marc Chalifoux, executive vice-president of the Historica-Dominion Institute, was one of the experts consulted for this guide. In his previous career, he was a senior aide to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

3. Polling the pandemic. EKOS's Frank Graves polled this week on the controversy around H1N1, finding that more than half of Canadians "say the high level of public concern over H1N1 is 'exaggerated.'"

The survey, which contacted 3,500 Canadians between Nov. 4 and 10, is good news for the Conservatives and less so for the Liberals as Canadians are satisfied with the vaccination program roll-out. "The public seem to have a pretty sober and balanced perspective on this overall," Mr. Graves said this morning. "Overall the public have a pretty good equilibrium of perceived risk and what they see as an … appropriate response." He says the Liberals must be careful with their hyperbole over the government's handling of the issue.

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Meanwhile, he also looked at the political horserace, finding that the Liberals are "stuck in amber" along with the Conservatives. For the second week, the numbers show that we are exactly where we were on election day 2008 - 36.6 per cent for the Conservatives, 26.6 per cent for the Liberals, 16.8 per cent for the NDP, 11.2 per cent for the Green Party and 8.8 per cent for the Bloc. Mr. Graves is noticing, however, that Jack Layton and the NDP are on the move in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Atlantic.

4. Ignatieff's friends and foes. Norman Spector writes about the first interview by Denis Coderre since the Montreal Liberal MP's spectacular departure as Michael Ignatieff's Quebec lieutenant. In La Presse today, Mr. Coderre says that after he stepped aside, Mr. Ignatieff re-organized his office and brought in former Chrétien communications director, Peter Donolo: "That's the reality. … It wasn't my doing alone, but it's clear that Mr. Donolo's arrival means that I was right. My gesture was Draconian, but it was an opportunity for Mr. Ignatieff and I think he's taken it."

And in the Winnipeg Free Press, columnist Frances Russell writes about her interview with former Harper chief of staff Tom Flanagan. Now a professor at the University of Calgary, Mr. Flanagan is very complimentary: "Michael Ignatieff to me is a world-famous scholar. I'd like to be a world-famous scholar. I'm not, so Ignatieff to me is a role model. ... I think he is a quality guy and I think Canada's lucky to have him as Liberal leader. I have the same views about Stephen Harper and I think we're lucky to have all of our leaders."

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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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