Inside Ottawa: News and notes from Parliament Hill
Welcome to the new CTV News political blog, where our Parliamentary reporters will bring you the inside scoop from Ottawa each and every day. Check back often! And note: the newest items are at the top, so scroll down for news and notes from earlier in the day.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Was that the governor general, or Santa, spotted in Gatineau this morning?
Gov.-Gen. David Johnston was up bright and early this morning to help with a charity event in Gatineau, Que.
Johnston joined volunteers in the 13th annual La grande guignolee des medias event, to collect money and non-perishable food items from motorists stopped at the intersection of Alexandre-Tache and St-Joseph Boulevards.
The GG donned a Santa hat and a safety vest and ran around collecting items from surprised drivers. The event that has raised more than $22 million for local charities since 2001.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Julian Fantino was leaving the Conservative Caucus meeting this morning and reporters asked him about the lastest suicide in the military, here is the transcript.
Question: Are you concerned, Minister, about another reported suicide in the military?
Hon. Julian Fantino: We’re concerned about any suicides, and we care deeply about the families and we extend our condolences.
Question: Can you stop? Can you stop?
Hon. Julian Fantino: No, I have a matter to deal with. Thank you.
Question: Yeah, but what about this matter? Can you tell us what can be done (inaudible)?
Question: Are you taking any action to try and deal with this?
Hon. Julian Fantino: I have a matter to deal with. Thank you.
Question: Are you going to come out and talk to us and tell us what the government’s doing? (No response.)
For the record, Question Period has repeatedly invited the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs onto the show, but he has declined all invitations.
It's that time of year...
Testing the bulbs on Parliament Hill for Christmas Lights Across Canada, which launches Thursday evening. Purty!
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Parliament Hill tour
Google Maps has expanded its Street View of Parliament Hill, announcing Tuesday that now users can take a virtual tour of the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the office of Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair. The new additions to Street View also include the Memorial Chamber and the Peace Tower Observation Deck.
There are bananas growing in Ottawa
(Insert your jokes about monkeys and the behaviour of certain Members of Parliament during Question Period in the HOC here, wise guys.)
But seriously, these bananas are growing at Rideau Hall! You can find them in the Governor General's greenhouse. CTV reporter Daniele Hamamdjian and I were on a secret mission there yesterday, and we'll bring you more about that in the coming weeks! In the meantime, a mini photographic preview as Rideau Hall staff readies the GG's residence for the holidays.
Monday, December 2, 2013
Setting up for first ever newser in the red chamber by Speaker Kinsella!
CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife takes a seat before the news conference.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Patrick Brazeau is known for periodic Twitter outbursts, and he was at it again Friday morning in an attempt to secure new employment after being suspended without pay from the Senate earlier this month.
In a series of tweets, Brazeau outlined his work experience before suggesting he would make an excellent addition to the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
My CV:Senator of Canada,Nat't Chief of CAP, Canadian Armed Forces, many other Honourable jobs. I'm 4 hire b/c Harper suspended me! #cdnpoli— SenPatrickBrazeau (@TheBrazman) November 29, 2013
Thank you all for your interest and direct messages but I'm really serious, I'm looking for work. It's not a joke.— SenPatrickBrazeau (@TheBrazman) November 29, 2013
I want to show Canadians all I want to do is work.i'm from a hard-working family - not a privileged one. Where do I send my resume?#cdnpoli— SenPatrickBrazeau (@TheBrazman) November 29, 2013
On December 16, 2008, PM Stephen Harper offered me a Senate seat to support his "Aboriginal Agenda". I said yes. I made a mistake.n#cdnpoli— SenPatrickBrazeau (@TheBrazman) November 29, 2013
He also suggested he’s writing a book about his experience and it may appear on store shelves before the 2015 election.
Chapter 1-I lost my job because I was supposed to protect Duffy. Chapter 2- I made a mistake to trust Steve Harper. Chapter 3-not there yet.— SenPatrickBrazeau (@TheBrazman) November 29, 2013
Most journalists know with fact I didn't do anything wrong but I am not the story. It doesn't sell but it will soon will! #cdnpoli— SenPatrickBrazeau (@TheBrazman) November 29, 2013
And in another bit of intrigue, Brazeau re-tweeted a tweet sent from the account of the newly resurrected Frank magazine. Hmmm...
