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Hill Life & People

In the spotlight: Senate Chamber makes TV debut

Plus, Libby Davies has penned a political memoir, former Mulroney PMO staffer Bill Fox is recovering from a health scare, and Globe and Mail assistant editor Chris Hannay is taking on a new assignment.

The Senate began broadcasting from inside the Red Chamber on March 18. Screenshot courtesy of SenVu
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Ever felt the burning desire to watch Senate proceedings, but then realize you’re too busy or too far away to be there in person? The Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) started broadcasting the Upper Chamber both online and on TV on March 18.

One can catch the proceedings live on CPAC’s website and on a tape-delayed basis on CPAC TV the next business day, according to a press release. Senate Question Period will be available on the website on demand, and it will continue to offer live and on-demand access to Senate committees, which are also available through SenVu.

Recently, National Post reporter Marie-Danielle Smith reported that Senators were getting a crash course in how to be on TV, including that they need not wear lanyards and to always remember that they’re being watched.

When asked by Ms. Smith if people are getting new haircuts or anything ahead of Monday evening, ISG Senator Paula Simons, who is a former newspaper columnist said, “I’m going this afternoon for a cut and colour, you betcha.”

Generally, Senators are a bit split on the idea of broadcasting proceedings. Those supporting the idea say it increases accountability and transparency, while those opposed say it could increase partisanship, as it did in the House of Commons when introduced in 1977.

Baby makes three for Hill reporter

Globe and Mail assistant editor Chris Hannay is reportedly learning how to function in the land of the living without much shut-eye. A recent inductee into the ever-wakeful profession of fatherhood, he’s taking time off his post as Ottawa bureau assistant editor to get to know Ian Alon-Hannay.

Globe and Mail assistant editor Chris Hannay catching a rare moment of sleep with his new baby boy Ian Alon-Hannay. Photograph courtesy of Chris Hannay

“I have never treasured anything in this life as much as Ian, and sleep,” he said by email. “I hope to meet sleep again one day.”

He and wife Dani Alon, artistic director of the Improv Embassy Theatre Co., welcomed the baby boy earlier this month.

“Sometimes when he is quiet and alert he looks up at us with big eyes and a real expression of curiosity and skepticism, so I know he will make a good journalist one day,” said Mr. Hannay, who’s worked at The Globe since 2008, and on the Hill team since 2012 where he works closely with bureau chief Robert Fife to direct paper’s federal politics coverage.

While away, Toronto-based colleague Aron Yeomanson will write the paper’s daily Politics Briefing until Mr. Hannay returns in late May.

Former NDP deputy leader pens memoir

Activist. City councillor. Parliamentarian. Former NDP Deputy Leader Libby Davies can now add author to the list. Her political memoir, Outside In, is set for release in May by Toronto-based publisher Between The Lines.

Former NDP MP Libby Davies has written a political memoir, named Outside In. The Hill Times photograph by Steve Gerecke

She chronicles her journey over four decades, first as a community organizer in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside at age 19, before she climbed the political ladder, going from the municipal to federal arena. After five terms on the Vancouver city council, Ms. Davies did one better at the national level, serving as MP for Vancouver East, B.C., over six terms from 1997 until retirement in 2015. She was NDP House leader from 2003 to 2011 and deputy leader from 2007 to 2015.

The book synopsis describes her writing style as one that offers both “candid humour and heart-rending honesty.” While discussing her work on homelessness, sex workers’ rights, and ending drug prohibition, she also offers “astute political analysis” and an “insider’s perspective that never loses touch with the people she fights alongside,” the publisher promises.

Ms. Davies now works on the boards of the Portland Hotel Society and Vancouver Community College.

Former Mulroney PMO staffer thanks hospital for ‘saving my life’

Former journalist and Mulroney-era press secretary Bill Fox is recovering after a near-deadly experience.

Mr. Fox said on Twitter he was released from JFK Hospital in the United States on March 14, thanking its infectious disease and cardiology teams “for literally saving my life.”

“Your professionalism shines like a beacon, your friendship is cherished,” said Mr. Fox, who didn’t say what happened.

