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(Bill Grimshaw)
(Bill Grimshaw)

Ottawa Notebook

PMO douses election fire Add to ...

Harper Tory talking-points flew out of the PMO on Thursday, warning Conservatives that a fall election is not part of the Prime Minister's strategy: Under the headline, Fall Election Speculation, the e-mail said, "We will not and should not encourage speculation about a Fall election. Our clear and consistent position is that now is no time for an election. Therefore, we will not join in speculation about a Fall election, including speculation about our positioning and strategy."

What provoked this strong reaction? A story in The Globe and Mail detailing how some Tories are beginning to utter the once-taboo words "majority government." The "M" word has not passed Tory lips since the 2004 election, when Mr. Harper's bullish statements about forming a majority may have scared off voters. "Canadians do not want and do not need the Liberals to force an unnecessary, opportunistic election that would interrupt our Economic Action Plan and would put Canada's economic recovery at risk," said the e-mail.

"It is essential that all Caucus members and activists remember that we are NOT - repeat NOT - pushing for a Fall election." Wow. The story clearly hit a nerve in the top Tory ranks.

Chrétien, Cherry, Sir John A.

A former prime minister and an outspoken, flamboyantly dressed hockey commentator are the voices of Kingston's new self-guided walking tour celebrating one of the city's most famous residents, Sir John A. Macdonald.

Jean Chrétien, who shares a birthday (Jan. 11) with Canada's first prime minister, lent his distinctive voice to guide tourists around Sir John A.'s haunts.

The unique tour, In Sir John A.'s Footsteps, was written by Macdonald-phile Arthur Milnes, a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University (he made his wife marry him on Sir John A.'s birthday).

Meanwhile, Don Cherry of Coach's Corner fame, who grew up in Kingston, returned to his hometown this week to tape his version of the tour, even making some humorous comparisons between himself and Sir John A.: "If you close your eyes for a moment, it's not hard to imagine Macdonald as a young Scottish lad, talking with the other aldermen - maybe after a drink or two around here - laughing, cajoling, convincing. And usually winning his argument. Kinda like me."

Two continents, two storms, one MP

For the second time this year, Vaughan, Ont., Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua has faced the destructive forces of nature - first in his homeland and now in his Canadian hometown.

Last April, he helped launch a campaign to raise funds for the victims of the earthquake in L'Aquila, the region his family is from. The Prime Minister invited the Liberal politician to accompany him to the G8 in Italy, where he toured the area.

And then on Thursday, Mr. Bevilacqua's hometown of Vaughan, Ont. was hit by a tornado. About 600 homes were damaged. "The power of nature is humbling," said Mr. Bevilacqua, who spent hours with the emergency response team and noted the generosity of residents who came together to help their neighbours.

Hot and Not

Not: Fall election. It is doubtful that Prime Minister StephenHarper will make a deal with the Michael Ignatieff Liberals on reforming employment insurance. The two parties have had three meetings on the issue and no progress has been made.

University of Calgary professor Tom Flanagan, the former chief of staff to Mr. Harper and an astute political observer, says he doesn't believe Mr. Harper will make a deal, especially as the Prime Minister has had to make so many other concessions on spending as a result of the economic crisis.

This could result in a vote of non-confidence as the Liberals have a chance to bring in a motion in late September.

Hot: No fall election. Maybe it is wishful thinking on the part of the Conservatives, but Laureen Harper and some of her husband's cabinet ministers have already agreed to attend the National Arts Centre's annual gala on Oct. 3. (Never mind that there could be a non-confidence motion just days before.) Last year's fall federal election meant no politicians attended the gala. Mrs. Harper chairs the event.

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