Just filled out a Parliamentary Press pass application for our new freelancer. He's gonna cover the hell outta Senategate! #cdnpoli— Frank Magazine (@Frank_Mag) November 29, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
The Press Gallery vs. the PM’s Parliamentary Secretary
There was collective Twitter frustration by the Press Gallery over Paul Calandra’s answers in Question Period today. The Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary is the go-to guy lately on everything Senate scandal (when the PM isn’t in the House). And his go-to answer when questioned by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair:
(referring to Mulcair) “When he talked about the bribe that he was potentially offered, he said that he didn’t know that what he was being offered was a bribe because he didn’t actually open the envelope. If he didn’t open the envelope how did he know that what he was being offered was a bribe?....
Either he opened the envelope or he didn’t.”
*Calandra is referring to this story.
Here are some of the tweets from the Press Gallery during QP today:
Hiigh school classes at #QP today. At least one poor kid has fallen asleep. If there's a test, she could borrow Calandra's rote notes.— Tonda MacCharles (@TondaMacC) November 28, 2013
This is the way democracy ends, not with a bang but with a semi-coherent series of non-answers and unexplained accusations by Paul Calandra.— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) November 28, 2013
Even the government backbench looks pissed off at Calandra, who keeps on about a bribe offered to Mulcair sometime in the last century.— John Ivison (@IvisonJ) November 28, 2013
Okay, c'mon Speaker Scheer. The nonsense being spouted right now by Calandra should be shut down. #cdnpoli— Susan Delacourt (@SusanDelacourt) November 28, 2013
Calandra just said Gerstein isn’t under investigation by RCMP. Calandra can’t know that.— Stephen Maher (@stphnmaher) November 28, 2013
Calandra: "What is important to gov't business is that 18yrs ago, [Mulcair] could have stopped massive government corruption in Quebec." #qp— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) November 28, 2013
When they build the monument to the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretaries it will be in Paul Calandra's likeness.— aaronwherry (@aaronwherry) November 28, 2013
Can someone do some research for Calandra? I feel it's mean to equip him with these old answers.— Rosemary Barton (@RosieBarton) November 28, 2013
Politicians honour soldiers who committed suicide
The Veterans Affairs committee began with a moment of silence today to honour the two soldiers who committed suicide this week. You can read about that here.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
New MPs Descend Upon Ottawa
Prime Minister Stephen Harper invited media to 24 Sussex this morning to showcase his two new Conservative Manitoba MPs. Larry McGuire and Ted Falk left 24 Sussex in style in Harper’s black SUV to attend this morning’s caucus meeting on the Hill. We got a nice glimpse of the festive decorations at the PM’s House too!
The Liberals trotted out their two new MPs, too, today in Centre Block: Chrystia Freeland and Emmanuel Dubourg.
The Liberal candidates who lost in Manitoba, Rolf Dinsdale and Terry Hayward, joined in too.
Dinsdale did the gentlemanly thing earlier today, tweeting a photo of himself congratulating his winning competitor at the airport on their way to Ottawa.
Didn't get to say congrats 2 @LarryMaguireM last night but look who I bumped into on flight to Ottawa pic.twitter.com/CK4SVGXXy4— Rolf Dinsdale (@RolfDinsdale) November 27, 2013
A snowy morning in Ottawa, as winter hits Parliament Hill
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Byelection reaction on Parliament Hill - Everybody's Happy!
“If you look at the numbers, you’ll realize that the NDP got its best result ever in Toronto Centre. It is the best result we ever got.”
“We’ve maintained our level of support, even in Quebec…we have exactly the same level of support in Bourassa that we had in 2011. I think that the results that would have been better would have been to steal one of those safe Liberal seats.” (Mulcair smiled when he made that last comment.)
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea:
“We’re happy with the results of the election, we held two seats in Manitoba so we’re very happy with that.”
Q: But are you concerned about popular vote going down?
“Byelections aren’t usually won by sitting governments so we’re happy with the results.”
“The fact that we went from somewhere around 4per cent to over 40per cent in Brandon shows that positive politics are making a difference.”
“It’s important not to read in too much, it is a byelection, it’s very much an artificial construct when it comes to predicting general elections…”.
“I think that we can be very, very encouraged by the sense that we got that the Liberal party is connecting…”.
Laurie Hawn, Conservative – Edmonton Centre:
“We were happy to win in Manitoba, which we expected.”
Q: But did the Senate play a role though (in the lower numbers)?
“Oh perhaps, yes, probably did.”
Costas Menegakis, Conservative – Richmond Hill, Ontario:
“Great news.” “Both of our guys that we expected in Manitoba got in. We overcame a 29-point lead. Awesome.”
Parliamentarians Dribble, Jump, and Throw
No, I’m not talking about Question Period in the House.
Parliament Hill turned into a mini-race course today to raise awareness for Canada’s Special Olympics team. Olympic Gold medalist Mark Tewksbury was the race announcer, and Sports Minister Bal Gosal, Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Senator Jim Munson were among the Parliamentarians who joined special athletes in the friendly competition.