Mr. Fox started his career in journalism, working his way up to Ottawa bureau chief for the Toronto Star, before turning his eye to politics. He worked for Brian Mulroney, first when the Progressive Conservative was leader of the official opposition, eventually following him into the Prime Minister’s Office, where he was director of communications. He’s also worked as vice-president at CN, Bombardier, and Bell Canada Enterprises.

Politics runs in the family; he’s also father to Graham Fox, who ran provincially in 2007, and has worked as chief of staff to former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark, and advisers to MPs over the years. Former NDP national director Robert Fox is Bill’s brother. 

NDP MP Jenny Kwan, right, and Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree, left, met on screen to discuss politics. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

Jenny Kwan and Gary Anandasangaree go on political ‘blind date’

B.C.-based NDP MP Jenny Kwan and Toronto-area Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree met up on TVO’s Political Blind Date on March 18 to debate multiculturalism in Canada.

Mr. Anandasangaree, parliamentary secretary to Canadian heritage and multiculturalism minister Pablo Rodriguez, was surprised at how emotional the show’s filming was, he told The Star.

Political Blind Date takes two politicians from different ideological spectrums and brings them together for a half-hour episode of debate and sometimes surprising agreement.

Ms. Kwan, her party’s critic for immigration and citizenship, used the forum to show Mr. Anandasangaree how she felt the foreign temporary worker program was unjust.

“It was both exciting and nerve-racking given the subject area. I was always used to seeing Jenny Kwan at committee or in the House,” Mr. Anandasangaree told The Star. “This allowed both of us to discuss things in a less formal way, as colleagues, as opposed to adversaries.”    

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, pictured with his wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, was sworn in on March 17 as the new MP for Burnaby South, B.C. Photograph courtesy of Twitter

Singh makes history on the Hill

After 17 months at the helm of the NDP, leader Jagmeet Singh is finally in the House. He addressed Parliament for the first time March 18 after his February win in Burnaby South, B.C.

Mr. Singh is the first person of colour to lead a federal party and he used his first words to mourn the deadly New Zealand mosque shooting.

He was introduced by colleagues Peter Julian and Ruth Ellen Brosseau to applause in the Commons on March 18, the day after he was officially sworn in.

His first question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on affordable housing, which the NDP have been hammering the Liberals on as one of the party’s key election issues.

Kevin Page, Michele Austin, Ian Wayne among speakers at sold-out election campaign workshop

A sold-out workshop with some Hill heavy hitters is looking to demystify what it’s like to run in a federal campaign for those thinking of putting their name on the ballot.

Former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page is speaking at a sold-out workshop on entering politics. The Hill Times file photograph

Called Journey to Running in a Federal Election, the workshop takes place on March 20 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the University of Ottawa’s Tabaret Hall. It’s being organized by iVote-jeVote and the University of Ottawa think tank the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy (IFSD) in partnership with Elections Canada.

Speakers include former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, who now heads the IFSD; Twitter Canada’s head of government and former Conservative staffer Michele Austin; former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock; Green Party leader Elizabeth May; former NDP staffer Ian Wayne; former Conservative staffer Jenni Byrne; and Marijuana Party candidate John Akpata.

iVote-jeVote is a student-run organization that brings together studies, politicians, and academics in a non-partisan environment to discuss Canadian politics and policy. It’s based out of the IFSD, according to its website.

Elections Canada will also be launching a toolkit to simplify an election run for prospective candidates, says the event’s webpage. It’s the first of three Inspire Democracy resources on electoral participation coming out this spring.

Grit MP Don Rusnak says he will not seek re-election

First-term Liberal MP Don Rusnak will not try for a second term. He announced on March 17 that he would sit out the upcoming federal election.

First-term Liberal MP Don Rusnak said he’s not trying for a second run at his seat. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

“It’s been four years since I began one of the great adventures of my life,” Mr. Rusnak said in a statement. He said his family was the reason for his return to private life.

He served as the parliamentary secretary to then minister of Indigenous services Jane Philpott from 2017 to 2018.

Mr. Rusnak was elected in 2015 with 44.1 per cent of the vote, defeating NDP incumbent John Rafferty handily by nearly 15 per cent of the vote.

He is the only Ontario Indigenous MP.

Mr. Rusnak announced that he will continue to serve in the House until the next election.  

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