Workplace and symbol

It was about 1 p.m. One of the clerks outside the chamber went over the rules I was to keep in mind when I went inside: Enter quietly. No briefcases or parcels. No applauding or talking out loud. Rise to your feet when the Speaker enters, when you’re introduced and when you leave. It made me think I was entering the Vatican.

But it was actually the Speaker’s Gallery at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton last Thursday afternoon. Eventually, the MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) for Sherwood Park, just outside Edmonton, rose to address the government and opposition members present.

“Speaker, I rise to introduce distinguished visitors,” MLA Annie McKitrick said.

Trump’s ban, Canada’s boon

Refugees from the Baltic at Pier 21 immigration hall in 1848. Photo Halifax Chronicle Herald.

A number of weeks ago, neighbours and friends gathered in the basement of the United Church in my town. The church auxiliary served sandwiches, cakes, cookies, coffee and tea. A Syrian family had finally arrived in this community and the gathering at the church allowed townspeople to greet and meet them. They kept thanking the town for its generosity and initiatives to help. One thing the couple said that first day we met has stuck with me.

“Thank you for this welcome,” they said.

Power in association

The occasion was a municipal debate at Toronto City Hall, that I witnessed some months ago. The issue arose over the purchase of a small, insignificant piece of land by the municipality for the expansion of a city service. And before the debate even began, the city clerk called for city councillors to declare. Then, several stood up and did.

“In accordance with the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act,” one councillor said, “I excuse myself from the debate.”

Free speech not always free

FLQ painted windows.
FLQ painted windows.

I met the man at a party. He told me he’d just experienced the worst week of his life. He said he’d been rounded up in a Quebec City dragnet and that the police told him they had the authority to keep him in jail indefinitely. I was all ears. I figured I could somehow benefit from listening to his story. Better than that, as the host of a regular radio broadcast, I hoped I could get his story on the air.

“I was a victim of the War Measures Act,” he told me.

“Would you come on my radio show?” I asked him. “I’d like you to tell your story.”

As it turns out, his experience was indeed one that every Canadian wanted to hear at that moment.

Promises, promises

Making political promises stick.
Making political promises stick.

It didn’t take long to determine whether Canadians would be going to the polls this spring or not. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty hadn’t even begun to introduce the 2011 federal budget in the House of Commons, Tuesday afternoon, when we knew that two of the three Opposition leaders – Gilles Duceppe and Michael Ignatieff – would not support it. Only Jack Layton kept the country in suspense until the end of the budget speech. And within minutes of Flaherty’s concluding remarks, the other shoe dropped.

“Mr. Harper had an opportunity to address the needs of hard-working, middle class Canadians and families,” Layton said to CBC microphones, “and he missed that opportunity… New Democrats will not support the budget as presented.”