The athletes, and other representatives from Special Olympics Canada, will be meeting one on one with MPs and Senators on the Hill throughout the day.
Nice to see members from different parties working together for a good cause. Kinda leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside (before snowmaggedon hits Ottawa later today).
Click here for more info.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay runs his heart out after a bocce ball fumble:
Gold medal-winning Olympian Mark Tewksbury rallies the troops:
Monday, November 25, 2013
Parliament Hill Makeover
Public Works and Government Services Canada unveiled artist's renderings of the West Block Rehabilitation Project, which includes the construction of a temporary House of Commons chamber and other facilities that will be needed while Centre Block gets its own facelift.
According to a fact sheet the department posted online, interior parts of the building that have been designated “heritage spaces are being restored to resemble their original look” while being updated to meet a modern-day government’s needs.
“Other parts of the building will be repurposed and rehabilitated to add more functional space and to meet parliamentary needs while also preserving the original detailing and finishes,” the department says.
The temporary House chamber, for instance, will have a glazed roof that can filter sunlight and external sound. The glass panels will also be able to regulate the chamber’s temperature.
Once the renovation of Centre Block is complete and the temporary House chamber is no longer needed, the infill will be converted into “much-needed” committee rooms, expanding the useable space of West Block “by 50 per cent.”
Check out the West Block’s new look:
The interim House of Commons Chamber
The West Block's renovated courtyard and glazed roof
A "scrum area" for journalists to interview Parliamentarians
The foyer of the temporary House of Commons chamber
Thursday, November 21, 2013
House Speaker Andrew Scheer had a Grey Cup kick-off party in his Parliament Hill office today. Scheer is from Regina, and he invited MPs who support either of the two teams facing off in Sunday’s match: Saskatchewan and Hamilton. More importantly, there was football cake!
Some holiday cheer on Parliament Hill….
Recent political scandals and cover ups are not getting in the way of a festive atmosphere on the Hill!
As we work furiously to prepare this week’s edition of Question Period, we took a moment to enjoy the purty decorations in Parliament’s centre block that went up this week. Thanks to CTV camera person Robyn Hinton for the pics!
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
It’s never too late, I mean early, for holiday greetings. Just received the Prime Minister’s holiday card, featuring their annual family portrait, with a new addition this year: their pet chinchilla, Charlie.
Chair of Senate Internal Economy Committee Calls it Quits
Senator Gerald Comeau, who was appointed as Chair of the Senate’s Internal Economy committee in June, told reporters on Parliament Hill this afternoon that he is stepping down. Not only as committee chair, but from the Senate altogether. But he insists his departure has nothing to do with the current scandal in the Senate, “no you can trust me on that.” He officially could have stayed in the Senate for another 7 years.
Comeau said that he actually told the Prime Minister back in June he would be retiring this fall. At the same time, Marjory LeBreton asked him to step in as Chair of the internal economy committee since former chair David Tkachuk was leaving his post to undergo cancer treatment. He agreed to do the job until October 31 but extended his stay another month due to the recent happenings in the Senate.
His last day on the job will be next Thursday, November 28. He added “I’m not retiring from life, I’m retiring from the Senate.” But says he will take an extended vacation in Florida before starting any new work projects.
Comeau would not confirm who the new chair of the committee will be, stay tuned for that!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
MPs do have style
NDP MP Megan Leslie was rocking these cute 1950s-inspired shoes when she participated in an MPs panel on Power Play today. Who says MPs don't have style, who?
You can watch the panel here.
Ouch! Flu shot field trip
CTV’s new Ottawa deputy bureau chief Laurie Graham and Power Play host Don Martin both got their flu shots today.
They went together for moral support because they are both deathly afraid of needles. Laurie said she had to do it because in 2005 she had her first flu, and it was a whopper. She was down for over a week and she had never been so sick, so since then she has done the deed. And apparently has been flu-free since then. But she knows some people do not like the shot, and she’s not here to tell people what to do, “to each his own!”
She did say that Don was a bit of a chicken, and she had to “hold his hand” during the “ordeal.” Don confirmed this, saying needles make him sweaty, fainty, and turn red like a certain Canadian major city mayor.
But, like Laurie, he says he overcame his fear of needles for the greater fear of getting the flu. Besides feeling like crap, it’s apparently not fun being a TV host with an incessant cough. And trying not to cough while on air. There you go. I think I’ll go get my flu shot tomorrow.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Ottawa’s Littlest Drummer Boy Meets the Prime Minister
You may remember this little guy from a story CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian did in the summer. Isaac De Franco loves the changing of the guards so much, he participates A LOT. (You can watch the story here.) Well, he had the honour of meeting the Prime Minister yesterday!
Monday, November 11, 2013
How the NDP's Veterans Affairs critic spends Remembrance Day
Every year for the last 16 years, the NDP’s Peter Stoffer hits the road ahead of Remembrance Day, driving close to 450 kilometres in order to visit veterans and commemorate with Nova Scotians on Nov. 11.
The Veterans Affairs critic starts the morning off around 8:30 a.m. at Halifax’s Pier 21, where he lays a wreath at the Dutch cenotaph. The monument recognizes Canadian soldiers who lost their lives on Dutch soil, which is especially poignant for Peter because he was born in Holland. (You are not allowed to call him Mr. Stoffer, by the way, because “Mr. Stoffer” is his dad’s name)
Then he visits places like Eastern Passage, Ship Harbour, Gatesbrook, Waverley and Dartmouth -- just to name a few. And at each stop, he comes bearing gifts. This year, he will present the official Department of Veterans Affairs Remembrance poster, “a Canadian flag or two”, and a framed picture which includes himself, the former Minister of Veterans Affairs, and a whole bunch of veterans at the demilitarized zone in Korea. The photo was taken back in April in honour of the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War.
Stoffer is especially proud of the gift he presented to legions and halls back in 2003: three vases, one filled with soil from Vimy Ridge, one filled with sand from Juno beach, and one filled with soil from Korea. He said a lot of the people at the legions he visits won’t get a chance to travel to those places, so he brought those places to them.
The MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore says he does this drive every year (with a driver in tow, in case he needs to raise a glass at the various legions!), not only because it’s a lot of fun, but also because it gives him the opportunity to visit vets, current CF members, cadets and non-military people who want to show their gratitude. Stoffer says it’s “not a festive atmosphere, but a commemorative atmosphere.”
He adds: “I like to say Remembrance Day is Nov. 11, but every day for those who have served and their families is Remembrance Day.”
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Media waiting outside Senate door for arrivals. Everytime this white Senate bus pulls up we're hopeful it's Pamela Wallin, only to be disappointed. Awwww. Still waiting. For the latest in today's Senate action, including the vote to suspend Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, click here.
Monday, November 4, 2013
Conservative MP Gord Brown fulfills his promise this afternoon to give blueberry and apple fritters to media who covered last weekend’s Tory convention. He made the promise after NDP MP Peter Julian dropped off donuts to reporters in Calgary on Saturday. (See post from Saturday below.)
Intrigue, mystery, different versions of the truth and a story with many layers…
We have a new face at CTV’s Parliamentary bureau here in Ottawa, though you might recognize her, she’s been reporting for 23 years! Welcome Laurie Graham, our new Deputy Bureau Chief! Follow Laurie on Twitter for the latest on her stories and other news from Parliament Hill.
Here’s a little Q & A to get to know Laurie better!
Q: Where are you from?
A: I'm from Sydney, N.S., on Cape Breton Island. A magical place with a celebrated tradition of storytelling.
Q:What inspired you to become a reporter?
A: I always considered myself a natural-born storyteller. My siblings just thought I was a Chatty Cathy. My nose for news came honestly. It didn't hurt that my Uncle Bill Jessome was a news reporter who worked most of his career with ATV - a CTV affiliate in The Maritimes, but my parents were also keenly interested in current events, which I believe rubbed off on me.
Q: What was the most interesting story you ever had to cover?
A: From the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Peggy's Cove, to the September 11th terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center. I did two rotations in Kandahar, covering Canada's mission in Afghanistan and was part of a team in Haiti covering the aftermath of that devastating earthquake.
Q: What was the most bizarre story you ever had to cover?
In every story, there are always those bizarre moments that have nothing to do with the story, but happen while you are covering the story. I've had a number of those over the years, but one I will never forget is the time I was in Israel, covering the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.
We were on the so called front lines, practically next to a tank firing shots across the border. The sound was deafening! The loudest sound I had ever heard and the only way to find comfort was to plug my ears. Or so I thought.
Udi, my cameraman, offered me his cigarettes. I yelled over the sound, "I don't smoke." He shook his head no, grabbed two cigarettes from the package, broke off the filters and shoved one in each of my ears. Instant relief! I don't smoke, but I was glad Udi did!
Q: What was the most interesting ‘scrum’ moment you’ve ever had?
I've been involved in a lot of scrums over the years, but there's one I will never forget. It was with then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien who came to Cape Breton to announce about a million dollars for the Island, but he didn't say how the money was to be spent or what it was for. So I asked him, was this just another example of a government coming to Cape Breton offering yet another handout without a single plan for how the money should be spent?
I clearly touched a nerve because Chrétien lost it. He yelled at me. Lectured me. He asked me whether I thought he should take the money back, "would that make you happy?" he shouted. It was brutal. I was the network reporter for the Maritimes surrounded by Parliamentary reporters and in that moment, I was mortified. But it taught me a lot. I was never afraid to ask anyone a question after that. If I could survive being berated by Chrétien in a scrum, no scrum ever seemed scary again!
Q: What was the most interesting political story you’ve covered?
A: I've covered a lot of political stories over the years, but I have to say the Senate scandal is up there as one of the most interesting. It's filled with intrigue, mystery, different versions of the truth and it's a story with many layers.
Q: What is your favourite place to hang out in Ottawa?
A: I don't have a single favourite place. I like to run along the Ottawa River, but only in the Spring/Summer. I'm a fair weather runner! I like the 19th Tee, which is an Ottawa Golf driving Range. I don't spend nearly enough time there!
Q: What should CTV viewers know about Laurie Graham?
A: My golf handicap is 10 and I'm working hard to get to single digits!
I have a shoe/boot fetish and on occasion doodle my own designs!
Laurie setting up in her new CTV digs…
Friday, November 1, 2013
1:30 p.m. ET
NDP MP Peter Julian, who is an observer at the Conservative convention, arrives at convention centre with donuts for media!
10:30 a.m. ET
No Senate today, no Question Period in the House of Commons. So instead, Conservative convention in Calgary!
CTV National News reporter Richard Madan and cameraman Tom Michalak in festive attire from the convention floor early this morning.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
A look at the empty Senate this afternoon before senators arrive for the 2 pm ET sitting:
CTV National News producer Philip Ling spoke with Senator Cowan's office today (the Liberal leader in the Senate) and made this handy list of what to expect with the senate motion to suspend Duffy, Brazeau, and Wallin:
• Today, Conservatives are going to introduce a new government motion on Brazeau, Duffy, Wallin – this will replace the three original motions on them. Making it a government motion means they can introduce time allocation/closure to shut down debate the next sitting day.
• Liberals say the Conservatives have given them a heads up that after today’s sitting, they will request the Senate adjourn until Monday so Tories can go their Convention in Calgary. Liberals will allow the adjournment. So, Senate is expected to not sit tomorrow and they will return on Monday.
• Liberals don’t expect the sitting to last too long today after the tabling of the new government motion. Liberals won’t introduce amendments to the motion today.
• On Monday, it’s expected government will table time allocation/closure on debate on the new government motion. Expect the vote to happen on Tuesday.
*There was no word from the Senate leader’s office (at the time of this posting) on if their timeline matches Cowan’s*
QP Host Bob Fife on his way to Calgary this morning for the Conservative Convention.
The Prime Minister will give a speech Friday evening at 7pmET, and pretty sure the party is hoping the senate will have voted on the motions to suspend Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau before Harper takes the stage. But that isn’t looking too good right now.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Many happy faces last night in Ottawa at the book launch for former NDP campaign director Brad Lavigne. Happy because the Senate scandal is a political plus for Canada's Official Opposition at the moment. The party is sending three observers to the Conservative convention later this week, and one MP commented that they will have “so much fun" in Calgary.
A large number of party faithful turned out to support Lavigne, whose new book, titled 'Building the Orange Wave,' chronicles Jack Layton's rise to political power, and how the NDP got to where they are now. Speaking to partygoers, Lavigne said that this wasn't a “one-off,” implying the NDP would be successful again in the 2015 federal election.
Jack Layton's former chief of staff, Anne McGrath, just re-joined the NDP team, after leaving post-2011 election to work for communications firm Ensight. She confirmed her new title is 'senior advisor' and she's currently working on 2015 election preparation.
Many NDP MPs attended the event, including Paul Dewar, Andrew Cash, Nathan Cullen, Niki Ashton, and Olivia Chow. Chow, who wrote the book's forward, was evasive when asked whether or not she would run for Toronto mayor, even after it was pointed out that new candidate Karen Stintz might split the Conservative vote with Mayor Rob Ford.
The NDP caucus gathered this morning on the Hill, as do the Conservative and Liberal caucuses. Tom Mulcair was to skip caucus to visit Montreal this morning, but promised to return to Ottawa for Question Period in the House after a successful stint in the House yesterday. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is in Calgary today so will miss caucus and QP.
NDP MP Peter Stoffer in line to get his booked signed by Brad Lavigne.
Anne McGrath, new senior advisor to the NDP, and NDP MP Hoang Mai.
NDP MP Charlie Angus at the Metropolitan in Ottawa.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Media wait outside the Senate foyer door to see if Senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau will arrive for today's proceedings.
A pretty view of Parliament Hill ahead of what is sure to be another busy day. Follow the latest developments on the Senate here.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Media await the arrival of Sen. Mike Duffy to today's Senate proceedings:
The Senate Saga Continues Today!
The Conservative Senate caucus is meeting at 1 p.m. today, possibly to debate amendments to the suspension motion. However, the Prime Minister reiterated earlier today on a Halifax radio show that he wants a full suspension for all three senators.
Harper also spoke about his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, saying he was dismissed back in May. He initially said that he had resigned, after Robert Fife broke the news that Wright had given the $90,000 cheque to Mike Duffy so that the senator could pay back his mis-claimed expenses. In Wright’s May 19resignation letter, he wrote:
“In light of the controversy surrounding my handling of matters involving Senator Duffy, the Prime Minister has accepted my resignation as Chief of Staff.”
In a statement from the Prime Minister released on May 19, he said:
“It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff.”
The senate will sit at 2 p.m. today. They don’t usually sit on Mondays, but it seems there’s lots to do this week! There are several votes to take place, including voting on a motion to limit debate on the suspension motions, and the suspension motions themselves. We will be watching (and listening, since you can’t see the Senate on TV).
Friday, October 25, 2013
The Senate debate over the motions to suspend Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau has ended for the week. Catch up on the latest here, and we'll see you next week!
Thursday, October 24, 2013
There’s a lot of confusion around here over Sen. Hugh Segal’s point of order in the Senate yesterday, which is being considered by Speaker Noel Kinsella. This is in regards to the motion to suspend Sen. Pamela Wallin. Reporter Omar Sachedina has broken it down.
- The Government’s motion to suspend without pay is the same as a centuries-old British law that declared a person guilty without a trial. Therefore, the motion violates due process.
- There has been no discussion/debate in Senate, re: Wallin.
- The motion violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- The Deloitte report and EOC report for Wallin were deposited with the clerk in August. After that, Parliament was prorogued, essentially wiping the slate clean. So the reports were never tabled/presented to Senate for debate.
Day 3 of Senate Brouhaha
The Senate will be back at 2 p.m. today to continue the debate on the motions to suspend Senators Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau. But a vote is not expected, as there are other sub-motions the Senate has to deal with, and the Speaker of the Senate still has to make a decision on Sen. Hugh Segal’s point of order on the motion to suspend Wallin. So much to do! Sen. Marjory LeBreton is also expected to deliver her response to Duffy’s speech today. (She responded to Wallin’s speech yesterday – more about that here.)
Mr. Craig Oliver is in his office preparing for the day, and I asked him his thoughts on the current Senate situation. He told me this is a sneak peek of what he’ll talk about on Power Play today:
“Harper created an environment within his government with the philosophy ‘win at all costs.’ Therefore, people he worked with felt it was ok to break rules. He also created this ‘you’re with us or you’re against us’ mentality. If you’re against us, you will be cast aside and will be crushed.”
You can read about what Craig was talking about here.
Make sure to catch Craig on Don Martin’s Power Play today at 5 p.m. ET!
Wednesday, October 23, 2013:
Marjory LeBreton to Mike Duffy: 'This is a figment of his imagination'
Former Leader of the Government in the Senate Marjory LeBreton is denying the allegations by Mike Duffy that she threatened him last May.
In his speech to the Senate on Tuesday, Duffy alleged that LeBreton told him in a phone call on May 16 that if he didn’t resign from the Conservative caucus within 90 minutes, he would be thrown out. He also said she told him if he didn’t step down immediately, he would be thrown out of the Senate.
LeBreton was on her way to the weekly Conservative caucus meeting Wednesday when she stopped to speak to reporters.
“The portrayal he laid out in the Senate yesterday is flat out false,” she said.
Duffy also said in his speech that LeBreton told him the only way to save his paycheck was to quit caucus. She denied this threat, saying “I had no such conversation with him.”
One reporter remarked that Duffy claims she has “strong-armed” him.
“Absolutely not, absolutely not,” she said. “We were trying to help him at one point.”
She also said that there was no widespread plan by PMO, and called this a “figment of (Duffy’s) imagination.”
Later this morning after Conservative caucus, CTV reporter Omar Sachedina caught up with LeBreton, and she confirmed to him that her colleague, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, another Senator implicated in the Duffy scandal, had quit the Senate’s Internal Economy Committee.
That committee first ordered the external audits of Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and former senator Mac Harb earlier this year.
From Inside the Red Chamber – What You Couldn’t See
The Senate was a frenzy of media activity yesterday. This is not the norm by the way. Senate staff were reportedly a bit overwhelmed by all the attention. One reporter hurt her knee in the Senate Foyer when Pamela Wallin walked through because of the aggressive surge of cameras and reporters following the senator towards the chamber door. Wallin did not make any comment to reporters, and she didn’t get a chance to speak in the chamber yesterday.
The other two senators under threat of suspension, Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy, waited until they were inside the chamber to have their say, and you can read all about that here, and you can listen to Duffy and Brazeau’s speeches here.
You can only listen to their speeches because no cameras are allowed in the Red Chamber, hence the reason you won’t see pictures of Duffy wagging his finger at the senators across the aisle that he included in his accusations of a “conspiracy.”
I was sitting in the packed Senate Press Gallery, on a little wooden chair on the north side of the Senate, which is a floor above where the senators reside.
Mike Duffy was sitting in between Brazeau and Wallin in the southeast corner. Brazeau and Wallin arrived first, and Sen. Jim Munson stopped at their desks to chat with both of them. (Munson told reporters yesterday that he will vote against the motion to suspend the three senators.) When Duffy arrived, all three senators chatted with each other briefly. A few other senators, not many, stopped by to chat with them, both before question before and after the Senate adjourned.
During question period, Wallin and Duffy chatted intermittently. Duffy left his seat at one point to chat with Sen. George Baker, and they looked over some papers together. At another point, Wallin and Duffy briefly left the chamber, and the Press Gallery (including me) tweeted and sent emails furiously. Our CTV camera person ran outside the building to see if perhaps she was leaving. It was all a false alarm, most likely a bathroom break.
When Duffy presented his case, he pointed angrily at the senators he said were pressuring him to pay back the money: Senators David Tkachuk, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, and Marjory LeBreton. (Stewart Olsen sat with her arms crossed during most of the speech, while LeBreton spent some time typing on her tablet.)
There were certain instances when the three senators stood together in solidarity. When Brazeau said in his speech that the board of eternal economy meetings should be made public, both Duffy and Wallin banged their desks in agreement. When Brazeau argued that the Senate expense rules were changed behind closed doors, Wallin nodded in agreement.
Wallin is expected to stand in the Senate to make her case today, sometime around 3 p.m. ET. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013:
The talk on Parliament Hill today was focused on the motions to suspend Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin from the Senate, without pay, for “gross negligence” regarding their expenses. For the latest developments, read our story here.
Senator Duffy and Brazeau having a chat while Senate leader explains the rules on how to properly claim living expenses #cdnpoli— CTV'S QUESTIONPERIOD (@ctvqp) October 22, 2013
Sen. Claude Carignan begins introducing the three motions:
So basically Carignan is arguing the Senate has the right to punish Senators in the civil context by suspending them without pay.— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) October 22, 2013
So Carignan argues that his motion is purely disciplinary, not reflecting criminal wrong doing.— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) October 22, 2013
There was criticism from some Senators who seemed to think Carignan's motion was based on the criminal investigation - so impt distinction— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) October 22, 2013
Carignan is clarifying that his motion does NOT insinuate Duffy, Brazeau or Wallin committed a criminal offence - he is talking about civil— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) October 22, 2013
Sen Carignan says that civil errors have been recognized when Senators paid the money back but they *do not know* if criminal in nature— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) October 22, 2013
Now Carignan is walking through difference between disciplinary power/civil actions versus criminal— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) October 22, 2013
Sen Carignan says administrative rules for the Senate have been followed in the cases of all three Senators— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) October 22, 2013
Sen Carignan is saying these were the only senators referred to an external auditor— Mercedes Stephenson (@CTVMercedes) October 22, 2013
Sen. Duffy won't say if he will speak in his own defence during Tuesday's debate:
Just asked Duffy what he wanted to tell Cdns. Said "Stay tuned." I asked, "Stay tuned for what?" He looked at me, and turned away. #cdnpoli— Omar Sachedina (@omarsachedina) October 22, 2013
Senator Duffy is now sitting in the Senate, in between Senator Wallin and Senator Brazeau. #cdnpoli— CTV'S QUESTIONPERIOD (@ctvqp) October 22, 2013
And he does...
Senators begin arriving for question period, including Senators Brazeau and Wallin. The Ottawa Press Gallery waits to see if Duffy will follow:
Parliament Hill is teeming with reporters today to cover the Senate motion that may suspend Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin. We were trying to get an idea of how the senators will vote, if the motion even makes it to a vote later this afternoon. Sen. Jim Munson said he would not support it as he was on his way into Liberal Senate Caucus. Outside the Conservative Senate Caucus, a lot of senators took the back door when they saw us. Every time the elevator door rang outside Conservative caucus we were hopeful, only to have it open empty. Collective "awww's" all around.
It's about 8 C outside but media also waited patiently outside the senate door, waiting for senators to be dropped off by the green bus. (The green bus takes Parliamentarians from offices to other offices to parking etc., kind of like your elementary school bus but fancier.)
The calm before the storm? The Senate chamber on Tuesday morning, hours before motions to suspend three senators are to be debated.
Friday, October 18, 2013:
Chief Parliamentary Correspondent Craig Oliver and Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife are hard at work in Bob’s office cooking up another segment of The Scrum for this week’s Question Period.
Thursday, October 17, 2013:
CTV News reporter Richard Madan is about to board this plane for a whirlwind trip to Brussels, Belgium with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of the Press Gallery. During the overseas trip, the Prime Minister is expected to sign Friday the long-awaited Canada-EU Free Trade deal. (Watch for a discussion on that topic on CTV's Question Period this Sunday!)
You may remember that the PM’s plane got a fancy new makeover earlier this year, but that one is currently being used by Governor General David Johnston for his trip to China. So the PM had to take the less fancy, standard grey one seen here.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013:
Conservative Party Director of Political Operations Fred Delorey sent a letter to party members Wednesday afternoon, after almost all of the Ottawa press gallery decided not to send a pool reporter or cameras into the Tory caucus meeting earlier in the day.
Normally, the press gallery reporters are allowed to cover the prime minister’s address to caucus on the morning of the throne speech, but the Prime Minister's Office said no reporters, only cameras. After a lot of back and forth between bureau chiefs and the Prime Minister's Office, the PMO agreed to allow one pool reporter to enter the caucus meeting. This pool reporter would be responsible for covering the speech for the entire press gallery. The gallery banded together, saying it was either going to be all of them in the room or none, so none it was. (I should note that Sun Media did enter the room to cover, the only news organization to do so.)
After the press gallery decision earlier Wednesday, Delorey sent a letter to party members about the incident:
You won’t believe what the Press Gallery just did in Ottawa.
Some media decided to boycott an important speech by our Prime Minister – one where he laid out his vision for our country, before today’s Speech from the Throne.
Rather than send cameras to cover the Prime Minister’s speech, they attended the NDP's meeting, and were welcomed with cheers and applause. We knew they wouldn't give us fair coverage – but this is a new low for the Ottawa media elite.
Since you won’t see this speech on the evening news, we've updated our website with video from our Prime Minister’s speech:
Director, Political Operations
Conservative Party of Canada
The media did enter the NDP caucus for a couple of minutes to shoot leader Tom Mulcair. I can't speak for the Gallery, but it seemed more resourceful than staring at this door.
Gov.-Gen. David Johnston delivered the Speech from the Throne to a packed Senate chamber. Here's the story, with images and extended video, including reaction from the Official Opposition.
After a bomb scare at Langevin Block rattled Ottawa hours before the Speech from the Throne, police gave the all-clear:
Ottawa Police say 'suspicious package' discovered at Langevin Block has been "rendered safe."— CTV'S QUESTIONPERIOD (@ctvqp) October 16, 2013
CTV's Daniele Hamamdjian reported that staff from the Prime Minister's Office were being allowed back into the building.
Langevin building has reopened. #cdnpoli— Daniele Hamamdjian (@DHamamdjian) October 16, 2013
Langevin Block, which is home to the Prime Minister’s Office, was evacuated after a “suspicious man” reportedly uttered a bomb threat. Ottawa Police confirmed that they had one man in custody, and cordoned off a part of Wellington St. for their investigation. A specialized police unit is investigating the package to determine if it poses a threat.
Parliament returns with the Speech from the Throne
Prime Minister Stephen Harper got a head start on the Speech from the Throne this morning, with a series of tweets about its contents and his government's overall agenda for the fall session of Parliament. Follow along with the PMO here!
Today, you will hear from the Governor General. In #SFT13, he will tell Cdns how our govt will build upon the foundations we have laid.— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) October 16, 2013
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair allowed the media in for a quick photo op before his party's caucus meeting.
Reporters gathered on Parliament Hill bright and early Wednesday to catch MPs as they headed into their caucus meetings. Here are members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, including CTV's own Richard Madan, waiting outside the Conservative caucus meeting.
Overheard on the Hill: Reporters have dubbed this the 'Game of Throne Speech.'
The calm before the media storm: Parliament Hill is dark and quiet, hours before Gov.-Gen. David Johnston is to read the Speech from the Throne, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013.